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5 statistical oddities from the 2014 PGA Tour season

December 02, 2014

Richie Hunt is a statistician of the Bill James ilk. He works with tour pros like Daniel Summerhays, Ben Crane and Brian Gay by analyzing mounds of data and deducing from it strategies to help them play better. And every year, he turns his findings into a book called the "Pro Golf Synopsis."

We wrote about the Pro Golf Synopsis last year, and in lieu of the 2014 edition's release on Monday (you can purchase the ebook on Hunt's website), we decided to run though a few of Hunt's newer findings.

Laying up on a par 5 or a par 4 should be considered the last option.__

The closer you are to the hole, the more likely you are to hit your ball into the hole. Even if you think you're really bad from 100 yards, you're still more likely to hit it closer to the hole from 100 yards than from 125 yards. That's true for golfers of all abilities, so unless you're going to hit it into a hazard, you should forget about laying up. Just try to hit your ball as close to the green as often as you can.

Tour players tend to be more accurate with their driver than their 3-wood off the tee.

This was true in a number of instances throughout the 2014 season. Hunt suspects it's because drivers have become so big that they are now the most forgiving club in players' bag. Therefore, a mis-hit with your driver tends to turn out better than a mis-hit with your 3-wood.

The better drivers of the ball often split their misses closer to 50/50.

__That old adage of "knowing what your miss is" isn't true, Hunt says. In his analysis of tour pros, Hunt finds that pros generally have no more than a 55-percent to 44-percent miss bias. So, if a pro who struggles with a hook hits 20 mis-hits, only about 11 of those will actually be hooks. The other nine will finish right of the fairway.

Scores are typically lower in the morning than in the afternoon.__

On the other hand, that old adage of "the wind always picks up in the afternoon" appears surprisingly true. Conditions do tend to get tougher as the day creeps on, which means scores get increasingly higher as the morning turns into the afternoon.

Round 1 Scoring Average has the strongest statistical correlation to PGA Tour success, followed by Round 2 Scoring Average.

__During Round 1 there's less pressure, so the thing that differentiates players is their pure, raw ability. But as Rounds 2, 3 and 4 creep around and the pressure ticks-up a few notches, it throws more wild cards into the mix. All that volatility leads to a kind of leveling of the field.