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Tiger’s Last Tournament: What Do the Strokes Gained Numbers Really Tell Us About His Game?

With The Masters coming up next week and the inevitable “state of Tiger Wood’s game” media blitz that will surely accompany it, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at Tiger’s last tournament from a “strokes gained” perspective.  While the media has generally assumed since Tiger’s last tournament (the Waste Management Open in Phoenix, if you recall) that Tiger’s game is in complete shambles, you might be surprised to learn that the strokes gained stats tell a different tale.

We entered Tiger’s data for the first two days of the tournament just like we enter it for our own games and just like you enter it for yours using our data entry interface.  Official strokes gained statistics on the PGA Tour will make minute adjustments to these numbers which better reflect the strength of the field and the difficulty of the course and conditions.  We could easily do this if the Tour let us play with all the ShotTracker numbers, but we don’t get all the data in an easy to analyze form so we have to work with the basic numbers, which we do get.  However, raw strokes gained numbers are still very close to the adjusted numbers and they are plenty accurate enough to give us a clear picture of Tiger’s performance.

While Tiger’s game was not exactly dominant, a look at his stats in each of our categories reveals that his game was not as bad as everyone thinks in nearly every category.  The glaring exception, of course, is Tiger’s short game, represented clearly in our stats by the 0-50 yard category.  In this category, Tiger’s game was indeed atrocious, approaching 20 or 30+ handicap level.

Here is a look at Tiger’s per round stats from day one:

chart (1)

Tiger shot a 73 on day 1, which of course doesn’t generally lead to winning tournaments but was not terrible.  His total strokes gained for the day was -1.16.  In other words, he lost 1.16 strokes to the field total.  It is very interesting to note where Tiger’s strokes were gained and lost.  By strokes gained golf categories:

Total SG: -1.16

SG Driving: +0.95

201+: +1.43

151-200: -0.24

101-150: -0.93

51-100: -0.22

0-50: -2.54

SG Putting: +0.39

Other than the 0-50 yard range, Tiger’s numbers on day one are quite respectable.  In fact, his long game was exceptionally good, with solid driving results and excellent numbers over 200 yards.  His strokes gained putting is more than respectable, gaining significant strokes on the field.  Those are winning numbers and show that Tiger’s game was not completely off-track as has been portrayed in the media.

Of course, the short game numbers are bad and are already hinting at the day two short game disaster.  I’m certainly not claiming that Tiger was in winning form in this tournament, and the strokes gained stats clearly show that his short game was terribly out of sync.  What I am pointing out, however, is that it is not too far-fetched to think that Tiger can fix that short game, and the rest of his game is not in the desperate condition that it has been portrayed.  In other words, this is MOSTLY A SHORT GAME ISSUE.  That may or may not be fixable.  But the rest of his game is very close to, or in some categories better than, the PGA Tour average.

Just to see how day 2 played out, here are his strokes gained results for day 2:

chart (3)

While this graph clearly shows a bad day of golf with a strokes gained total of -10.16 (he shot an 82), the point here is that most of the damage was done by a short game that had completely gone off the rails.  The rest of Tiger’s game, even on a “lost” day, is quite respectable.  There is a driving drop-off from day one, putting slipped, and other categories are slightly below average other than a slightly positive result in the 51-100 yard category.  But again, the main point to be made here is that his short game was completely a wreck, to the tune of -6.49 for one round, which is unheard of at the PGA Tour level.  Other than that, his game is respectable, especially considering that his mental focus had to be lacking toward the latter half of day 2.  With a short game that embarrassing, we can probably assume he had largely lost his edge.

I wanted to post this quick article about Tiger’s game seen through the lens of strokes gained stats to show how revealing strokes gained statistics can be.  Tiger’s stats clearly show that his short game was indeed incredibly bad, but that the rest of his game was very close to or even better than the PGA Tour average.  There is a general understanding right now that Tiger’s game was in complete disarray, but the strokes gained stats for his last tournament do not show this at all.  Sometimes I wonder if Tiger himself knows that the rest of his game was not that bad.

Someone drop Tiger a note and tell him just to bring his short game up to par.  The rest of his game is close and is likely to come around.





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