The PGA TOUR's Strokes Gained-Putting statistic, introduced in 2011, is not only a product of ShotLink IntelligencesmPowered by CDW, but an indication of the possibilities that arise when academic minds gain access to the wealth of ShotLink® statistical data available.
Since being announced in May 2011, Strokes Gained-Putting has been hailed by players and pundits alike as the most accurate, meaningful way to present player putting efficiency.
Developed initially by Professor Mark Broadie of Columbia Business School, and further analyzed by a team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology led by Professor Stephen Graves, Strokes Gained-Putting measures a player's putting performance relative to his fellow competitors in a given tournament. This analysis offers the most accurate portrayal of a player's overall putting performance.
While ShotLink®, powered by PGA TOUR Official Technology Partner CDW, has provided a wealth of putting data to determine proficiency from various distances, the primary overarching putting statistic continued to be Putts Per Round. This statistic simply measures the average number of putts a player takes over 18 holes and can be skewed by chipping close to the hole after missing a green.
Strokes Gained-Putting, however, takes into account putting proficiency from various distances and computes the difference between a player's performance on every green – the number of strokes needed to hole out – against the performance of the other players for each round. This ultimately shows how many strokes are gained or lost due to putting for a particular round, for a tournament and over the course of a year.
The statistic is computed by calculating the average number of putts a PGA TOUR player is expected to take from every distance, based on ShotLink® data from the previous season. The actual number of putts taken by a player is subtracted from this average value to determine strokes gained or lost. For example, the average number of putts used to hole out from 7 feet 10 inches is 1.5. If a player one-putts from this distance, he gains 0.5 strokes. If he two-putts, he loses 0.5 strokes. If he three-putts, he loses 1.5 strokes.
A player's strokes gained or lost are then compared to the field. For example, if a player gained a total of three strokes over the course of a round and the field gained an average of one stroke, the player's "Strokes Gained Against the Field" would be two.
"ShotLink® has allowed us to collect a wealth of data on the golf course, and this new stat is an evolution in the way we understand the game," said Steve Evans, the PGA TOUR's Senior Vice President, Information Systems. "We've seen a very positive response as we've worked with academics, instructors, players and broadcasters because we're all looking for better ways to break down performance. For the first time in more than 15 years we are modifying the core set of stats shown for every player on the PGA TOUR to include Strokes Gained-Putting as it is proving to be the best measure currently available of overall putting performance."
The "strokes gained" concept was initially developed by Broadie, utilizing ShotLink® data that has been made available to academic institutions for research since 2007.
In 2009, MIT's Graves, Douglas Fearing and Jason Acimovic used Broadie's "strokes gained" approach to rank putters on the PGA TOUR. In 2010, Broadie and Graves consulted with the PGA TOUR on the TOUR's final implementation.
While it was only introduced in 2011, Strokes Gained-Putting tracks players' performance back through the 2004 PGA TOUR season, since it is based on ShotLink® data that had already been collected.
"With today's technology, players and fans are looking more and more at statistics that are relevant to performance, and I truly believe this new putting statistic will show how a player putts all the time, regardless of whether or not he hits many greens," said PGA TOUR member Brad Faxon, noted throughout his career as one of the TOUR's best putters. "I have always taken interest in statistics as a means of analyzing my game. Strokes Gained-Putting moves us well beyond where we have been in the past in our ability to measure, teach and explain putting performance."