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The Numbers Game: 1995 to 2005 in Numbers


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By Dave Koster via TheSandTrap.com
Looking into the past may gives us a better idea what will happen in the future. 11 years worth of data shows us a few things.

tng_title.gifWe've seen a lot of things over the last 11 years in golf. Most notably is the emergence of Tiger Woods. But there have been technological advances, course lengthening and a fitness revolution. All of these have had an effect on golf.



Some of these may negate others. Some may not. Hopefully the past numbers over the year will give us a little bit of insight into how future trends of stats will play out.

Scoring Average
Of all the stats, this one was probably the steadiest. Take a look for yourself:



1995_2005_scoring.png



Sure the low average score dipped in 2000 with Tiger's amazing year, but the average for the entire PGA Tour was a flat line hovering slightly above 71 every year. For all the talk about how tough and long and crazy (i.e. Bikini Wax) courses have gotten over the years, scoring never took a serious jump in either direction. I don't know if the PGA Tour is trying to keep this number steady or constant, but they sure are doing a good job of it.



Greens in Regulation (GIR)
GIR is another stat that averaged relatively flat. After seeing scoring remain flat, this isn't a surprise since GIR has been a big component of scoring and earnings.



1995_2005_gir.png



There was another big jump in the high GIR in 2000, again, thanks to Mr. Woods' stellar year. After that bump, the data slowly drifted back down to where it was in the 90's. It's pretty easy to make a prediction on this as well:



Average GIR will be within one percentage point of 65%.



Interesting Fact: Tom Lehman's 33rd place finish in GIR last year was his worst since he has been fully exempt on tour.



Putting
This one was a bit of a surprise. I really thought that putting average was going to, if anything, go slightly up in the past 11 years… but I was wrong.

1995_2005_putting.png



Now I know that this isn't exactly a meteoric drop, and that PA has actually risen in the past four years, but that actually might be the nugget I was looking for. What I was expecting was a gradual increase in PA over the years as greens have gotten firm and fast (i.e. Whistling Straights).



Is it possible that "Tiger Proofing" started to take effect in 2001 after the aforementioned year Tiger had? Maybe… and maybe not. I find it interesting though. I'll be keen to see how this stat continues over not only this year but the following ones. In an age where everyone talks about the long ball, putting should be watched a bit more since it means more to a players score.



Interesting Fact: 119-5-115. Not a lock combination or something from the DaVinci Code, but John Daly's PA ranking 2003-2005. His rankings from other years are just as crooked as his backswing.



Driving Distance
OK. Here's a graph with a bit of slope in it. Finally.



1995_2005_dd.png



You can't tell me you would be surprised to see this. In 11 years, average driving distance has risen from slightly over 260 yards to just under 290. 25.14 yards to be exact. This has been due to many factors, I won't go into those since they have been hashed and re-hashed multiple times on this site. Let's just say that it is NOT just the ball or course conditions or player conditioning.



For the last few years, the average has been pretty steady though. It jumped in 2003, but the year-over-year increase after that has been nominal. I think that we'll see more of the same this year. A slight increase to around 290 yards per drive.



Interesting fact: Tiger Woods has never led the PGA Tour in driving distance.



Driving Accuracy (DA)
Here's another stat that had a bit of a slope. This time in the other direction.



1995_2005_da.png

In the past 11 years, DA has dropped from an average of almost 70% to just under 63% last year. Most of that drop off was seen in the last four years. I have talked about Flogging (link) in a previous Numbers Game and this one of the causes of the decline in DA. The other, in my opinion, is the ever-tightening of courses. Fairways are narrower and courses are changing by adding more obstacles.



I think the trend will continue, but the drop off has gotten sequentially smaller in the previous two years. I'm hoping it will bounce back, but I would expect the average DA this year to be above 62%.



Interesting Fact: Fred Funk has been in the top 3 in DA all but one of the last 11 years and finished first in 7 of those.
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