I just figured out that the European Tour publishes tournament-by tournament-data, which is fantastic because I have really been wondering what exactly makes up course form.
It is not a surprise that I believe it has some weight, but not nearly what you are paying for in Vegas. However, after watching Zach Johnson and Justin Leonard play so well in Texas that assessment is worth taking a second look at.*
*It should be noted that Justin Leonard would be ranked second by my rankings, Zach Johnson would be ranked 7th so it is not necessarily a surprise that they did well.
The European Tour publishing tournament-by-tournament stats is helpful in looking at this debate. So I looked back at the numbers from the past 3 years. There are certainly players from the past three years like Miguel Angel Jimenez that have posted three consecutive nice finishes.
The problem is does that have anything to do with particular skills they have or does it deal more with the fact that they are just plain good golfers. To look at this, I went through a regression between the relationship between shooting low scores and each particular stat.
Here are the results. First column uses the correlation function on excel, second one is r-squared.
As you can see, last year the biggest determinant of success was putts per green in regulation. 2 years ago, It was hitting a lot of greens. In 2006, nothing really stands out as being a great predictor of success.
To me, that means there was no defining characteristic of someone who excels at Wentworth. MAJ may have a good history here, but that probably has a lot more to do with the fact that he is a very good player than Wentworth favors some skill that they do really well.
To double check this I standardized the stats of all the players who showed who played four rounds at Wentworth and looked at MAJ last three outings.
Last year MAJ, hit a lot of fairways, missed more greens than the average player, but putted extremely well on GIR’s and missed GIR’s. Two years ago, He hit more Greens than the average player in the field although he didn’t putt as well. Of course, some of that could have to do with the fact that a guy that hits more greens is more likely to take a lot of PPGIR, because the tradeoff for hitting more greens is probably being a little further away from the hole.
Three years ago, MAJ hit a ton of fairways, which is usually not a good reflection of who did well in a tournament. He was okay on greens, and took fewer than average putts, which led to a third place finish.
MAJ, certainly has “course form,” but considering that he has done it three different ways its hard for me to come up with any other explanation than a guy that has 5 times finished in the top-5 of the Order of Merit is just plain good at golf under a variety of conditions.
Finally, using all the standardize stats from three years I took a second look back at what over three years has been the most important at Wentworth.
This isn’t really groud-breaking info here, I would assume that most tournaments are decided by hitting greens and short game. Quickly looking at this, Goosen, Edfors, McIlroy, Noren or Casey, might be a few guys that stand out in those areas if you were to come up with “power rankings.” Obviously there is a lot to be left desired by how these stats are compiled, though.