Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Joe Durant Example

Joe Durant is probably the best ballstriker on the PGA Tour today. With a career spanning 13 years 1997-2009, he has a career average ranking for hitting greens in regulation of 7th versus Tiger Woods' career average ranking of 11th (over the same 1997-2009) or Tom Lehman's 14th (1992-2007). If you exclude his first 2 years on Tour, Durant has actually averaged 3rd in GIRs over 11 years -- absolutely dominating. Woods' best run has been the 6-year run 2003-2008 with an average ranking of 10th.

But Durant's also one of the lowest-ranking putters of all Tour players, every year. In 2008 he was simultaneously 1st on Tour in ballstriking GIRs and dead-last in putts per GIR. The only other player in modern times to hold this dubious double-crown is Sergio Garcia in 2005, 1st in GIRs and 196th in putts/GIR, versus Durant's 2nd in GIRs and 194th in putts/GIR.

So what does it mean to young players? If you think 5 hours on the range every day and 1-2 hours rolling a few 30 footers mixed with some chipping and some chit-chat, or weekly sessions with your swing coach and a few focused moments asking your caddie or your pals about putters and grips, is what feeds the bulldog, think again.

In Durant's case, over this 13 years he has started 345 events, made 212 cuts (60%, missing cuts 4 out 10 times), won 4 events, and earned a cumulative (gross) total of $12.2 million or $35,400 per start. That seems like a very full glass to amateur golfers until you look at the glass from the same perspective as other Tour players. From this perspective, Durant has seriously underperformed throughout his career.

With top-4% ballstriking, Durant has averaged only 92nd for money, which is just about exactly middle-of-the-pack of about 185 players per year. Here are the comparisons at the high end of the money:

Joe Durant
  • 13 years 1997-2009
  • 4 wins in 345 starts (1.1%),
  • 212 cuts (61%),
  • $0.940 million per year,
  • $35,400 per start,
  • GIR avg 7th (top-4%),
  • Putts/GIR avg 151st (bottom-20%).

Tiger Woods
  • 13 years 1997-2009
  • 71 wins in 231 starts (30.7%),
  • 225 cuts (97.4%),
  • $7.495 million per year,
  • $421,800 per start,
  • GIR avg 11th (top-6%),
  • Putts/GIR avg 38th (top-20%).

Vijay Singh
  • 16 years 1994-2009
  • 34 wins in 407 starts (8.4%),
  • 362 cuts (89%),
  • $3.830 million per year,
  • $150,600 per start,
  • GIR avg 39th (top-20%),
  • Putts/GIR avg 82nd (top-45%).

Phil Mickelson
  • 17 years 1993-2009
  • 37 wins in 370 starts (10%),
  • 316 cuts (84.5%),
  • $3.275 million per year,
  • $150,500 per start,
  • GIR avg 58th (top-32%),
  • Putts/GIR avg 34th (top-20%).

Sergio Garcia
  • 10 years 2000-2009
  • 7 wins in 185 starts (3.8%),
  • 154 cuts (83%),
  • $2.483 million per year,
  • $134,200 per start,
  • GIR avg 71st (top-40%),
  • Putts/GIR avg 95th (50%).

Sergio has a respectable win percentage despite putting that is average at best. Along with Sergio Garcia and Durant, another all-time top ballstriker who has underperformed due to chronic putting difficulties is Tom Lehman.

Tom Lehman
  • 16 years 1992-2007
  • 5 wins in 355 starts (1.4%),
  • 286 cuts (81%),
  • $1.229 million / year,
  • $55,400 per start,
  • GIR avg 14th (top-8%),
  • Putts/GIR avg 118th (bottom 40%).
What sort of career would a pro expect if he was a top-10 ballstriker who improved putting from bottom-20% to middle of the pack? The answer is "That's better than Vijay!" -- over 400% more earnings per start.

What sort of career could a middle-of-the-pack ballstriker have if he could muster top-20% putting year-in and year-out? The answer is Tim Clark -- twice as much money each year:

Tim Clark
  • 8 years 2002-2009
  • 0 wins in 191 starts (0%),
  • 141 cuts (74%),
  • $1.732 million per year,
  • $72,500 per start,
  • GIR avg 102nd (middle of the pack),
  • Putts/GIR 33rd (top-20%).
After 13 years, Durant finished 182nd on the 2009 money list and missed qualifying at Q-School by one shot. The best ballstriker of modern times is trying to earn a card this year the hard way.

This "great ballstriker but not-so-hot putter" problem run throughout the PGA Tour. There is only one top-10 ballstriker who ranks in the top 50 for putts per GIR, and he ranks 49th. Top-50 ballstrikers who also rank at least in the top-50 for putting are a very small group (only 8 out of about 200 PGA Tour players, or 4%):

Scott Verplank GIR 32nd, Putts/GIR 16th,
Tiger Woods GIR 13th, Putts/GIR 21st,
Zach Johnson GIR 29th, Putts/GIR 29th,
Stephen Ames GIR 35th, Putts/GIR 34th,
David Toms GIR 20th, Putts/GIR 34th,
Fred Couples GIR 42nd, Putts/GIR 45th,
Hunter Mahan GIR 14th, Putts/GIR 45th,
Jonathan Byrd GIR 5th, Putts/GIR 49th.

Along with Durant, other 2009 top-10 ballstrikers in the bottom-33% of the putting stats:

John Senden GIR 1st, Putts/GIR 126th
Robert Garrigus GIR 4th, Putts/GIR 132nd
Joe Durant GIR 3rd, Putts/GIR 133rd
Briny Baird GIR 9th, Putts/GIR 134th
DJ Trahan, GIR 8th, Putts/GIR 144th
Greg Owen GIR 6th, Putts/GIR 169th
Jay Williamson GIR 2nd, Putts/GIR 188th of 189 total

The remaining three top ballstrikers are:

Jonathan Byrd GIR 5th, Putts/GIR 49th
Jason Bohn GIR 7th, Putts/GIR 82nd
Chad Campbell GIR 10th, Putts/GIR 93rd

Of the top 10 ballstrikers on the PGA Tour, 7 of them need to address major problems in their putting if they hope to compile a solid competitive record, or at least make the most with the opportunity for earnings. The other three top ballstikers could also stand some improvement.

That's the memo to the young guns on Tour -- don't go a decade on Tour ONLY with ballstriking skills above average for the Tour.


Geoff Mangum
Putting Coach and Theorist

Golf's most advanced and comprehensive putting instruction.

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