Golf

Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson are some of the best putters on tour

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That's right, you've read it correctly. Phil Mickelson, who is one US Open away from completing a career grand slam, is one of the top 25 players in putting.

Dustin Johnson, whose three putt at the US Open gifted Jordan Spieth his second major of the year, also ranks fourth.

Why? I've watched them for years and I can remember putt after putt being missed by these two giants of the game. Both of these players rank higher than Aaron Baddeley, who most will regard as a fantastic putter. Traditional statistics however are misleading.

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Phil's Story

The multiple green jacket winner is without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best short game players in golf's history. What he can do with a wedge is simply outstanding. However we can all recall the odd 'tiddler' being missed.

Mickelson is notoriously erratic off of the tee. So much so that he can't get to the green with his next shot.

This requires him to get it back in play in order to try and save his par. He currently ranks at 170th on tour for greens in regulation and 140th in driving accuracy, backing up this theory.

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Therefore if he can hit his wedge shot close, overall, he will have shorter putts to save his par.  More importantly, shorter putts will equate to fewer putts over the course of a round.

Dustin's Story

This towering American has a very different story to his fellow countryman. He comes out on top with regards to driving distance with an average of over 318 yards.

He is also in a respectable position with regards to proximity of the hole from the fairway, in tied 40th place. This could be argued that this is due to the short clubs he is using, thanks to his crushing drives.

However because he hits the ball so close from the fairway, he is bound to have fewer putts. Even a bad putter will be able to hole a few from inside 34 feet.

This just shows how misleading the putting stats are and if you watch Johnson play, you will know that he isn't as good at putting as the statistics suggest. 72nd hole at the 2015 US Open ring any bells?

Aaron's Story

Baddeley is known for his great putting skills. The Australian-American lies 63rd on driving distance, with an average of 293 yards. However, he ranks at some of the worst for proximity to the hole as well as greens in regulation. Doesn't seem to be the most accurate player on the tour.

The three time PGA Tour winner, doesn't even seem to chip the ball close, ranking 115th among his peers with regards to proximity to the hole when scrambling.  However what Aaron does do well, is hole out from distance. 

Traditional putting statistics will not include the proximity to the hole. This is why Johnson and Mickelson are branded as 'great putters'. However this is because their attempts are shorter than Baddeley's efforts.

Strokes Gained "measures the number of putts a golfer takes relative to the PGA Tour average, taking into account the initial putt distance on each green" according to Professor Mark Broadie

Where Baddeley, the perceived good putter, ranks second in the 'Strokes Gained Putting' rankings, Johnson and Mickelson lie in 89th and 61st respectively.

Here's a lesson learned. Do not treat statistics as if they do not lie, you must look at the context first before passing judgement.

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Topics:
Golf
Phil Mickleson

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