Metric analysis

It’s the most (and least) important metric for predicting big winners

Which strokes won stats are most important in predicting a big winner? We dove into the stats to find out.

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Want to predict which golfer will win a major tournament? Good luck.

Each major week, the experts submit their best guesses on who will win the crown. More often than not, they are wrong. Except for a few scholars, picking the winner is apparently a game of dice.

I dove deep into the stats – here’s what they reveal about this year’s winner

By:

Luke Kerr-Dineen



However, he is possible to narrow down your options to a nice list of names. If you rely on win statistics, there are certain trends that indicate the type of player who will win.

Keeping in mind the importance of strokes won data, I have done my own analysis of advanced stats of top winners over the past five years, analyzing six categories of strokes won trying to see if there are had one thing in common. And, surprisingly, a trend line did appear.

Remember, I’m not a stats expert, but I can use a spreadsheet. And after arranging the advanced stats, I’m confident that the stats listed below are the most (and least) important in predicting a big winner.

Most important metric

By far the most important metric among the big winners of the last five years in SG: Tee-to-Green. Since the start of 2017, all but one of the major winners have made it into the SG: Tee-to-Green top 50 for the season. (Phil Mickelson is the only winner who did not meet this criterion, representing the largest outlier.) Additionally, all but four of the winners placed in the top 20 of SG: Tee-to-Green .

2022 Winner SG: tee-to-green
mastery Scottie Scheffler 7th
PGA Justin Thomas 4th
USO Matt Fitzpatrick 3rd
2021 Winner SG: tee-to-green
mastery Hideki Matsuyama 15th
PGA Phil Mickelson 160th
USO Jon Rahm 6th
British Collin Morikawa 2nd
2020 Winner SG: tee-to-green
mastery Dustin Johnson 29
PGA Collin Morikawa 5th
USO Bryson De Chambeau 5th
2019 Winner SG: tee-to-green
mastery Tiger Woods N / A
PGA Brooks Koepka 12th
USO Gary Woodland 16th
British Shane Lowry N / A
2018 Winner SG: tee-to-green
mastery Patrick Roseau 29
PGA Brooks Koepka 12th
USO Brooks Koepka 12th
British Francesco Molinari 2nd
2017 Winner SG: tee-to-green
mastery Sergio Garcia 9th
PGA Justin Thomas 4th
USO Brooks Kopeka 42nd
British Jordan Spieth 2nd

Editor’s note: Tiger Woods and Francesco Molinari haven’t logged enough PGA Tour rounds to qualify for strokes earned rankings in 2018.

Take-out? If you want to win a major tournament, you have to be a world-class striker.

Least important metric

You know the old adage “drive for show, putt for dough?” Well, that’s a whole lot of bologna – at least when it comes to predicting big winners.

Twenty-two big winners have been crowned since the start of 2017. Only two (!) have made it into SG: Putting’s top 20, and only one of them has finished the season in the top 10 (Brooks Koepka, 2017). In fact, you can be certified poor putt and still win a major. Seven major winners in the past five years have won while ranking outside the SG: Putting top 100, and four of them have ranked outside the top 150.

2022 Winner SG: Put
mastery Scottie Scheffler 40th
PGA Justin Thomas 57th
USO Matt Fitzpatrick 35th
2021 Winner SG: Put
mastery Hideki Matsuyama 175th
PGA Phil Mickelson 115th
USO Jon Rahm 63rd
British Collin Morikawa 178th
2020 Winner SG: Put
mastery Dustin Johnson 28
PGA Collin Morikawa 128th
USO Bryson De Chambeau 20th
2019 Winner SG: Put
mastery Tiger Woods N / A
PGA Brooks Koepka 48th
USO Gary Woodland 130th
British Shane Lowry N / A
2018 Winner SG: Put
mastery Patrick Roseau 72nd
PGA Brooks Koepka 48th
USO Brooks Koepka 48th
British Francesco Molinari 182nd
2017 Winner SG: Put
mastery Sergio Garcia 167th
PGA Justin Thomas 43rd
USO Brooks Kopeka 5th
British Jordan Spieth 48th

Editor’s note: Tiger Woods and Francesco Molinari haven’t logged enough PGA Tour rounds to qualify for strokes earned rankings in 2018.

Now, while the season rankings don’t show that putting is an important predictor in major tournaments, that doesn’t mean putting is unimportant. When a player wins a major, they tend to have a great week on the greens – don’t rely on SG all season long: put stats in to help you predict who’s going to get hot.

Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is associate editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining GOLF.com, he attended the University of Texas, followed by stints with Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He attends all instructions and covers amateur and women’s golf.