By The Numbers: Spieth, Cink among golfers making greatest strides in key stats

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By The Numbers: Spieth, Cink among golfers making greatest strides in key stats

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By The Numbers: Spieth, Cink among golfers making greatest strides in key stats

Professional golfers toil at two things that frequently work against each other: improving their games, and competing.

It’s tough to play a full PGA Tour schedule of 17 to 25 events, trying to beat the game’s best players, while at the same time seeking to hone the mechanics of a swing and improve touch on the greens.

On these pages are graphics showing which players have done the best job of simultaneously competing and working on their game. Their strokes gained statistics show how much of an advantage, or disadvantage, a player has versus the average PGA Tour player in an area of the game. Positive numbers, measured in strokes over 18 holes, reflect that a player has an edge on the average player, while negative numbers indicate that player gives up strokes.

For example, if a player has a strokes gained of 0.5 in a category, that means he is half a shot better over 18 holes than the average Tour player, and two shots better over the course of a 72-hole tournament.

Strokes gained: off the tee

Kyle Stanley improved his strokes gained: off the tee average more than any other player on Tour last season, going from 0.076 (ranked 84th) to 0.757 (fifth). His massive 0.681 improvement helped him win the Quicken Loans National, his first PGA Tour title since 2012, and his regular-season earnings increased from $580,734 to $3,145,818.

“Ballstriking has always been kind of my strength, but I did not come into the year thinking that I had to work in anything,” he said. “Practice wise, I do a lot more things out on the golf course now than on the range when I’m home.”



Strokes gained: approach the green

Jordan Spieth, who made the largest statistical improvement in strokes gained: approach the green, focused on improving that area of his game heading into the season. His efforts paid off, and the Texan won the three events including the British Open as his average soared from 0.145 (87th) to 0.968 (second), a jump of .823.

“Driving the ball is going to continue to be something that I’d like to improve on,” Spieth said. “Look at the top 20 players in the world, and most of them are ahead of me in driving statistics. But ballstriking-wise, it was a tremendous improvement this year, and that frees you up off the tee to not feel like you have to do too much.”


Strokes gained: putting

Stewart Cink said he usually does not look at stats until the end of the season, but the 44-year-old was aware he had made significant strides this season on the greens. Cink’s strokes gained: putting average rose 0.759, from -0.398 (169th) to 0.361 (40th). It was the third-largest improvement overall during the regular season, behind Michael Thompson (1.053) and Graeme McDowell (0.807).

“The main thing for me is that I started working with a new coach named Craig Welty,” Cink said. “We really just focus on starting line on the ball, where I am starting it, using video, and where that starting line translates regarding my read. It’s really about the quality and consistency of the read, the integrity of the strike and the start line of the ball.”

After recognizing his problems and working throughout the season to fix them, Cink nearly tripled his PGA Tour earnings from the 2015-16 season, going from $437,855 to $1,201,860 before last week’s Dell Technologies Championship.


Strokes gained: around-the-green

And here is one more breakdown:

 

(Note: This story appeared in the Sept. 4, 2017 issue of Golfweek.)

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