"You drive for show but you putt for dough."
That timeless piece of golf wisdom was on display once again this past weekend at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Russell Henley, 23, playing in his first PGA TOUR event cruised to a three-shot victory mainly on the strength of his dominating performance on the greens at the Waialea Country Club. Let's walk from to to green and look at several key statistical numbers to get a better understanding of how this rookie from the University of Georgia won the second event of the year.
Driving Distance: This is perhaps one of the most overrated and most misunderstood stats among golf fans. The PGA TOUR, for purposes of this statistic, measures only two drives per round per player. To counter the effects of any wind, the TOUR measures on holes going in different directions and then posts the average yardage from the two drives. So Player 1 might outdrive Player 2 on two holes per round but may not truly be a longer hitter than Player 2 overall.
Henley ranked 51st in Driving Distance at 293 yards. The tournament leader was Scott Piercy at 322.3 yards. Piercy finished the Sony Open T15th.
Driving Accuracy: This is another misunderstood stat. Driving accuracy measures the percentage of time a tee shot comes to rest in the fairway regardless of what club was used. Why is the stat misunderstood? Player 1 hits the fairway but might have a tree or trees in his line for his second shot to the green (dogleg left). Player 2 just misses the fairway to the right but has a nice lie and a clear shot to the green. Which player is in better shape? Player 1 gets credit for finding the fairway and player does not. Get it?
Henley ranked T8th in Driving Accuracy as he hit the fairway on 55.36% of his tee shots. Bart Bryant and Brian Stuard were T1st in this category. Bryant finished T41st and Stuard finished T5th .
Greens in Regulation: This stat measure the percent of time a player hits the green in regulation. The regulation stroke is two strokes less than par for any hole.
Henley finished 2nd in GIR as he hit 60 of 72 greens or 83.33%. The leader for the tournament was Vijay Singh who hit 61 of 72 or 84.72%. Singh finished T20th.
Proximity to Hole: measures the distance to the hole when the approach shot lands on the green.
Henley ranked 14th in this category at an average of 30 feet 4 inches. Webb Simpson ranked 1st at 26 feet 6 inches. Simpson finished T 20th.
Scrambling:The percent of time a player makes par or better after missing the green in regulation.
Henley was T4th at 83.33%. Recall that he missed 12 greens in regulation. Math tells us that Henley saved par (or better) on 10 of those occasions. The leader in this category was Tim Clark at 89.47 %. Clark finished 2nd.
Strokes Gained Putting: This might be the most complex stat to explain so I will defer to the PGA TOUR definition which calculates it as "the number of putts a player takes from a specific distance is measured against a statistical baseline to determine the player's strokes gained or lost on a hole. The sum of the values for all holes played in a round minus the field average strokes gained/lost for the round is the player's Strokes gained/lost for that round. The sum of strokes gained for each round are divided by total rounds played."
This is where Henley won the tournament. His SGP number was 3.042. Folks, that is 3.042 strokes gained PER ROUND!!. Multiply that by 4 and Henley gained 12.167 strokes on the greens for the entire tournament. Compare that to the 2012 statistical leader, Brandt Snedeker who averaged .860 strokes gained per round for the entire year and and 55.874 strokes gained for the entire year over 65 rounds of golf.
There you have it. Numbers do not lie; they tell a story. And, just as Dustin Johnson won at Kapalua on the strength of his putting, so too did Russell Henley show what great putting can do. A lesson for all those people who spend countless hours hitting driver and spending big money on a club that gives most people little return.