If you watched the PLAYERS at all last week, I’m sure you heard Johnny Miller, or one of those clowns from the Golf Channel, yell at Tiger Woods for his terrible swing and inability to find the fairway.

The real question is, does it actually matter.

Below is a list of all the PGA Tour driving stats from shotlink, and there correlation and rsq values compared to my 2009 PGA Tour rankings.

As you can see, aside from “Missed Fairway percentage other” and “Average distance from edge of fairway,” which is the percent of times shot tracker had you missing the fairway in places other than a bunker or rough, all of the top-20 correlations between my rankings and a specific stat are distance related(with the possible exception of launch angle, though that isn’t accuracy related either it seems)

What this Tells me
-As long as you don’t drive it in “other”—read: hazard—driving accuracy doesn’t really matter.

-“Drives hit less than or equal to 240 yards” has an abnormally strong correlation with playing poorly on the PGA Tour. However, percentage of Drives over 300 and percentage of drives over 320, was not. This leads me to think there is some distance probably between 290-300 that is “long enough” to be a good pro. After you reach that mark, hitting it longer isn’t really going to make you better. Hitting a high percentage of drives shorter than 240, is certainly too short to be competitive.

-This is not to say Driving accuracy doesn’t matter at all, but given the choice of hitting every drive 310 yards or hitting 5% more fairways, you’d take the long drive every time.

-None of these are nearly as important as some of the Approach, putting and scrambling stats. While, hitting the ball in the fairway does make you a little more likely to make good scores, there is so much more left to do to actually get that birdie, that overall 15 yards more down the hole, with a slight sacrifice in accuracy is a much better way to go.

Tiger Woods
The past couple of weeks, Tiger has hit a much higher percentage of his errant drives in a hazard. That’s obviously a problem. But, here’s the thing: Which is a more hurtful shot for Tiger, the drive 50 yards right or the 135 yard approach to 25 feet?

Despite what it looks like, or Johnny Miller tells us, it’s the approach to 25 feet from a short distance. For that matter a sloppy chip from 20 yards that comes up 15 feet short is worse than the drive, too. This is not what it looks like, because there is such a negative feedback to seeing the ball go miles right, Tiger slamming a club and screaming profanities compared with seeing a ball land on the green. But, overall Tiger’s inability the past two weeks to convert birdie-able approaches into birdie range(roughly inside 15 feet) putts and failing to knock his chips stone dead is much more harmful to his overall game than the errant drives.

Tiger’s swing has definitely been off. It’s resulted in bad drives. But, lackluster approaches and poor chip shots have hurt his game way more.


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