By the numbers: Tiger Woods’ stellar putting masks other areas of concern

Tiger Woods celebrates after making a putt for birdie on the 18th green during the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament Saturday, March 17, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack) Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

By the numbers: Tiger Woods’ stellar putting masks other areas of concern

Digital Edition

By the numbers: Tiger Woods’ stellar putting masks other areas of concern

After earning a tie for second at the Valspar Championship two weeks ago, Tiger Woods had played enough rounds on the PGA Tour this season to qualify for official statistical rankings. Ordinarily, a golfer playing enough to be eligible for a stats ranking would not be noteworthy, but Woods has played so little on the PGA Tour since 2013 that he has not qualified for season-ending stats for four years.

Going inside the numbers, here are three things we now know about Woods’ current game:

1. Tiger is relying heavily on his putter

Every golfer experiences year-to-year performance fluctuations in his game, but as can be seen in the chart below Woods’ year-end strokes gained averages in the ShotLink era, along with his averages so far this season, show his driving and iron game are well below his former levels.

Woods had multiple back surgeries and other injuries over the past five years and has not played a lot of golf, so this is understandable, but 40.6 percent of Woods’ 1.82 strokes gained: total average this season through the Arnold Palmer Invitational comes from his putting. The only previous season in which more than 30 percent of his strokes gained: total came from putting was in 2004, when Woods led the PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting – 35.8 percent of his 2.382 strokes gained: total came on the greens that season.

In his great 2006 season, Woods ranked 21st in strokes gained: putting, but his 0.461 average accounted for just 13.4 percent of his strokes gained: total.

Through the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Woods ranked No. 14 in strokes gained: putting, which is solid. It’s unrealistic to think he will get significantly better on the greens this season, so if his performance is going to improve it needs to come off the tee and from the fairway.

2. Woods is not using his clubhead speed efficiently

There is an obscure PGA Tour stat called Carry Efficiency, which is nothing more than laser-measured carry distance divided by a player’s driver clubhead speed. It’s useful because it gives us a measure of how effectively a player uses the speed he generates. Phil Mickelson averages 298.2 yards of carry per drive and has a clubhead speed of 115.132, so his PGA Tour-leading Carry Efficiency is 2.59.

Woods swings a lot faster than Mickelson, averaging 121.901 mph per drive, but his carry distance average is just 7 yards less (291.2) than Mickelson’s. Woods’ Carry Efficiency is 2.389, and while that may not seem much lower, if Woods maintained his speed and hit the ball as efficiently as Mickelson, his average tee shots would fly 315.7 yards.

To be fair, Woods has a Carry Efficiency that is nearly the same as big hitters like Rory McIlroy (2.398) and Adam Scott (2.399), and he is nearly identical to Justin Thomas (2.394). However, Mickelson, Rickie Fowler (2.556) and Jon Rahm (2.542) use their swing speed a lot more effectively. This inefficiency could be a sign that Woods has still not found the ideal driver setup or his driver swing still needs improvement.

3. Woods needs to hit more greens in regulation

A result of inconsistent driving has been Woods’ inability to hit greens in regulation as often as he did in years past.

As can be seen in the chart below, from 1997 until 2013, Woods’ greens in regulation percentage dipped below 67 percent only once, in 2004, when he finished the year at 66.9 percent. This season through the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he ranks 174th on the PGA Tour at 61.42 percent.

What the full-season percentage does not show is that after a rocky start to the season, Woods’ greens in regulation percentage bounced back at the Honda Classic and the Valspar Championship. He hit 66.67 percent of the greens in regulation at both events, which was around 10 percent better than the field average at those tournaments. He regressed slightly at Bay Hill, hitting 62.5 percent of the greens in regulation, which was just below the field average of 63.53 percent.

Hitting a high percentage of greens in regulation does two things: Primarily it creates birdie chances, and equally important, it reduces the likelihood of making bogeys because the pros three-putt so infrequently.

Woods already has shown he does not have to match his statistics of the mid-2000s to put himself in contention to win PGA Tour events. If he can drive the ball more efficiently while maintaining the quality of his putting and hit a few more greens in regulation, it probably won’t be long before he does more than just contend. Gwk

Latest

More Digital Edition
Home