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Stats Report

    A formula for success: Can stats pick U.S. Open champ?

    Inside the Numbers: Combining total driving, scrambling, putting to determine a winner

  • According to the numbers, Charl Schwartzel is a logical choice to play well at the U.S. Open. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)According to the numbers, Charl Schwartzel is a logical choice to play well at the U.S. Open. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Not every golf tournament is the same. And not every U.S. Open is the same. But there are a handful of statistics that one would think -- nothing is an absolute certainty in this fickle game -- would go a long way in determining the type of player that fits a U.S. Open course setup.

Combining statistical ranking in order to determine a champion is something that we've experimented with before in Stats Report -- with marginal success. So perhaps it would be wise to take the following data with a grain of salt. In any case, the results of this experiment are quite intriguing.

The thought is there will be a premium on the short game at Pinehurst. The greens will be difficult to hit on approach shots and, as usual at a U.S. Open, pars will be strong scores. That makes scrambling the No. 1 stat in my book this week. Half of scrambling, of course, is not only pitching but putting. But I wanted to take putting a step further. Strokes gained-putting was a logical choice, but I wasn't worried about putting from every distance. U.S. Opens seem to be won by not only a par save from 8 feet, but birdie putts from inside 10 feet and a successful back end of a two-putt from 3 or 4 feet. So the second stat I used is putting from inside 10 feet.

The third stat was kind of a wild card. Greens in regulation is a biggie, but maybe not if you're 50 feet away from the hole. Proximity is big, too. But I decided to go with total driving (a combination of distance and accuracy) as the third selection. A player will clearly be at a disadvantage this week if he's hitting a 4-iron into a green rather than a 6- or 7-iron. And hitting that approach from somewhere other than a waste area or under a tall group of pine trees will also be rather important.

No doubt, there are theories for and against this approach. Some would argue other stats are more critical this week, but this is the trio we're proceeding with.

So here we go. Here are the top 15 players in the U.S. Open field with the lowest combined total when adding up their ranking in scrambling, putting inside of 10 feet and total driving. A special shout-out to colleague D.J. Piehowski for helping mine some of the data.

Golfer Total driving Scrambling Putting inside 10' Total
1. Adam Scott 3 41 18 62
2. Matt Kuchar
56 6 17 79
3. Keegan Bradley 20 16 46 82
4. Charl Schwartzel 18 42 34 94
5. John Senden
23 56 23 102
6. Zach Johnson
54 15 37 106
7. Graeme McDowell
97 12 5 114
8. Rickie Fowler 40 39 36 115
9. Brendon Todd 96 8 13 117
10. Sergio Garcia
30 5 97 132
11. Billy Hurley III
70 17 47 134
12. Jim Furyk 69 1 71 141
12. Bill Haas 55 71 15 141
14. Ryan Palmer 25 101 27 153
15. Hunter Mahan
13 122 19 154