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Point Counterpoint

Is Drive for Show and Putt for Dough True? YES


hen I was in sixth grade, my friend Devon’s mom

picked us up from a school golf outing. She asked us how we played. “Pretty good,” said my

11-year-old self, who had just started taking lessons some- what recently. “I hit my driver really well, but I had a bunch of three-putts.” Devon’s mom said, “You

know what they say, ‘Drive for show, putt for dough!’” Actually, I didn’t. I hadn’t

heard that saying before that very moment. “Wait, what did you say

again?” I asked. “Drive for show, putt for

dough,” she repeated. “That’s so true!” I marveled. Clearly, those words made

an impression on me because 19 years later, I remember exactly when I first heard them. Unfortunately, I didn’t heed them.

As a junior golfer, I was

never the best putter, but I was always one of the best ball-strikers. I remember after a qualifier for the U.S. Women’s Amateur, my friend who had caddied for me, Andres Gonzales, now a PGA Tour player, said, “If you could just putt, you’d be top 10 in the country.” I was the type of player who would go out there and hit 16 greens in regulation and post a pathetic score (relatively speaking), like 74. Now that I cover the game,

mostly the PGA Tour, those wise words, “Drive for show, putt for dough,” still ring true.

14 / NCGA.ORG / SUMMER 2013

Just ask Matt Kuchar, who won the Memorial Tourna- ment in May to become just the second multiple winner on Tour in 2013. Kuchar was ranked T37

for driving accuracy at Muirfield Village, while he was second in strokes gained putting (which measures how many putts a player gains or loses to the field average on that day or on average). He took advantage of the op- portunities he gave himself, which helped him into the winner’s circle. In contrast, heading into

the Memorial Tournament, Tiger Woods, who had already bagged four wins in 2013, led the Tour in strokes gained putting, which also meant

driving accuracy on the PGA Tour to the top 25 in strokes gained putting, and how much money both have made for this year, as well as during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. In all three years, the top 25 players in strokes gained putting earned nearly double the amount—$41,132,949— compared to the top 25 players in driving accuracy —$24,232,343. Through May of this year, the top put- ters had 14 wins, while the straightest drivers only had three victories. And in 2012, the top

25 in driving accuracy earned $32,277,567 with nine total wins, while the top 25 putters took home $52,505,558 with 11 wins.

If you don’t get it done on the greens, then you’re less likely to bring home the bacon.

he was making a lot of par putts. Well, he struggled with the flat stick at Jack’s tourna- ment, finishing 71st in strokes gained putting out of 73 play- ers who made the cut. Ouch. As you may recall,

Woods had a tough week at the Memorial, grinding to break 80 in the third round and placing a ho-hum tied for 65th.

Of the 20 PGA Tour

events this season with Shot- Link, the winner has finished inside the top 10 in strokes gained putting 15 times, while the champ has been amongst the top 10 in driving accuracy only on six occasions. I compared the top 25 in

Finally, in 2011, the 25 straightest drivers collected $26,970,224 and only four victories, while the 25 stron- gest putters made $53,916,580 and eleven total wins. So, you see, year-in and

year-out, the best putters on the PGA Tour are more successful, proving you can hit fairway after fairway, but if you don’t get it done on the greens, then you’re less likely to bring home the bacon. Really, though, there is one

player who proves that you putt for dough and drive for show: Steve Stricker. Since he announced his

semi-retirement at the beginning of the season,

Bubba Watson finished fifth on the 2012 PGA Tour Money List. The reason? That pink driver. With it, he annihilated par 5s, finishing third on Tour in par 5 birdie or better percentage. Watson ranked just 158th in strokes gained.

Stricker has only recorded 19 competitive rounds in five months, so he hasn’t played enough to be ranked among the leaders for strokes gained putting. Stricker worked with

Woods on his putting on the practice green on Wednes- day the week of the WGC- Cadillac Championship at Doral. Guess who finished 1-2 in the strokes gained putting that week? That’s right!—Stricker led the field in the stat, while Woods was second. And then, they flip-flopped their positions in strokes gained putting for the final leaderboard, with Woods besting Stricker by two shots at the end of play on Sunday. Meanwhile, in driving accu- racy, Woods was ranked T30 and Stricker was a little better at T15. Basically, if you want to

win on the PGA Tour, you should putt well—and get a lesson with Stricker. Just ask Tiger.

STEPHANIE WEI played golf at Yale before founding the popular golf blog, Wei Under Par. She is a freelance writer and reporter who has contrib- uted to Sports Illustrated, Golf+ and the Wall Street Journal, among other publications and websites.

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