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Sunday
Mar142010

"It's complex to calculate, but simple to understand."

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."

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Reader Comments (13)

There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.
03.15.2010 | Unregistered CommenterBenjamin Disraeli
Give me numbers of wins anyday over who the best putter is. Or the best driver, chipper, etc.

Over the last 13+ years wins give me VJ, Phil and Tiger. Simple to understand. No complex calculation needed.
03.15.2010 | Unregistered CommenterOWGR Fan
To some of us statistics can be interesting and useful. . . The basic premise is to define "par" (in putts - say 1.88 at 22 feet) from various distances on a specific tournament course. . . Then, each player is rated on their putts from those distances against the others that week (If he holes the 22 footer he is .12 better - if he 2 putts he is .12 worse). . . Computers are great for things like this - with the appropriate software. . . You can be very sure the players will be looking at these numbers very closely - and practicing accordingly.
03.15.2010 | Unregistered CommenterWisconsin Reader
It's a relatively simple statistic. What they're doing is determining for a length of putt (adjusted for difficulty of the green), they're determining what's the average number of putts it takes from that distance to hole out. And from that number, they're subtracting the actual putts that it takes. So the player with the most strokes gained on the "average" tour pro is the best putter. If you follow higher level baseball statistics, this is the golfer's version of runs above replacement (or in this case, average) player.

The interesting thing is that they quoted that the average strokes from 40 feet is 2.15. So, at least 15% of the time, a pro 3-putts from that distance.

If you care at all about who's a good putter (not good player - that's an entirely different analysis, and much easier to determine) on the tour, this will help determine that info.

On the other hand, the results are pretty unsurprising. The guys who are at the bottom of the list (ranked 200+) are the typical bombers/ball strikers who can't seem to win in pressure situations or are known as bad putters. These include
Boo Weekly
Carlos Franco
Allenby/Appleby
Vijay
Joe Durant
J.B. Holmes
Adam Scott

The best putters (1-10), or grinders in many cases, are
L. Donald
Woods
Ben Curtis (whom I always thought was severely underrated as a putter)
Molder
Faxon
Furyk
Snedeker
Gay
Kuchar
Baddeley

Sergio is 133 - below average but not horrendous
Phil is 149
03.15.2010 | Unregistered Commenterchene
Finally, putting stats that we can believe in!!
03.15.2010 | Unregistered Commenterblader
Putts taken on greens hit in regulation is an indicator already compiled. For me, I like this even more: low score wins. Takes into account the whole game. :)
03.15.2010 | Unregistered CommenterGolden Bell
I'm trying to reduce putts, not gain putts.
03.15.2010 | Unregistered CommenterTom T.
Faldo & Hogan

F: How do you win the US Open
H: Shoot the lowest score

Just get the ball holed

Interesting how poorly Mickelson scores on this one, seems valid

Who cares?
03.15.2010 | Unregistered CommenterGolfFan
more relevant stat is distance away from hole after putt -- relative to the length of that putt -- and severity of slope and green speed.

tiger would be #1.
03.15.2010 | Unregistered CommenterAl
Al,

Wouldn't that be a new category... Best Lagger?
03.15.2010 | Unregistered CommenterAA
Al

That makes no sense whatsoever? Can you parse an entire sentence to convey your thought? I'll check back later, you can't just throw words out there and expect us to get it.

Get a grip man. Just what is it you're trying to say?
03.16.2010 | Unregistered CommenterGolfFan
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