Who’s the best putter on the PGA Tour?

by Derek on May 4, 2011

in putting

John Merrick

The best putter on Tour is John Merrick. No you haven’t seen his name on top of many leaderboards and he only has one top 25 finish this year.  In fact, his best ever finish was a 2nd place in 2009.  But he’s the best putter so far this year on Tour.

You might say “He’s only 57th in putts per round.”  True, but he’s leading the PGA Tour’s new putting statistic, “Strokes Gained – Putting“.

Strokes Gained – Putting was introduced on Monday and finally provides an objective way to look at putting effectiveness.  The problems with the traditional putts per round statistic is that if a player misses a lot of greens and chips it close, he won’t have many putts and he’ll rank extremely high in total putts per round.  Likewise, if he’s a great ball-striker and get lots of short looks at birdie, he”ll similarly have few putts per round.

In both cases, he’ll rank high in putting, but it doesn’t actually say tell us if he’s a good putter, just that he hits the ball close to the cup.  SGP  finally gives us an objective way to look at putting performance.

The Tour uses Shotlink data to determine how many strokes on average it should take to putt the ball in the hole from any distance on the green.  For example, it should take a PGA Tour player 1.5 putts on average  to hole out from 7 feet, 10 inches.  So if a player only needs one putt from that distance, he gains .5 strokes.  And if he 2-putts, he loses .5 strokes.

Merrick is averaging 1.046 SGP.  He’s closely followed by Greg Chalmers, Brandt Snedeker, Steve Stricker, and Lucas Glover.  It’s a great new statistic because we finally get a look at true performance on the greens.

Slate wrote a great series last year that touched on the concept of SGP , and how it can be applied to virtually any shot on the golf course.  With the database of shots that the Tour has with Shotlink, it would be great to see the SGP statistic expanded out to every shot on the golf course.  I suspect that the Tour decided to name the statistic Strokes Gained – Putting, implies that they could do the same thing with fairway or virtually any other part of the course.

The PGA Tour has compiled SGR data retroactively to 2004.  You can view the comparison of various putting statistic leaders versus SGR over the past 7 years here.  It’s interesting because it shows that while sometimes the traditional statistics do match up to SGR, there are often some significant differences as well.

PGA Tour

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Charles Prokop May 4, 2011 at 5:43 pm

This sounds like a great idea. I know in my own rounds few putts per round means I chipped well and hit my irons close so I didn’t have my weakness (putting) exposed.


Derek May 4, 2011 at 11:23 pm

I think the same can be said of many players, professionals included. But now they have nowhere to hide :-)


rick niles August 8, 2011 at 10:35 pm

With the Bermuda greens at the 2011 PGA tournament in Atlanta, who are some of the best putters on these type of greens?


Derek August 8, 2011 at 10:49 pm

You know they don’t play too many bermuda greens on the PGA Tour. Specifically though, AAC has Champion Bermuda, which plays more like bent-grass rather than a traditional bermuda (although you still wouldn’t confuse it with bent). The effect of grain is much smaller than you might expect. That said, there are only a few events played on Champion Bermuda – the Valero, the Outback Steakhouse, the St. Jude, and the Viking Classic. I haven’t taken the time to do this, but if you pulled the putting stats from those four tournaments, you’d have a good idea at who puts well on this grass and who struggles.


Derek August 13, 2011 at 8:14 pm

I’ll just point out that the co-leader heading into Sunday is Brendan Steele, who won the Valero Texas Open earlier this year. He apparently likes these greens.


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