Sep 02 2014

PGA Tour Simplifies Performance Stats With 'Strokes Gained'

The PGA is making its suite of metrics easier for fans to understand with the debut of a new statistic.

Metrics and analytics are sweeping across the sports world. Baseball fans increasingly value players by their WAR (wins above replacement), and owners are following suit. And the NBA is turning to STATS LLC to lead its deep dive into individual player analytics.

Now, the PGA is expanding its own analytics initiative with the debut of “strokes gained/tee to green.”

Developed in conjunction with Columbia University professor Mark Broadie, the statistic measures a golfer’s gains in performance against the field and isolates the strokes that fueled that performance.

It uses the number of strokes it takes a player to hole out and compares it to the average performance of other players that round. Over the course of a round, tournament or even season, it calculates the number of strokes that are gained or lost due to that player’s shots. In a similar way, the PGA evaluates strokes gained/putting.

“This is the next step of our evolution,” Steve Evans, the tour’s head of information systems and overseer of ShotLink, told GolfDigest. “But we’re trying to create new performance metrics that are more telling than some of the current statistics.”

The PGA has deployed the ShotLink platform, with support from CDW, since 2008. It collects shot-by-shot data for each player on the tour and projects those results onto the courses to determine the success (or failure) of every shot.

The actual grunt work of capturing and tracking all of these shots is done by a huge number of dedicated volunteers, with up to 10,000 annually aiding ShotLink.

For years, ShotLink provided data to television networks like the GOLF Channel, CBS and NBC, along with members of the media, players, coaches and caddies. Now, that data is powering “strokes gained.”

Even more advanced metrics are in the works for 2015, including strokes gained/driving and strokes gained/approach shots.

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