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PGA Tour Stats Review: Applying Stats to Rosters

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.

In assembling a fantasy golf roster, one can utilize various data searches, all of which finally depend on statistics. The PGA Tour has an up-to-date treasure trove of player statistics that can be a measurable help in building a season-long roster or a roster for a weekly competition.

The three most important stats that apply to any event are:

1. Strokes Gained Putting -
This new stat encompasses putts-per GIR and putts-per-round along with hundreds of other putting data points collected by Shot-Link, the PGA Tour's data-collecting system, over several years. The stats are updated daily in the PGA Tour season.

2. GIR -
Hitting greens provides opportunities for eagles, birdies and pars. GIR is a big contributor toward eliminating bogeys.

3. Scrambling -
success in scrambling saves pars and, in some cases, makes birdies or eagles.

Other useful stats include: bogey avoidance, proximity to the hole, three-putt avoidance, driving accuracy, goes for it* and approaches from 150 yards, giving additional flexibility in fine-tuning stat choices as needed. *("Goes for it" is when a player goes for the green on a par-5 hole.)

Statistics in order of importance and their weighting ranges:

1. Putting (strokes gained-putting)20-28
2. Greens-in-Regulation (GIR)18-25
3. Scrambling (separate from Sand Saves)16-23
4. Proximity to Hole12-18
5. Bogey Avoidance10-17
6. Driving Accuracy10-15
7. Driving Distance10-15

Weighting is a mathematical tool used to give emphasis. Inasmuch as the "big-three" - strokes gained-putting, GIR and scrambling - are vital, they will receive more emphasis than given to other performance stats. Rotowire's 2011 PGA Tour list of winners' statistics shows the aggregate rankings for 39 tournaments. The rankings are in tune with the above-mentioned factors.

Here's an example of weighting using David Tomsí 2011 stats.

Strokes Gained Putting182713.14
Bogey Avoidance6115.34
Proximity to Hole5114.45

Setting 100 isn't cast in concrete nor is the number of stats you can use. However, using 100, and five or six stats, will keep your weighting more relevant as compared with seven or more performance where weighting will tend to have a small effect. If short of time, use just putting. GIR and scrambling setting weighting as you see fit.

How to calculate weighting using a hand-held calculator using strokes gained:

1. Enter RANK value: 18
2. Punch multiply sign (x)
3. Enter weight chosen: 27
4. Punch percent sign (x)
5. Punch minus sign (-)
6. Punch equal sign (=)
7. Weighting equals 13.14

For golf rankings where No. 1 is the best, followed by second, third, etc, to emphasize (weight) we subtract from the raw statistic.

This procedure doesn't guarantee winners inasmuch as we are working with results made by humans. The weighted performance rankings are a very good tool to compare players in groups (Yahoo's A-B-C, for example) to help in player selection. Player's momentum (his results form his three or four previous events) and the player's familiarity and results at the specific week's course are very helpful in decision making.
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