HOW GOOD IS LUKE DONALD’s 2011?

Here’s a look at the Top-25 seasons individual season dating back to 2000:

Rank

Player

Z-score

Rounds

St. Dev

Year

1

Tiger Woods

-1.3863

72

0.7812

2000

2

Tiger Woods

-1.2683

58

0.7643

2006

3

Tiger Woods

-1.2201

68

0.8218

2007

4

Tiger Woods

-1.1527

70

0.8385

2009

5

Tiger Woods

-1.1096

68

0.9509

2002

6

Tiger Woods

-1.0151

68

0.8797

2003

7

Tiger Woods

-0.9903

74

0.9159

2005

8

Tiger Woods

-0.9459

76

0.8043

2004

9

Vijay Singh

-0.9246

118

0.8875

2004

10

Jim Furyk

-0.9218

84

0.7967

2006

11

Vijay Singh

-0.9191

102

0.7936

2003

12

Tiger Woods

-0.9093

76

0.8186

2001

13

Ernie Els

-0.8954

90

0.8672

2004

14

Luke Donald

-0.8516

82

0.8277

2011

15

Phil Mickelson

-0.8222

76

0.9268

2000

16

Vijay Singh

-0.8130

109

0.8393

2005

17

Lee Westwood

-0.8058

72

0.9083

2010

18

Davis Love III

-0.7981

75

1.0098

2001

19

Ernie Els

-0.7975

64

0.8827

2000

20

Mike Weir

-0.7887

75

0.7948

2003

21

Phil Mickelson

-0.7871

69

0.8556

2006

22

Adam Scott

-0.7869

70

0.9310

2006

23

Jim Furyk

-0.7862

101

0.7575

2003

24

Ernie Els

-0.7789

60

0.7482

2003

25

Luke Donald

-0.7716

79

0.8026

2006

 

So, a pretty good season for Donald. The best anyone has done since 2009 Tiger Woods.

It will be interesting to see if Donald’s European performance for the rest of the year is good enough to keep him ahead of what Westwood did last season. Looking at their careers Donald is pretty clearly the better player. He turned pro in 2001, and by 2004 he was already putting up scores that would put him in the top-12 or 15 players in the world. He’s had 6 seasons in his pro career that were at least that good. Half of Donald’s pro years have landed in the top-100 of all seasons. Only Tiger, Vijay, Phil and Ernie have a better ration in the last 12 years.

Clearly, Donald is a good player.

Where does he go from here?

In his mid-30s it’s not really surprising that Donald is having a career year. That is the typical prime for golfers. He also has had an extremely good college career and quickly started dominating on the pro tours. It would be hard to match 2011, but it’s also hard to say Donald will fall far. Really, at this point only a fully healthy Tiger and maybe Sergio could be considered better overall players. Of course, young guys like Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer could be right on his heels.

The only concern I have with Donald is length. He hit 55% of his drives less than 280 last season, the highest percentage of any of the 13 players below -.4 in my rankings last year. Players that hit a similar (between 52 and 58%) ratio of drives less than 280 yards are actually worse than a PGA Tour average player on average.

Donald is hitting the ball almost 275 off the tee this year. Furyk, David Toms and Zach Johnson hit the ball a few yards shorter and were pretty good players. But, players that hit the ball less than 273 off the tee are basically average players. Only Bryce Molder and Brian Gay are decent players on the PGA Tour in that group. The problem is, if courses get maybe 200 yards longer on average, Donald could hit a limit as to how good he can be. In majors, where the courses tend to be longer, Donald is about 1-standard deviation worse than his average. He’s still a good player, but not quite as dominant as he has been in other tour events.

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