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The Numbers Game: Myths


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Myths are just that until we look a little closer at them. Sometimes they can be busted, sometimes they can be proven… and sometimes they remain that way.

 

tng_title.gifThere are a few things in golf that are considered - or better yet - assumed to be true. I thought it might be interesting to run down some of these items and find out if they really are true or if the numbers say otherwise. I'm not looking to single out one certain area, but cover a few things that one might take for granted without looking a bit deeper.

 

 

 

Read on to find out if any myths were busted.

 

Myth #1: The longer a player drives the ball, the closer he or she will hit it to the pin.

 

 

 

Common sense tells you that you're more likely to get close to the pin from 120 than you are from 150, right? After all, the closer you are to the pin, the better your chance is to hit it closer on subsequent shots… right? That sounds right. Last week in the forum, this was assumed by one of the posters and I thought that it made sense, but I took it upon myself to look a bit more into the data to see if it was true. Most anyone would want a shorter iron into the hole, but how does the graph look for Driving Distance (DD) versus Proximity to the hole?

 

 

 

ddvsproximity.png

The rsquare value, a measure of how closely the points fit a best-fit line, is 0.02. A perfect fit is 1. Anything less than 0.1 is so bad as to be considered absolutely unrelated.

 

 

 

I never expected to see anything like this. I, like most people, thought that the fit line would be a more severe slope from the top right (shorter and less proximate) to the bottom left (longer and more proximate). Instead, the distribution is scattered and the fit line doesn't even really fit. Another poster wondered what the Driving Accuracy (DA) would look like. Here it is:

 

 

 

davsproximity.png

The rsquare value for this graph is 0.11 - five times more than the driving distance graph!

 

 

 

Still not great, but it fits much better and the distribution is much tighter. This leads us to the conclusion that you are better off, from a proximity standpoint, to be in the fairway back a few yards, than in the rough further ahead. Myth #1: Busted

 

 

 

Myth #2: Players that miss more greens average less putts.

 

 

 

Think about it. If you miss a bunch of greens and have a decent short game, the chances are you will have less putts by getting up and down. For this reason, the PGA Tour uses putts per GIR to determine the best putter on tour. They don't want any other part of the game skewing the results. So the question remains… does GIR affect the number of putts that much or does great putting win out?

 

 

 

pprvsgir.png

For what it's worth, the rsquare value of this graph is 0.228. Not great, but not too shabby either.

 

 

 

In the back of my mind, I thought that the distribution would be a little scattered. Looking at the graph above, those thoughts are put to rest. Myth #2: Proven

 

 

 

Myth #3: Players years ago had better feel and better short games.

 

 

 

In other words, guys today are just big oafs that hit it as hard as they can, consequences be damned. Any way you look at it or state it, this is something that is hard to prove by the numbers. I'll focus on one area to see if we can prove or bust this myth.

 

 

 

Guys do hit it longer today, that's for sure. But what about putting? The same stats in putting have been kept for years now so we should be able to do a decent job of comparing players, right? Well, it isn't that easy because we have to assume that all other factors remained the same… and we know that conditions in the 80s were much different than today.

 

 

 

Myself, I would contend that today's conditions are more difficult given the speed and contour of the greens. I've been to a recent US Open to see this first hand. Others may think that conditions 20 plus years ago were harder because greens were not as smooth and reliable as they are today.

 

 

 

So what do the numbers say? That putting wasn't as good then as it is now. Here's the top 10 in each year:

 

 

 

2005 1986

1 1.710 1 1.736

2 1.713 2 1.758

3 1.715 3 1.761

4 1.727 4 1.764

5 1.731 4 1.764

5 1.731 6 1.766

7 1.733 6 1.766

7 1.733 8 1.767

9 1.734 8 1.767

10 1.737 10 1.768

 

As you can see, the numbers in 1986 were not good. In fact, 10th place in 1986 would have finished below 60th in 2005. The leader, Greg Norman, with his 1.736 average would have been 10th, but after that, it drops of significantly. So what about total putts?

 

 

 

2005 1986

1 27.79 1 28.39

2 27.96 2 28.47

3 28.06 3 28.54

4 28.09 4 28.61

5 28.20 5 28.78

6 28.29 6 28.79

7 28.32 7 28.94

8 28.40 8 28.97

8 28.40 9 29.00

10 28.47 10 29.01

 

Again, the numbers are not too good for the putting of the past. Total putts compare even worse than putting average did. Myth #3: Busted… with an * (due to the reasons stated above).

 

 

 

Thoughts

There are a lot of assumptions and myths in any sport and golf isn't any different. I was surprised that longer players don't hit it closer and not surprised that putting totals fluctuate with GIR. I'm hoping to stir the pot a bit and see if anyone has myths or beliefs that warrant some closer looks. Leave a comment. It may be a future topic of this column.

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Let me start off by saying this is super interesting and great work by SandTrap.

At the risk of sounding like an idiot. I am having trouble understanding the graphs and how you come to your conclusions. I may just have to believe you without the Graphs and rsquare.

 

I guess my college ed. is really paying off from SDSU. :cheesy:

Bridgestone J33R speeder 652X
Titleist 910f 15 diamana kai'li s
Ping G30 5 wood S tour spec
Ping G30 7 wood S tour spec
Mizuno MP 37 s300 P-3
Wishon 575 mmc cavity P-4 Aerotech I95 moi'd
Callaway Mac Daddy 2 tg 54° 60°
Scotty Cameron black studio design I 2001 (stolen haven't found replacement)

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