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You can be an average putter and still have the best year on Tour.


Tiger makes birdie or bet- Everybody wants to be a


good putter. But in today’s game, there’s an easier way to win than making everything you look at. Just look at Tiger Woods. Yes, Tiger has been a


NO Y


ou know the scene in “Caddyshack” where Ty


Webb is dancing around the green and slapping putts from all angles and distances into the hole? Nanananana. Dadadadada. Webb’s character was


probably inspired by a South African golfer named Bobby Locke, who won four British Opens between 1949 and 1957. Locke would bury his


opponents with an avalanche of putts, causing one mutter- ing rival to snidely snipe that Locke could “hole a putt over 60 feet of peanut brittle.” Fellow countryman and nine-time major winner Gary Player still remembers the only time he ever saw Locke three-putt. Locke was a wizard with his rusty old Slazenger blade, maybe the best there ever was.


He was also the man who coined the cliché, “You drive for show and putt for dough.” Easy for him to say, right? Hey, sinking putts is a


powerful deodorant. It makes up for short-sided shots, indifferent approaches and wayward drives.


What makes Tiger the best player in the world? Is it his putting? Or the way he dominates par 5s with his driver?


clutch and prolific putter. He’s also the most complete golfer we’ve ever seen. He has the second-most wins and second-most majors in history, so there probably aren’t many holes in his game. But what has Tiger utterly


dominated, year-in and year- out? What gives Tiger a bigger advantage than anything else? His ability to turn every course he plays into a par 68. The stat that measures this is par 5 birdie or better percentage. And Tiger devours par 5s. From 1997 through 2009,


Tiger finished first in par 5 birdie or better percentage 10 times. His only slip-ups? He finished second in 2004 and 2007, and didn’t qualify in 2008 because of his injury- shortened season.


ter on par 5s more than 50% of the time. During his peak in 1999 and 2000, he broke 60%. Tiger has never finished first in the putting metric strokes gained, which measures his performance on the greens against the rest of the field. In short, it computes how effi- cient he is from every distance on the green—i.e., how good he is at making putts. But then again, if you get


more chances from closer than everyone else, how efficient do you have to be? Bubba Watson won the 2012 Masters and finished fifth on the money list. He was third in par 5 birdies or better percentage, and a well-below average 158th in strokes gained. Justin Rose sat at 156th in


strokes gained the week before the 2013 U.S. Open. Of course, he also ranked first in total driving and par-5 birdie or better percentage. Anchored putting styles


ran off four of six majors, yet none of these players (Adam Scott, Ernie Els, Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley) ranked inside the top 50 in strokes gained during the year that they won. Anchor- ing simply made their putting tolerable, allowing their power and precision to take over. Since strokes gained was


tracked in 2004, there has always been someone who has putted better than Tiger. Play- ers with better putting years than Tiger in 2012 included Martin Flores, Derek Lamely, Gavin Coles and Ken Duke. Tiger still finished second


in scoring average and won three times in 2012. He did that despite playing all the par 3s and par 4s for the season in a combined 1-over. Of course, he went 92-un-


der on par 5s. Heading into the 2013 SUMMER 2013 / NCGA.ORG / 15


season, Tiger is 36-under on par 3s, 377-under on par 4s, and 1,810-under on par 5s. Does he magically become


a clutch putter on par 5s? No, he simply overpowers par 5s, collects his birdies, and anything else he scoops up over the remaining 14 holes— while hitting less club into the green than most of the field— is a bonus. Tiger doesn’t need to


putt well, but when he has a good day on the greens, it’s Good Night. Tiger picked up his fourth win of the young 2013 season in May at the Players Cham- pionship. Think he’s back after his dip from 2010 and 2011? (And maybe this shows how off-kilter Tiger’s world was post-scandal: he finished just 32nd in 2010 and 33rd in 2011 in par 5 birdie or better percentage, before climbing back to 12th in 2012.) Well, guess where Tiger


ranked on Tour in par 5 birdie or better percentage after the Players Championship? No. 1. One reason Rory McIlroy


reminds so many of a young Tiger is the way he can domi- nate a golf course. McIlroy won his second major and the 2012 Player of the Year by finishing—you guessed it— first in par 5 birdie or better percentage. The only player to finish


first in strokes gained and win Player of the Year was Luke Donald in 2011. McIlroy ranked 82nd in 2012. Jim Fu- ryk was 26th in 2010. Padraig Harrington was below the Tour average in 2008, finish- ing 118th. Vijay Singh was the Tour


average in 2005, at 104th. That’s right, you can be an


average putter and still have the best year on Tour. Putt for dough? Not


any mo’.


KEVIN MERFELD is the Communications Manager for the NCGA.


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