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Drive for show and putt for dough? Not true, says Mark Broadie

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

BOSTON -- "You don't drive for show and putt for dough. It's really the long game that matters." 

Speaking Saturday at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, Columbia University professor Mark Broadie outlined one of the new conclusions from his new book, Every Shot Counts. In it, he describes how good putting has been overvalued for far too long.

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The idea is relatively simple: for example, if a pro shoots three over par on a day where par is the norm, and he loses a stroke to the field putting, where is he losing the other three strokes? The only other place he or she can lose them is from tee to green.

"The long game is the best separator between the best tour pros and average tour pros," Broadie said. "The long game explains about two-thirds of scoring."

Tiger Woods, Justin Rose and Hunter Mahan's swing instructor, Sean Foley, appeared alongside Broadie at the discussion, titled "Every Shot Counts: Using Analytics to Improve Golf Performance." He spoke about how he uses the data to form new practice routines.

"Distance is far more of an indicator [of success] than accuracy," Foley said.

"That's maybe not true at the U.S. Open ... but overall, if I have the choice of giving someone five extra miles per hour in clubhead speed or have him hit the corresponding amount of more fairways, net earnings will increase more from the extra swing speed."

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Foley says his students are receptive to the new wave of data-formed ideas, but that golf still has a long way to go.

"So much of what we believe has been handed down through nostalgia," Foley says. "I look at this strictly as business."

 
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