Strokes Gained: Social Distance

The Match! Part Deux, another year of eligibility for NCAA golfers, and highlights from recent strokes gained stats


If there is one bright spot in this pandemic, it’s that many of us don’t have to go to the office on April Fools Day. Nothing worse than that one coworker playing the world’s lamest prank. Anyway, golf.

News and updates

  • Tiger and Phil appear to have another Match (capitalization mandatory) on the horizon. According to reports, the second edition would feature two additional partners: Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
  • On Monday, the NCAA Division I Council voted to grant an additional year of eligibility to all spring-sport student-athletes, including golfers, whose seasons were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The NCAA did not extend the same accommodation to winter-sport seniors. Full Press Release
  • The PGA Tour is looking to expand fields if play resumes, as currently planned, in late May at Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club. (Which doesn’t seem likely?) Officials are also looking to add as many opposite-field tournaments as possible. Full Story from Rex Hoggard
  • The Olympics have been officially rescheduled for July 23 – August 8, 2021. The 2021 Open Championship at St. Andrews, the 150th playing of the event, is set to take place the week prior.

Newsletter Notes

Strokes gained stories

Over the past decade, strokes gained statistics have become a huge part of how we understand golf. Here at The Fried Egg, we’ve taken a particular interest in how certain players’ SG numbers fluctuate from year to year. Even small changes in a single category can have a major effect on a player’s career. Out of curiosity, we dug into the past five years of PGA Tour data to see which players and stats stood out.

We looked at Strokes Gained: Total, SG: Off-the-Tee, SG: Approach, and SG: On-and-Around-the-Green (combination of SG: Around-the-Green and SG: Putting).

Let’s start with the basics. Here are the top 10 players in combined Strokes Gained: Total over the past five seasons along with a breakdown of their performances in the other three categories.

Henrik Stenson’s SG: Approach numbers immediately jump off the page. The Swede hasn’t finished worse than 4th in that category over the past five years, and despite hovering around Tour average on and around the green, he is sixth in SG: Total. Conversely, Jason Day gets it done with his short game. The Aussie is a slightly above-average ball-striker and does some damage off the tee, but his SG: On-and-Around-the-Green numbers are extraordinary.

Maybe the craziest takeaway from this graphic, however, is that Jordan Spieth is even on it. The four-time major winner has really struggled since 2018, yet his stretch from 2015 to 2017 was so strong that it kept him in the top 10 over the past five years. It’s almost as if his buddy Justin Thomas stole his powers like the Monstars in Space Jam.

A few other odds and ends:

  • Only two players, Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose, were top 10 in both SG: Off-the-Tee and SG: Approach over the past five seasons.
  • Patrick Cantlay is 17th in SG: Total in that time period despite playing only three of the five years. Cantlay battled injuries in 2015 and 2016 before emerging as an elite player in 2017.
  • No one in the top 10 of SG: On-and-Around-the-Green finished inside the top 10 in another other category. Kevin Na was closest (17th in SG: Approach).
  • Nine of the top 15 in SG: Off-the-Tee have negative SG: On-and-Around-the-Green numbers. Brendan Steele, Lucas Glover, and Bubba Watson have the biggest gaps between those two categories.

Strokes gained numbers can really help tell the story of a player’s progression. They can show where a player improved or regressed, which years are outliers, and which are average. Young players know right away how they stack up against their competition and which skill areas they need to address. More than just a toy for analysts, strokes gained are one of the best learning tools we have in golf.

The Must-Sees of Public Golf Architecture in America

Pilgrim’s Run Golf Club (Pierson, Michigan)


Tucked into a forest in central Michigan, Pilgrim’s Run is another example of an outstanding Mike DeVries design offered at an affordable rate. While you’re engulfed by pines on every hole, DeVries uses corridors wide enough to give you a sense of comfort. Your round will feature reachable par 5s, demanding tee shots, daring greens, and a second nine that really puts an exclamation point on the course. Bookended by short par 4s, the back nine guarantees you’ll be excited for your next trip to Pilgrim’s.

Insider tip: On the 18th tee, DeVries dares the player to attempt one last heroic shot. Give it a rip. The post-round beer will taste even sweeter. -Will Knights

Photo credit: Andy Johnson

The Latest from The Fried Egg

A Neighborhood Nine vs. the Pandemic – How are local golf courses negotiating the COVID-19 pandemic? Garrett Morrison talks with Laurelwood Golf Course superintendent Will Benson about how this small Eugene, Oregon, course is handling this unprecedented situation.

The Shotgun Start: PGA Tour plans to increase field sizes but keep pace of play, Spotlight on Sleepy Sandy

This Wednesday episode begins with news of a PGA Tour memo to players indicating that they should still plan to be back in action at Colonial in mid-May. The memo also, per reports, outlined details of field increases and more opposite-field events to maximize playing opportunities when the season resumes. The new pace of play policy, however, is pushed off to next year and this, along with a deluded memo that the Tour may resume in mid-May, has us aghast. What also has us aghast is a Valero Texas Open all-time power rankings that put Charley Hoffman No. 1 ahead of Palmer, Snead, and others based on… all-time earnings. Then we get to our SGS Spotlight of the day, focusing on Woosie’s nearby boyhood rival, Sandy Lyle. This is a fun deep dive into Lyle’s upbringing, his hyped amateur days, his peak run at the top of the Order of Merit, and his quick-strike. efficiency picking up two majors and a Players in an otherwise underwhelming record at those “big events.” A career intertwined with Nick Faldo is closely examined from their earliest days to their distinctly different personalities to their rise as two British legends. The quirks of the ’85 Open and the improbability of the ’88 Masters are discussed, as well as the circus atmosphere of his ’87 Players. Some fun stories about his propensity for skipping range warm-ups, the late-career tiff with Monty over a Ryder Cup captaincy, and once drinking four glasses of wine before unexpectedly making a playoff are also among this reliving of the Lyle legend. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.

Pro Shop

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