The Loop

A master statistician reveals exactly why Rory won the 2014 PGA Championship

August 11, 2014

The 2014 PGA Championship was the first major to use the PGA Tour's ShotLink scoring system, so, naturally, it was a big deal for everyone who likes statistics. It was an even bigger deal for people who work in statistics, because it meant they could use the data to pinpoint why certain players performed as well as they did.

And that's exactly what Mark Broadie, a professor of Columbia Business School and author of the new golf analytics book Every Shot Counts, did. He measured how every player in the field ranked in strokes gained for their drives, approach shots, short-game shots and putting.

So why did Rory McIlroy walk home with the Wanamaker Trophy? According to Broadie's article, which is definitely worth reading in its entirety, it was because of his long game. Here's a selection from the piece:

McIlroy led in strokes gained from the long game (shots starting outside of 100 yards from the hole), gaining nearly three strokes per round on the field. That represented 70 percent of his total gain of 4.1 strokes per round against the field. He was second in strokes gained/driving and fifth in stokes gained from approach shots, with each contributing 1.4 strokes per round. (About the only reason McIlroy wasn't first in strokes gained/driving was his tee shot on the fourth hole in the third round that led to a penalty stroke.)> >

In case you were wondering who led the field in field in strokes gained/driving for the week, that honor goes to Victor Dubuisson -- another twenty-something who finished T-7 at Valhalla. Henrik Stenson led the field in strokes gained/putting, and Jimmy Walker gained more strokes on the field with his approach shots than anybody else who finished in the top 10.

Like Rory, Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson didn't lead the field in any specific statistical categories, but they were solid everywhere: neither Rickie or Phil finished worse than 25th in the field in any of the statistical categories measured.