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PGA Tour Stats: What It Takes to Win

Ed Cushing

Cushing covers the PGA Tour for RotoWire, bringing a sabermetric approach to golf stats. Retired and living in the mountains of North Carolina, Cushing is in the running for the Most Interesting Man in Fantasy Sports. He's golfed the Doral Blue Monster, Harbour Town GC, Hilton Head and Augusta National, among many other tough courses. A classically trained pianist, Cushing still plays professionally. He roots for the University of Virginia because the Cavaliers may lose the game, but they ALWAYS win the party. He also made a fortune off the '72 Dolphins.

The PGA Tour is about two months in the 2011 season. Let's look at what it took to make it to the winner's circle in each tournament.


% of 56:
Percent of 56 fairways hit in 72 holes.

66 percent accuracy is sufficient to win. Winners range from 45 percent to 88 percent.

Average driving distance in yards, calculated at those holes selected by the PGA Tour over 72 holes. Winners drive the ball an average of seven yards farther than those in 70th place.

GREENS IN REGULATION (Two strokes less than par)

% of 72:
Average GIR per 72 greens.

Winners average 2.5 hit greens more per round than the last-place player.


Per GIR:
Average of actual results of 72 holes after hitting GIR.

Per RND:
Average putts-per-round per 72 holes.

To win, with very few exceptions, golfers need to putt better than 1.700 for the tournament. The top-ranked putter on tour averages more than 1.700 for the year, but the important thing is to break the 1.700 putting barrier for the week, not the year. Low putts-per-round stats sometimes are covering a player who misses greens but chips it close and one-putts. Similarly, two-shot trouble in the fairway then is covered by a strong long-distance shot that guarantees a one-put.

Tourney of Champ.Byrd8011273.42186.1101.698293
Sony OpenM.Wilson732289.32475.1101.67527.56
Bob Hope ClassicVegas7513308.7376.7191.652227.416
Farmers Insur.OpenB.Watson5028316.6181.911.73262932
Phoenix OpenM.Wilson6616290.36884.711.661128.839
Pebble Bch,Pro-AmPoints807285.64069.4171.61272
Northern TrustBaddeley5057276.54272.231.835428.535
MayakobaGolfClass. Wagner67.936277.95479.241.687288


1. It appears that no matter the driving distance or driving accuracy, winners hit the greens. Both of Aaron Baddeley's mediocre distance and accuracy results were followed by results of ranking third in the field for GIR. This is seen more often that not. However, it still is easier to hit a green from short grass than from four-inch rough. Distance and accuracy are minor contributors to winning.

2. D.A. Points' putting stats are textbook examples of putting winning a tournament. Baddeley got the job done with stats that dramatically differ from the usual.

3. Jhonatton Vegas hit the water in his playoff round but recovered the win with a one-putt par. However, averaging 27.4 putts per round over five rounds is in winners' territory.

4. Strength of fields and difficulty of courses will contribute to the dispersion of ranking numbers. Compare the PGA cumulative statistics with the event winners' success from time to time.
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