Roll Model The Tour's official putting stats don't tell the hole truth

March 23, 1998
March 23, 1998

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March 23, 1998

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Roll Model The Tour's official putting stats don't tell the hole truth

Is Michael Bradley a good putter? The PGA Tour's putting
statistics say no. They rank Bradley 113th out of 146 pros, a
rating that sounds about right given the way he yipped a 10-inch
putt during the final round of the Doral-Ryder Open two weeks
ago. Yet seven holes later, needing to hole a five-footer at 18
to win, Bradley made like Ben Crenshaw and rapped his ball into
the heart of the cup.

This is an article from the March 23, 1998 issue

The contrast between Bradley's miserable putting ranking and his
No. 1 finish at Doral underscores the flawed nature of the
Tour's putting stats. Putting is so crucial to scoring that one
would expect to see a direct correlation between putts and
earnings, a numerical translation of Drive for show, putt for
dough. But as the chart at left shows, there isn't one. A few of
the Tour's top-ranked putters appear among the money leaders,
but others have barely dented that list. The top 10 money
winners, on the other hand, appear to be mediocre putters. Their
average rank on the Tour's putting chart is a lowly 60th.

What gives? A look inside the numbers reveals a simple, crucial
flaw in the official stat: The Tour doesn't count all putts and
divide by 18. Instead, only putts on greens hit in regulation
are counted. (Why? To eliminate wild hitters who miss greens and
then chip to gimme range.) Thus Bradley's one-putt at Doral's
18th hole didn't count because he had missed the green and
chipped on before making the putt.

According to short-game guru Dave Pelz, the Tour's putting stat
actually gauges iron play. "In no way is this a true measure of
putting," Pelz says. "Brad Faxon is one of the game's best
putters, but he hasn't been hitting his irons well. When Brad
reaches a green in regulation, he's usually far from the hole.
His chance of one-putting is much lower than that of somebody
who's hitting it close."

To improve matters, Pelz says, the Tour should start recording
every putt's distance and result. For now, however, he
recommends a stopgap stat, a number that measures putting skill
more accurately, if less directly, than the Tour's official
statistic. "It's the score," he says. "If you really want to
know who's putting well, look at the score."

COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND LEFT OUT Bradley's big moment at Doral didn't cut it statistically. [Michael Bradley putting]


1. David Toms 1.680 22
2. Lee Janzen 1.690 61
3. John Daly 1.695 18
4. Stewart Cink 1.696 17
5. John Huston 1.699 1
6. Mark Brooks 1.700 161
7. Mark O'Meara 1.710 21
8. Chris Perry 1.712 81
9. Craig Stadler 1.713 43
David Duval 1.713 3


1. John Huston 1.699 5
2. Billy Mayfair 1.777 65
3. David Duval 1.713 9
4. Tiger Woods 1.785 73
5. Jesper Parnevik 1.810 112
6. M. Calcavecchia 1.756 43
7. Fred Couples 1.788 78
8. Skip Kendall 1.738 26
9. Scott Simpson 1.784 72
10. Michael Bradley 1.811 113


Few numbers are as glamorous as driving distance. But power
doesn't always mean performance. Here are the Tour's biggest
boppers and their rankings on the money list.

1. John Daly 303.7 18
2. Tiger Woods 293.3 4
3. Harrison Frazar 287.4 141
4. David Duval 284.5 3
5. Vance Veazey 283.8 159
Richard Coughlan 283.8 146
7. Tim Herron 283.6 30
8. Barry Cheesman 283.2 54
9. Phil Mickelson 283 13
10. Tommy Armour III 282.7 14


With 850 courses being built as '98 began, the U.S. total will
soon hit 20,000. These states have the most courses under

California 71 942
Michigan 64 906
Florida 49 1,170
New York 46 838
Texas 38 838
Virginia 37 320
Pennsylvania 36 709

Source: National Golf Foundation

The Number

Years between R.W. Eaks's rookie and sophomore years on the PGA
Tour. Eaks, who ranks 47th in earnings this year, with $110,611,
won $2,765 in 1981.