Golf Analytics

How Golfers Win

Pebble Beach Pro-Am: Thursday

Just a short wrap-up of the important stats for Thursday:

The pro-am is played on three different courses, Monterrey Peninsula, Spyglass Hill, and Pebble Beach. Monterrey Peninsula is typically the easiest track;  on Thursday it played to 69.01 strokes. Spyglass Hill and Pebble Beach were more comparable at 71.15 and 71.62.

The driving stats were: 276.3 yards/77% fairways at Monterrey Peninsula, 282.5 yards/60% fairways at Spyglass Hill, and 278.6 yards/74% fairways at Pebble Beach [1]. Spyglass lived up to its reputation as having tough-to-hit fairways, though players got a little extra distance. It’s important to note that while Monterrey Peninsula is listed at only 6867 yards, that’s because it has a fifth par-3. Monterrey’s par 4/5 average hole length is actually 456 yards, longer than Pebble Beach (439 yards) and Spyglass Hill (449 yards).

Despite the extra length, Monterrey Peninsula’s greens were easy to hit at 80%. MP is one of the easiest courses in terms of GIR the Tour will visit all season. The other two tracks proved more difficult as Spyglass (66%) defends itself with the narrow fairways/rough and Pebble (68%) defends itself with microscopic greens. All three courses played easier in GIR terms than the average PGA track however. The proximity to hole stats from Pebble suggest that the competitors were hitting it to an average of 35.1 feet on their approaches, almost exactly PGA Tour average.

Notably among the leaders, Jimmy Walker posted a strokes gained putting of only 0.76, despite finishing 5.6 strokes better than the average golfer at Pebble Beach (meaning he gained 4.8 strokes elsewhere). Most importantly, Walker holed his scrambling shots on #10 and #14, from 40 and 21 yards. From the fairway from those distances the average golfer takes ~2.5 strokes to finish the hole, meaning Walker netted around 3 strokes on the field just from those hole-outs. Walker also hit a ton of shots close, generating a birdie probability of 4.4 birdies (this sums the expected probabilities of Walker birdieing a hole based on where his approach shot came to rest). He had putts of 5, 5, 6, 8, 10, and 10 feet for birdie, converting 4 of those in addition to his hole-outs.

The pros unsurprisingly eviscerated the two front-nine par 5s at Pebble Beach. #2 (502 yards) yielded a 4.40 average and #6 (513 yards) yielded a 4.49 average. Both had comically easy to hit fairways (79% and 76%) and over 90% of the field hit the green in regulation. It’s a cliche most places, but a par genuinely is almost like a bogey on those holes.

[1] – Driving distance stats for MP and SH include only the two holes designated to be measured each round. PB driving distance stats include all par 4/5s. This likely overstates the distance achieved on those two courses by around ~8 yards; PGA players last year achieved 8 yards more distance when measuring only two designated holes versus all par 4/5s.

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