Golf Analytics

How Golfers Win

Looking Closer at Bill Haas

Bill Haas won the Humana Challenge Sunday, holding off a host of others to win his sixth PGA Tour event. Despite those six wins and a FedEx Cup title, Haas still has a fairly low profile. In fact, Haas wasn’t even listed among the PGA Tour’s Top 30 Golfers to Watch in 2015 – despite finishing 15th and 16th in scoring in 2013 and 2014. I’m going to take a look at two of the most defining factors about Haas and then try to figure out his deserved place inside the Tour’s hierarchy.

Haas Avoids Awful Weeks:
Last season in 28 starts on Tour, Bill Haas made 27 cuts – withdrawing only once at the Heritage with a wrist injury. Using my ratings which adjust performance based on strength of field and difficulty of the course, Haas only played poor enough to miss the cut 19% of the time since 2013. That’s better than Dustin Johnson, Keegan Bradley, Jordan Spieth, and a host of others more highly touted. Why Haas doesn’t get much attention is because he results have mostly fallen in the middle – that is, he’s avoiding missing the cut, but also failing to finish near the lead more than everyone in his peer group of fifteen similar golfers other than Bubba Watson.

I’ve attached a chart of some of those golfers compared to Haas below. It plots each tournament finish in order of performance relative to the field. You can see that Haas’s black line has comparatively much better bad performances, but he hasn’t reached the heights that most other near-elite guys have in their best outings.

Haas compared

In the last two weeks, I’ve discussed how Patrick Reed’s results look a lot different than anyone else who are considered top players on Tour. Reed has won in four of the ten times he’s finished top ten, but also played poorly in an alarming number of weeks. Haas, on the other hand, produces the results week-to-week that we see from other near-elite golfers, but hasn’t been in contention nearly as much as those other near-elite golfers.

Results in Majors Haven’t Been There:
Adam Sarson included a chart of Haas’s finishes in majors in his Humana recap. Long story short, they’re not very good. Haas has been eligible for 19 of the last 20 majors, but has only six top 25s. His results haven’t necessarily been bad – of the 150 golfers with at least 20 major rounds since 2010, he ranks 36th in adjusted scoring average – but they haven’t reached the near-elite level he’s played at in regular Tour rounds (19th during that span).

Is there any rhyme or reason to this? Perhaps, but this is a guy who has closed out six PGA Tour tournaments (including at three difficult classic venues – East Lake, Riviera, and Congressional) and executed maybe the most ridiculous shot in recent memory to win $10,000,000. It’s really easy to look for reasons why golfers don’t perform at majors, but you can quickly tie yourself up in narratives. Haas’s under-performance during 2010-14 ranks 113th out of 150 golfers, meaning he played 38th worst relative to how he plays in normal Tour events. However, a few spots behind him is multiple major winner Vijay Singh, major winners Zach Johnson, Justin Rose, and Webb Simpson are right around Haas, and Jordan Spieth is behind him. It’s correct to say Haas is the best golfer to never contend in a major, but there’s certainly no reason to expect him not to be there in the future.

Haas’s Place on Tour:
Since 2010, Haas in one of seven golfers to win six events on Tour and one of only twenty to win at least four times. On the below chart, Haas is the red dot among every golfer to win at least one tournament during 2010-2014. Performance relative to the field in all tournament 2010-14 is on the x-axis. Not only is Haas’s aggregate performance near the top guys, but his six wins compare very favorably to Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson – among others.

Popular perception of golfers is driven almost entirely by their major wins or possibly near misses. Obviously winning a major is important, but with only four a year and with dozens of good golfers competing for them, it’s important to not lose sight of guys like Bill Haas who have built ridiculously impressive careers based consistently making cuts, finishing in solid positions, and winning most years.


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