I’ve been copying down some golf stats for a few projects, but one thing stuck out to me very quickly. How similar the putting stats looked for all PGA Pro’s.
Let’s take for example, “Putting from Inside 10 feet.”
The average player in 2009 made about 86% of his putts from inside 10 feet and took about 925 attempts on the season. Adjusting everyone out to 925 putts, the minimum was 765 and max was 836 with a standard deviation of almost 12.
I ran a simulation assuming the average putter makes 86% of his putts, and take 925 attempts. The standard deviation was smaller at around 9.25*, but the minimum and maximum were pretty similar at 775 and 830, respectively.
*Not too surprising considering there is a certain variance probably in the data from factors like different length on average putts, different courses played, different number of attempts.
One more important thing to note is that the top-10 putters on tour took an average of around 805 attempts from inside 10 feet in 2009 and the bottom-10 took an almost identical average of around 805. Obviously with an average of around 120 less putts, that increases the variance. There was a small correlation (around r=.2) between number of putts taken and distance away from average.
It’s certainly not conclusive, but it’s worth thinking about the next time some announcer tells you what a great putter player x is. Putting especially from inside of 10 feet requires such a lack of natural physical talent that it’s not out of the question that pro golfers have essentially mastered it.
I’m not sure how much of this I believe, but it could be possible that all pros are basically the same from 10-feet and in(or maybe putting in general) with the only difference being variance.
Just something to think about.
This raises the question is Tiger Woods really a great putter?
I’m not so sure. Maybe his clutch ten footers are a result of his superior ball-striking and scrambling around the green giving him more total ten footers. That is, it appears Tiger makes a ton of big putts from inside 10 feet because his superior ability to get it there gives him more opportunities than everyone else. Tiger’s skills approaching the green, specifically at distances that are hard (long iron, approaches to par 5s) or important (scrambling on missed greens) make him seem like a better putter.
This is what no one realizes. Over the past decade almost no one has hit it closer than Tiger approaching the green from the fairway and scrambling. Tiger looks like a great putter because a 3-footer is so much easier to make than an 8-footer or his tap-in 2-foot birdie is much more likely to fall than a player who wedged it to ten feet.
I doubt it surprises anyone who knows golf, that Tiger’s long game and scrambling are what have really separated him from the competition, but it’s interesting to wonder: Is there anything separating Tiger’s putting from the competition?