Which Stats are Important for Making Golf Picks?

Which Stats are Important for Making Golf Picks?

Few sports are as inundated with folk wisdom as golf. With its emphasis on technical skill and poise, it’s the little things that matter most on the course.

Many have also grown up hearing, “Drive for show, putt for dough.” Examples like Bryson DeChambeau, with his emphasis on long drives, are muddling the waters when it comes to traditional wisdom. The young pro has put an emphasis on data-driven workout regimens, which reflects the sport’s growing interest in statistical analysis.

Fans have also shown an increased interest in applying their knowledge of certain pros. For most local golf fans, making picks for a Major comes down to an informal betting pool among friends. However, now that sports betting PA, MI, and IL markets are live, there are ample resources to help fans place their first wager on the PGA Tour.

With pros like Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, and Brooks Koepka always fluctuating in the world rankings, many punters stick to analyzing a player’s most recent stats. Here, strokes gained stats are the king of the course. However, studying recent stats alone won’t do—the most reliable figures come from years-long studies.

SG/Approach-the-Green

Pro golfers are ranked according to their World Ranking (based on performance) and their earnings from tournament play—but strokes gained/approach the green ranked in third, according to today’s PGA Tour.

It’s easy to why SG/APP is one of the most important gauges of a player’s preparedness; hitting a green is a golfer’s top priority, and getting closer to the hole is the name of the game. What makes SG/APP so important for punters is that it uses the most up-to-date data from the entire competition to rank golfers on a micro-level (-0.3 points for missing the green, and so on).

For those making outright winner bets or more complex in-play bets, versus the field bets, and head-to-head matchups, following SG/approach is pivotal for success. Last year, SG/APP stats ranked Justin Thomas and Collin Morikawa’s in the top two SG/APP. Thomas took the Tournament of Champions in January 2020. Morikawa took the PGA Championship.

SG/Ball-Striking

Many think the most important SG stats are off-the-tee or -around-the-green or even tee-to-green. However, SG/BS is gaining steam with golf pundits and analysts. Instead, this stat combines strokes gained/off-the-tee with strokes gained/approach-the-green figures.

Taken alone, SG/APP is the most important stat for punters to consult. Remember the Bryson DeChambeau example from above? His emphasis on clean, powerful drives has highlighted how important driving balls far and straight is in landing a more competitive spot on the greens.

Put simply, SG/BS gives a closer look at how effective a golfer is with each shot, and therefore can accurately predict success more efficiently than other SG models.

The Future of Strokes Gained: Gauging Performance Under Pressure

From the earliest days of folk wisdom to today’s ever-evolving world of data-driven measurements, there’s clearly a desire to understand even the most invisible elements behind success.

The understanding of and interest in golf data evolves each year, with some measuring how many balls end up in the water on certain courses to others cross-referencing brand sponsorships with World Ranking. The latest interest for pundits is using strokes gained to create a stat that measures performance under pressure.

Golfers face intense pressure, with tiny errors amounting to major setbacks. Being surrounded by wide-eyed fans likely doesn’t help. Mark Broadie, a professor at Columbia University, is looking to combine multiple SG stats to account for a player’s ability to handle stress.

For the time being, Broadie needs to first account for how a player’s ability to handle stress (usually) improves over time, as well as how to account for players who make comebacks. It’s still unclear which sets of data are most accurate for determining outcomes related to stress.

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