10/12/2016

Sometimes golf plays out exactly as it should. Other times, it’s completely random. The game is endlessly frustrating, if you haven’t noticed.

For example, Jason Day enjoyed the finest putting season in history (well, since they’ve been tracking that sort of thing) and yet failed to win a major. Jordan Spieth, on the other hand, putted better this season than he did when he went 1-1-T4-2 at the majors in 2015. Some game we have.

Here are five of the most surprising, telling statistics of the 2016 PGA Tour season.

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1. Jason Day’s All-Time Season

Let’s head to the SAT to discuss this.

Ricky Barnes is to Jordan Spieth as Jordan Spieth is to Jason Day. Wait, what? Day didn’t win a major in 2016 like so many predicted of him. He didn’t even stay healthy for the full year. And, notably, he’s built a reputation as a bomber, his long, straight drives leading to his victory at the 2015 PGA Championship. But Day just enjoyed one of the finest putting seasons golf has ever seen, if not the finest. Since the PGA Tour started keeping track of the statistic in 2004, no one has averaged more than one stroke-gained-putting. Until Day.

So we get the Barnes to Spieth comparison.

Day’s average strokes-gained-putting: 1.130
Spieth’s: .758
Barnes’: .386

Those of you quick with arithmetic might notice that the difference between Day and Spieth is the same as Spieth and Barnes at .372. What you don’t know is that Day led the tour in this category, and Spieth finished second. Barnes? 26th. To take it a step further, Barnes was .371 strokes better than the great Bronson Burgoon in 91st place. (No offense, Bronson.)

Basically, when he won three times between March 20 and May 15, it seemed like it was Day then a bunch of other dudes. At least one stat backs that up. If health can back Day up like his putter does, watch out. Even more so, I guess.

[bctt tweet=”Since the PGA Tour started keeping track of the statistic in 2004, no one has averaged more than one stroke-gained-putting.” username=””]

2. MC Bowditch: Steven Bowditch’s Scoring Average

Over the last few seasons, Steven Bowditch has been one of golf’s most inspirational stories. He battled depression in his early days as a professional and once attempted suicide by drowning. In 2014, he announced his return to the sport in a big way. Bowditch won the Valero Texas Open, his first on tour.

This article from 2014 really put the game in perspective…

He added another win in 2015 at the Byron Nelson. Those two performances launched him up the world rankings where he not only had a two-year exemption, but also qualified for World Golf Championship events.

So, when Bowditch’s game went south early this year, we got some really interesting scorecards.

At the WGC-Cadillac Championship: 81-80-80-84, good for 28-over-par.
At the Masters: 79-82, 17-over
At the WGC-Bridgetone Invitiational: 82-72-80-74, 28-over.

In total, Bowditch made 11 cuts in 26 events and averaged 74.262 each time he teed it up. That was good for dead last, 185th place, of those who qualified. Side note: the bottom ten in scoring average also includes Hunter Mahan (72.105, 178), Angel Cabrera (72.175, 180), Rory Sabbatini (72.451, 181), Brendon Todd (72.728, 182) and Robert Allenby (73.117, 183).

Did Bowditch mope around the course? No. He took it all in stride. His twitter page became a great source of comedy as Bowditch embraced self-deprecation as humor.

Good for Bowditch. Good for us, too. Don’t take the game too seriously, folks.


2016 pga tour

From last October…


3. Patrick Reed’s Results In Majors

patrick reed

As the Ryder Cup came to a close earlier this month, it was hard not to thing of Patrick Reed as the Americans’ answer to Ian Poulter: a fiery competitor, who dialed up his game in match-play competition.

Reed also shares another, more dubious characteristic with the Englishman. Although he’s won five times on tour, Reed has yet to post even a top-10 at a major let alone win one. That point was hammered home in 2016 when the 26-year-old finished with 11 top-10’s in 28 events, good for second place behind Dustin Johnson. None of those came in the majors, where he finished T49, Cut, T12 and T13.

[bctt tweet=”Reed has yet to post even a top-10 at a major let alone win one.” username=””]

How is it that Reed can thrive under the pressure of the Ryder Cup and wilt at all the other big tournaments? The short answer is at 26, he still has a ways to go to find consistency. Reed is immensely talented, but can be his own worst enemy when he hits poor shots. At the Ryder Cup, he focused on one round, nay, one hole, rather than a tournament as a whole. That singular thinking likely helped him.

We’ll see what’s in store in his future. Reed has the game to be a major champion. He needs to contend first.

4. Jimmy Walker’s Non-PGA Championship Performance

The 2016 PGA Champion was one of the surprises of the season, or the last few if we’re being honest, not because of his name, but because he came out of nowhere.

After finishing T29 at the Masters, Jimmy Walker missed six cuts in his next 11 tournaments. Two of them came directly following his PGA Championship win. But for one weekend, Walker was the best player in golf.

It’s not like the advanced stats suggested Walker’s results would come around. He ranked 46th in strokes-gained-putting on average between Troy Merritt and Ben Crane. This despite Walker having the reputation of a clutch putter.

That 65-66-68-67 performance at Baltusrol stands as the pinnacle of Walker’s career. He hasn’t reached the same heights as David Duval, nor will he, but one wonders if he’ll hold a similar position in the game: a fine talent who won one major among numerous victories.

5. Bubba Watson’s Driving And The Ryder Cup Question Unanswered

bubba watson

Look. It didn’t much matter that Bubba Watson failed to make Davis Love III’s Ryder Cup Team. The Americans won easily without him playing (For the record, I found somewhat selfish that he asked to be a vice captain, not selfless as others suggested. That’s neither here nor there).

What remains is the question of why Love left him off in the first place. Regardless of what Love said in the lead-up, Hazeltine curtailed to the big hitters. Just look at how the Americans demolished the par-5’s.

Well, Watson once again proved that he is one of the best drivers of the golf ball in the sport. He finished third behind Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson in strokes-gained-off-the-tee and fourth in strokes-gained-tee-to-green. Moreover, he was the only player qualified for the Ryder Cup in the top-15 in strokes-gained total that failed to make the trip to Minnesota.

It’s not secret that Watson’s personality has rubbed people the wrong way in the past. In recent years, he’s gone out of his way to insist he’s working on being a better person. Sometimes, this results in wishy-washy behavior rather than a true change. Who knows if that’s the case with Bubba, but he faded in the summer when he needed to play his best.

Still, that driver is one of the greatest weapons in golf. There might be more majors in it yet.

[bctt tweet=”Still, that driver is one of the greatest weapons in golf.” username=””]