Do Statistics Really Matter in Fantasy Golf Part I

Jeff Bergerson
By Jeff Bergerson October 24, 2015 17:46

In the fantasy football world, statistics are everything, because that is what the scoring is based upon. Knowing that Calvin Johnson leads the league in major statistical categories such as catches, receiving yardage, and touchdowns would be extremely meaningful because most points systems are based off of those statistics. Fantasy golf is different in that scoring is based off of the end result, both on individual holes and overall finish in each tournament. It doesn’t matter if a golfer drives the green, but three putts for par –or- he shanks a drive, lays up and goes up and down for par. The scoring would be the same, points for a par and his placement in the standings would not be any different. Some people are stat geeks and analyze the numbers religiously, but are the major statistics in golf, indicators of overall success and more importantly for us, fantasy success? There are hundreds of statistical categories in golf, but which categories would be the most beneficial for fantasy golfers to analyze? For the purpose of this study we analyzed the most popular and widely recognized statistics to see if these categories were indicators of overall success and whether we need to take them into consideration when choosing what golfers to select in fantasy golf.

When most people discuss golf statistics, they most often times refer to the old school core statistics. When discussing putting, the obvious statistic that is pointed to is putting average (how many putts did it take to get into the hole once on the green). When examining approach shots or iron play, people almost always refer to the statistic, greens in regulation (getting the ball onto the putting surface in two shots fewer than the par for the hole). When analyzing players off the tee, most people reference driving distance and driving accuracy. Since these are the statistics that most people consult, we are going to analyze them closer to see if they are any indication of fantasy golf success. For this article, Part I of II, we will analyze four core statistics: driving distance, driving accuracy, greens in regulation, and putting average.

We will look at the results of the Top 5, Top 10, and Top 20 players ranked on the PGA Tour in average driving distance, driving accuracy, greens in regulation, and putting for the years 2013 and 2014. We will figure the average place in every tournament that these players finished, what their cut percentage made was, wins, and Top 10s. by doing this, we will see which of these statistical categories are the best indicators of overall success. For calculation purposes of average tournament placing, we assigned a place of 80th to cuts missed, disqualifications, and withdrawals. We will start with statistics off the tee.

Driving Accuracy

2014

 

2013

 

Driving Distance

2014



2013

The top 20 players ranked in driving accuracy in 2014 finished an average place in tournaments of 46th place. Those top 20 players made the cut 73% of the time, 5 tournament wins between them, and had 70 top 10 finishes.
In comparison, the top 20 golfers in driving distance in 2014 took an average place in tournaments of 41st place (five places better than driving accuracy). Those golfers made the cut 73% of the time, had 13 tournament wins, and 90 Top 10 finishes. The cut percentage made between both statistical categories was the same, but those golfers in the Top 20 in driving distance placed higher in tournaments, had more wins, and had more Top 10s made throughout 2014.

For 2013, the Top 20 golfers in each of these statistical categories is very similar. The Top 20 ranked golfers in the statistical category of driving accuracy placed an average of 48th place, made the cut 64% of the time, had 6 wins, and 52 Top 10s.
In comparison, for the Top 20 in driving distance, the average tournament placing was 49th place, with 63% of the cuts made, two wins and 62 Top 10s.

The numbers are extremely similar between driving distance and driving accuracy in 2013 and driving distance actually had an edge in 2014, so the assumption of many people that driving accuracy is more important than driving distance, is incorrect, at least over the past two full seasons on the PGA tour. An argument could be made that driving accuracy is a more important statistic on certain courses, say those with tighter fairways, or more hazards. There are a few courses on the PGA tour in 2015 that would make me favor dramatically accuracy over distance, but not very many.
Are either of these statistics the ones that we want to focus on however? When examining the statistical category of greens in regulation (GIR) we found even more success by the top ranked players than either driving distance or driving accuracy.

Greens in Regulation

2014

2013

In 2013, the Top 20 players ranked in GIR finished an average place of 40th(eight places higher than either distance or accuracy), 75% of cuts made (11% more), eight wins, and 86 Top 10s (a whopping 34 more than driving accuracy).
In 2014, the findings were consistent with 2013 for GIR as the average place was 41st, 76% of cuts made, eight wins and 86 Top 10s (both of which were exactly the same as 2013, which in itself is crazy). In relation, all of these outcomes were better than the Top 20 in either accuracy or distance, except for Top 10s (driving distance Top 20 had 90). So are greens in regulation the statistical category that we should focus on? Maybe, but let us look at the final statistical category, putting average.

Putting Average

2014

2013

In 2013, the Top 20 players in putting average took 43rd place in tournaments (much better than driving distance and accuracy, but slightly worse than GIR), 74% of cuts made (again better than driving and slightly worse than GIR), 13 wins and 83 Top 10s. I will point out that of those 13 wins, five were by Tiger Woods, so I would look at putting and GIR being really close for the most impactful stat to look at over both driving categories.

2014 was different however, as putting average swept each measure and it really was not close. The average place of the Top 20 golfers in putting average was 36th place (five places better than GIR), 80% of the cuts made (4% better than GIR), 13 wins, and 109 Top 10s (23 more than GIR and 39 more than driving accuracy). Those are really telling statistics.

So what does the analysis of these statistics tell us and how is it useful for fantasy golf? It appears that there is some value in looking at all four core statistical categories as the average cut percentage in 2014 for all golfers on the PGA tour was 55%, while the average cut percentage for the Top 20 players in all four categories combined is 75%.

Greens in regulation appears to be a useful statistic to reference as the cut % of the Top 20 ranked players is 75% (20% more than average). They also won 18% of all of the PGA events in 2014 and had 86 Top 10s, which was 20% of all the Top 10 finishes throughout the year.
However it is clear that analysis of the average putting category appears to be the most important of these core stats to the fantasy golf player. The Top 20 golfers in putting won nearly 30% of all PGA tour events in both 2013 and 2014. In 2014 the Top 20 in putting made 109 Top 10s, which was 24% of all top 10 finishes throughout the year. The cut percentage was 80% for the Top 20 players in putting, which was 25% better than the field.

In conclusion, when analyzing these four statistical categories, place emphasis on putting average (number of putts) first and foremost, followed by greens in regulation, and then driving distance and accuracy. For the scope of this study we analyzed the Top 20 players ranked in the statistical categories for two years. Much more research can and will be done to include every golfer and take into account their exact ranking position in each category and incorporate their results. In addition, analysis of the years prior to 2013 will be performed for a larger sample size. For the purpose of this study however, we have discovered some very important findings. Who says however that these most commonly used and most widely accepted statistics are the best ones of all the thousands of statistical categories out there for us, fantasy golfers to focus on? You can certainly use those statistical categories to build solid lineups as they are clearly a good indicator of success. However, and here is the tease, I have a couple of statistics that will predict 20% more success than any of these four statistical categories. Statistics that the professional golfers themselves analyze to find out what part of their game needs improvement to lead to greater success. These statistics are just now becoming known to the general public and I will explain them and show you the results of the leaders in these statistical categories in Part II of this article. Part II will be posted next week so be sure to check back and find out what statistical categories are the best to help guide you in selecting your golfers in your fantasy golf contests.

Jeff Bergerson is a co-founder of Fantasy Golf Insider.com, fantasy golf expert and has been following and writing about fantasy golf for over five years. He is a member of multiple season long fantasy golf leagues as well as an avid daily fantasy golf player. In the past 12 months he has won over $66,000 playing daily fantasy golf as jtbergerson. Feel free to contact Jeff at jeff@fantasygolfinsider.com or visit Fantasy Golf Insider.Com

Jeff Bergerson
By Jeff Bergerson October 24, 2015 17:46

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