LINK TO THE FUTURE
Season's major winners relying on ShotLink stats
September 08, 2015
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
- Jason Day won the PGA Championship in August, marking his first major victory. (David Cannon/Getty Images)
ShotLink statistics don’t just give fans a closer look at a player’s game. They also allow players to make an in-depth audit of their scores, too.
Players use ShotLink stats to see how they fare against their fellow TOUR players in different aspects of the game.
Jason Day, the PGA Championship winner, relies heavily on his caddie, Colin Swatton, to parse through the data and pass the important information on to Day.
“Colin is big into that stuff, and I think it's slowly starting to move towards that way,” Day said. “He can tell me if I'm losing shots to the field on holes or if I'm gaining shots on the field on the hole. … Sometimes we'll be playing a hole over par, and he goes, you just need to par this hole for the week. And it may be an easy hole, unfortunately.”
All four winners of this year’s majors said their coaches use ShotLink data to better analyze their games. Coaches often present the information to players at year-end “team meetings.”
Zach Johnson, the 2015 Open Championship winner, is one player who holds such meetings. “They'll look at stats. They'll get the information. They'll find holes. They'll kind of pick it apart and look at the previous goals we had thrown out there, and then we'll reassess and establish new ones,” he said.
Jordan Spieth’s team also looks at ShotLink stats. The numbers showed that he didn’t drive the ball as well as he would have like in 2014. “When I looked back I was trying to work it too much both ways off the tee,” said Spieth, who won this year’s Masters and U.S. Open.
Traditional golf statistics such as greens in regulation and fairways hit don’t give players as clear of a picture because those statistics are reliant on other aspects of the player’s game. For example, a player who misses a lot of fairways will hit fewer greens in regulation because his approach shots may be blocked by trees or made more difficult because of thick rough.
Strokes gained statistics, which are made possible by ShotLink Intelligence Powered by CDW, isolate parts of a player’s game to eliminate influence from other areas. This gives players a clear picture of how they are performing off the tee, on their approach shots, etc.
On the highly-competitive PGA TOUR, it can be difficult for players to analyze how they stack up against their competitors in certain areas of the game.
“(Players) don’t realize they may be good at a certain part of the game or that there’s room for improvement in another area,” said Mark Broadie, who is credited with inventing the “strokes gained” method.
Sean Foley, an instructor whose students include Justin Rose and Hunter Mahan, said players create “stories” about themselves. The data helps separate fact from fiction. Foley used Rose as an example when discussing “strokes gained” at the 2014 Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. Rose used to believe he was a poor wedge player, but ShotLink showed that he was No. 1 in strokes gained from 100 yards and in during one season.
Day, on the other hand, was shown a few years ago by the ShotLink stats that he had to improve his wedge play. He went to work on that area, and it paid off. He finished first in proximity to the hole from the fairway from 125-150 yards (18 feet, 7 inches) in 2013-14 after finishing 166th in that category the previous season. He averaged 25 feet, 3 inches in 2013.
“You hate working on (weaknesses), but once you start getting a little bit better at it, then it starts to be a lot more fun because you’re starting to get better,” Day said. “If you can make slow and little improvements each and every year in the categories you want to get better at, while maintaining your strengths, then you’re improving.”
ShotLink has helped Ian Poulter, one of the game’s more numerically-minded players, take his analysis to a deeper level.
“We have the opportunity to go in and have a look at every single statistic, and we can analyze our game week-by-week and we can see areas of the game which need work and what areas don't,” Poulter said. “So I think most guys dive into the stats pretty hard now.”
Johnson’s “team” of instructors look at the stats to establish goals for Johnson and to analyze his performance over the past year. At the end of 2014, Johnson learned that he had putted poorly.
“I think probably most people would assume I flourish in or I am pretty consistent in and excel in … putting. Last year I actually hit the ball pretty good,” Johnson said. “So my putting was suspect at best. It was very average.”
He knew he needed to improve his work in that area. He did, and then lifted the Claret Jug a few months later.