Golf by the numbers: Ridgewood sets up well for today’s Tiger Woods

ST LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 12: Tiger Woods of the United States plays his shot from the second tee during the final round of the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club on August 12, 2018 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/PGA of America/PGA of America via Getty Images) Streeter Lecka/PGA of America/PGA of America via Getty Images

Golf by the numbers: Ridgewood sets up well for today’s Tiger Woods

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Golf by the numbers: Ridgewood sets up well for today’s Tiger Woods

After Tiger Woods nearly won the 2018 British Open, it was speculated that his best chance to win might come at the next event he played, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Woods had won that event at Firestone County Club eight times and has said he loves playing classic, tree-lined courses. He was never a factor in Akron, but two weeks ago at the PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club, on another clearly defined, tree-lined course, Woods finished second after shooting 66-64 on the weekend.

The FedEx Cup Playoffs are set to begin in a few days at 7,385-yard, par-71 Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J. Based on the statistics from previous events at the club and the state of Woods’ game, the 14-time major winner should be licking his chops to play this A.W. Tillinghast gem.

The chart below shows Woods’ performance this season in each of the four strokes gained categories through the PGA Championship, along with his PGA Tour rank in each statistic and his strokes gained total, which is the sum of those four individual areas.

The weakest part of Woods’ game right now is his driving. He generates plenty of speed and ranks No. 34 in driving distance, but he hits only 55.4 percent of the fairways (ranked 176th). He failed to hit a fairway on the front nine in the final round of the PGA Championship, and at critical times his inconsistency has hurt him.

The good news is that distance and effectiveness with the driver were not critical for success the last time the PGA Tour was at Ridgewood. In 2014, when Hunter Mahan won the Barclays Championship at Ridgewood, the field’s driving distance average was 277 yards, 11 yards shorter than the season-ending average. Woods did not play in that event, but collectively the players who earned top-10 finishes that week averaged just 276 yards per tee shot. Four of them – Cameron Tringale, Stuart Appleby, Jim Furyk and Kevin Na – had a negative strokes gained off-the-tee for the week. That means they gave away strokes to the average player in the field based on driving performance. No player who finished in the top 10 averaged more than 285 yards off the tee that week.

Woods is capable of hitting his 3-wood more than 280 yards. He has said his driving iron can fly 260 yards and roll another 20 or 30 if the course is dry. So, while Woods likely will hit driver off the tee on the three par 5s at Ridgewood, the stats suggest that he may not have to hit a lot of drivers overall.

The players who were in the top 10 at the 2014 Barclays putted exceptionally well. Collectively, almost 64 percent of their total strokes gained for the week came from putting.

As Golfweek reported last week, since Woods switched to a TaylorMade TP Collection Ardmore 3 putter at the Quicken Loans National at the end of June, his putting has improved. There is no strokes gained putting data available for the British Open, but in the three other events he has played since with the TaylorMade putter where ShotLink tracked his shots, his strokes gained putting average was 1.05. That means he earned about a full-shot advantage over the field over 18 holes based solely on the quality of his putting. Before the switch, his season-long strokes gained putting average was 0.108 (89th).

At the 2010 Barclays, where Woods finished tied for 12th, and the 2008 Barclays, which he did not play after season-ending knee surgery, players who earned top-10 finishes did not putt as well as they did in 2014. However, their approach shots were better, and they drove the ball slightly better. Still, the course was not a bombers’ paradise.

If Ridgewood does not require golfers to smash driver to contend, and history indicates that it does not, then Woods’ biggest weakness can be minimized and what he does best – hit great iron shots, scramble and make putts – could carry him to his first win since 2013. Gwk

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