When it came to statistics, golf was historically a simple study. You had a player's scoring average, his earnings, maybe driving distance...and that was about it. However, the past 20 years have ushered a more analytical, diagnostic view to athletics. And though golf might have been slower to this revolution than baseball or basketball, it now ranks as one of the most number-driven entities in sports.
The PGA Tour is continuing it's data-friendly approach with Wednesday's announcement that one of the game's most important statistics is expanding its reach.
"Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green" measures a player's non-putting performance to the rest of the field. The number is based off the ground-breaking "Strokes Gained: Putting" category, which accounts for proficiency from various distances and computes the difference between a player’s performance on every green against his competition.
Now, the Tee-to-Green number will be broken up into three separate elements: Off-the-Tee, Approach-the-Green and Around-the-Green.
“This completes our holistic view of play under the Strokes Gained umbrella,” said Steve Evans, PGA Tour senior vice president, information systems. “We started with Putting and Tee-to-Green and now we have broken the Tee-to-Green statistic into its component parts."
This is how the tour will define each component:
Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee
Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee includes all tee shots on par 4’s and 5’s. For event and season-level statistics, a player’s total strokes gained or lost off the tee are added together and divided by the number of rounds played to determine his average strokes gained per round versus the field.
Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green
Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green measures the tee shot on par 3s and the first shot following a tee shot on par 4s and 5s. For event and season-level statistics, a player’s total strokes gained or lost on approach shots are added together and divided by the number of rounds played to determine his average strokes gained per round.
Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green
Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green measures any shot (not on the green) from within 30 yards of the edge of the green. For event and season-level statistics, a player’s total strokes gained or lost around the green are added together and divided by the number of rounds played to determine his average strokes gained per round.
"This enables us, for the first time, to quantify player performance and explain how a player achieves his success on the course," Evans said. "This is an exciting time for us as we continue to provide modern analytics to our sport.”
Strokes Gained was conceived by Mark Broadie of Columbia University, who used outputs from tour action to construct the Strokes Gained equation. Broadie teamed up with MIT to polish the equation, and the result is what the tour now uses.