Ever since the advent of PGA Tour statistics, putting has lost some of it’s perceived importance. You’d think that a big part of a pro golfer’s overall game would be his putting. Moreover, any time a tour pro wins, it’s likely that their putting game is pretty up to scratch.
Nevertheless, on a wider scale even the relatively new strokes gained by putting metric has had to make way for all other, and newer, strokes-gained figures. Fundamentally, it’s more important that you give yourself advantageous and consistent birdie opportunities because ultimately you’re bound to convert some.
Columbia professor Mark Broadie, who first conceived of the ‘strokes gained’ concept – which measures a player’s performance compared to the rest of his competition – was one of the first people to write about and discuss the long game’s clear importance over putting. Moreover, this week professor Broadie produced this enlightening chart that concurs with that assertion all the more:
In 2016, 7 of the top 15 money per event leaders had negative strokes gained putting. None had negative strokes gained from approach shots. pic.twitter.com/ut0VmI85a9
— Mark Broadie (@MarkBroadie) 26 October 2016
On a side note, the first thing that this chart illuminates is the serious dolla being earned by some of golf’s top names. Dustin Johnson, that is some serious walkin’-around money you got there boy!
But I digress. Essentially, and most importantly, what Broadie is pointing out with this chart is that seven of the top 15 golfers last year in terms of money earned per event actually had a negative strokes gained by putting number. That tells us that they lost strokes on the green to their competition and yet still managed to clean up thanks to their solid tee-to-green and short game statistics.
In basic of terms, this chart tells us that if you have a strong tee-to-green game and an equally strong short game, you can afford for your putting to be below certain standards, which also, perhaps more importantly, illustrates how overrated it can be.
Broadie states that the most apparent difference for these players came on their approach-shots. According to his calculations, Broadie estimates that the players gained 39% of their scoring average from approach-shots, and to back up its importance, Broadie also points out that none of the top 15 had a negative strokes gained from approach shots.
But that’s not to say that putting doesn’t matter, it still most definitely does. All this chart is illustrating is that putting is not quite as important as it is seen to be. Exceptions to this hypothesis do exist: World Number 1 Jason Day, for example, had a tremendous putting year with a 1.20 rating on strokes gained by putting, making $402,000 per event along the way.
Dustin Johnson, who won the PGA Tour Player of the Year Award this year, had the best putting season of his career with an overall putting average of 1.625.
So like I said, it does still matter. However, look at other big names like Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson, all of whom having had great seasons despite being well below average putters on tour.
What this article is basically saying is simple. You can make a lot of money and have a very good career with a good putting game, but don’t think that it’s essential to enjoy one. If your putting game is below par, this can be alleviated by your long game, simply due to the fact that if your long game is solid, you won’t have to make as many puts.