John Paul Newport says a new putting stat developed by MIT researchers and soon to be adopted by the PGA Tour will finally tell us who is the best putter. I haven't the slightest clue how it works, but it sounds interesting.
Well, someone just has. A team of researchers at MIT's Sloan School of Management, using PGA Tour data, has derived a metric it calls "putts gained per round" that corrects for these and other deficiencies and provides a more accurate picture of every Tour player's true putting prowess.
The PGA Tour is so enthused by this new metric that it began work two weeks ago integrating it into its statistical ShotLink system. Working with its technology partner, CDW, it will take several months to write all the code and analyze feedback from players and staff, but if all goes well, "putts gained" will pop up as one of the Tour's core reported statistics by the end of the year. Together with other new statistics being developed by MIT and other academic institutions, "putts gained" could open up a new frontier in golf record-keeping and performance analysis comparable to the sea change in baseball statistics following Bill James's pioneering work in the 1970s and 1980s.
"Statistics can just become a big splash of numbers and not mean anything. But this, we think, will mean something," said Steve Evans, the PGA Tour's senior vice president for information systems. "It's complex to calculate, but simple to understand."