I.T.N. No. 3
PUBLISHED May 20, 2019
Inside The Numbers ...
is a brief numerical summary of the current happenings in the world golf, published every Monday — hopefully.
Brooks Koepka has been a different golfer in major championships. He now has 4 major championship to go along with just 2 non-major PGA Tour victories. Among active players with at least 2 major victories since 2000, Koepka has the highest share of his victories coming in majors. However, wins are a very noisy measure of performance; true strokes-gained is our preferred metric. In 417 non-major rounds since 2012, Koepka has averaged +1 true strokes-gained; in 84 major championship rounds, he has averaged +2.3 strokes-gained. (For reference, averaging +2 true strokes-gained over the course of a PGA Tour season will typically place you among the top 5 golfers.) While it is important to remember that this performance gap could be a product of randomness, it is becoming harder and harder to deny that Koepka elevates his game on golf’s biggest stages.
Apart from Brooks Koepka, only 2 players reached a win probability of greater than 10% during the 2019 PGA Championship: Tommy Fleetwood, for a 3-hole stretch in the second round, and Dustin Johnson, during both the 2nd and 4th rounds. Although he stumbled down the stretch on Sunday, this was truly a dominating performance from Brooks. With his opening round 63 he increased his win probability from its pre-tournament level of 2.7% to 30.4%; this would grow to 71.7% after the second round, and 88.7% after the third.
Jordan Spieth notched his best finish since the 2018 Masters at last week’s PGA Championship, finishing in a tie for 3rd place. However, this was in large part due to a hot putter: Spieth gained 2.66 strokes per round on the greens at Bethpage Black, nearly 0.9 strokes better than the next best putting performance. While last week was certainly a positive step for Spieth, his long game performance remains suspect.
Bryson DeChambeau missed the cut at the PGA Championship, continuing his recent downward trend in play. Relative to his baseline performance level (i.e. his average true strokes-gained over the past year), ‘The Mad Scientist’ is losing 1.15 strokes per round over his last 20 rounds. During this stretch he has finished T46-T20-T29-CUT-CUT. Be prepared for some driving range antics in the coming weeks as the ‘algorithm’ is adjusted.
The inspired run by 23-year-old Thai player Jazz Janewattananond came to a crashing halt on Sunday at the PGA Championship, when Jazz played the 6-hole stretch from holes 12-17 at Bethpage Black in 7 over par. Janewattananond was not alone in his back nine struggles, as the PGA Championship field averaged 2.48 strokes over par on the inward half on Sunday. This played as the 19th hardest 9-hole stretch since 2010 on the PGA Tour (in strokes relative-to-par). Further, the afternoon wave appeared to get the worst of it, averaging a staggering 3 strokes over par to the morning wave’s 2 strokes.