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Culp's Corner

Consistent Gains: Putting

by Josh Culp
Updated On: April 22, 2020, 2:18 pm ET

This is the fourth piece of the strokes-gained consistency puzzle. The goal is to see which golfers are gaining strokes most frequently, in each of the four sub-categories of strokes gained. 

In part one we looked at strokes gained off-the-tee, then we moved to approach play, and last week we had a look at around-the-green performance. Now we'll have a looking at putting stats before finishing things up with a trends piece. 

As a reminder, I'm looking at the 2020 season only and I'm requiring at least 20 measured rounds to qualify. 

To help with this project, I will be using FantasyNational.com which has opened its doors to all users during this COVID-19 outbreak. It's the perfect time to go check it out for free and mess around with all the stats. 

Strength of Field Note: All of the stats listed can be found on the PGA TOUR stats page with the exception of the strength of field stat. This looks at the field strength of all events played in 2020 and compares it to the average event so far this season. A TOUR-average schedule would be listed as 100% while a slightly tougher schedule may be shown as 110%. On the flip side, a golfer that only plays in weak-field events would be well below the 100% threshold. 

69% - Denny McCarthy

Starts: 13
Cuts Made: 11
Top 10s: 3
Top 25s: 5
SG Off-the-Tee: 143rd
SG Approach: 187th
SG Around-the-Green: 163rd
SG Putting: 2nd
Par Breakers: 11th
Strength of Field: 97%

Notes: This rate of consistency is no joke. McCarthy finished 2nd on TOUR last year in putting consistency, behind only Graeme McDowell. McCarthy gained strokes putting in 73% of his measured rounds last season so his current rate of 69 percent is right in line. Unfortunately, he's ranked outside of the top 140 in each of the other three sub-categories this season. 

71% - Keith Mitchell

Starts: 12
Cuts Made: 7
Top 10s: 1
Top 25s: 3
SG Off-the-Tee: 25th
SG Approach: 160th
SG Around-the-Green: 223rd
SG Putting: 38th
Par Breakers: 81st
Strength of Field: 117%

Notes: Woah, woah, Woah. Is this the same Keith Mitchell who finished 166th in putting last season and 183rd the year prior? Last season he lost strokes putting in 57 percent of his rounds so it's a massive flip for him to be gaining in more than 70 percent this season. He's on the record for loving bermuda so it is notable that 19 of his 24 measured rounds this season have come on bermudagrass or overseeded bermuda. I guess that is the luxury of winning on TOUR. Having the ability to set your schedule. 

72% - Cameron Smith

Starts: 10
Cuts Made: 7
Top 10s: 2
Top 25s: 5
SG Off-the-Tee: 151st
SG Approach: 152nd
SG Around-the-Green: 86th
SG Putting: 9th
Par Breakers: 15th
Strength of Field: 119%

Notes: While Mitchell was a shocker for me, Smith is the opposite. He's leaned heavily on his short game since joining the TOUR. The Aussie has gained strokes putting in three straight seasons while also being top 40 around-the-green in each of those seasons. 

73% - Sebastian Munoz

Starts: 15
Cuts Made: 10
Top 10s: 3
Top 25s: 6
SG Off-the-Tee: 60th
SG Approach: 48th
SG Around-the-Green: 107th
SG Putting: 51st
Par Breakers: 16th
Strength of Field: 111%

Notes: On a pretty similar trajectory as Abraham Ancer as they both flopped during their first stint on TOUR but made it very apparent they belonged when they dropped down to the Korn Ferry circuit. He may not be able to sustain his current statistical pace but as of now Munoz is gaining strokes in all four sub-categories of strokes gained. He's doing it with one of the largest measured-round samples on TOUR, as well (44). Seems like the real deal but he'll need to prove it in the biggest events now. Munoz is just 0-for-2 in major championships but hasn't played in one since the 2018 U.S. Open. It was promising to see him finish T14 in his WGC debut. 

73% - Kevin Na

Starts: 12
Cuts Made: 9
Top 10s: 2
Top 25s: 6
SG Off-the-Tee: 207th
SG Approach: 58th
SG Around-the-Green: 41st
SG Putting: 7th
Par Breakers: 60th
Strength of Field: 126%

Notes: You don't last very long on the PGA TOUR hitting it 285 off the tee unless you have a lights-out short game. That's definitely where Na shines as you have to go back to his 2004 rookie campaign to find the last (and only) time where Na has lost strokes putting in a season. 

74% - John Huh

Starts: 8
Cuts Made: 5
Top 10s: 0
Top 25s: 0
SG Off-the-Tee: 167th
SG Approach: 197th
SG Around-the-Green: 95th
SG Putting: 11th
Par Breakers: 40th
Strength of Field: 99%

Notes: He dealt with some injuries in the fall but it hasn't bothered him on the greens. He's gaining 3/4 of a shot per round, putting. That's helped offset his ball-striking numbers which find him losing 0.202 strokes off-the-tee and 0.472 strokes on approach. Huh hasn't gained off-the-tee for a season since 2016 and he hasn't gained on approach in just one of his last three seasons played. He will need to continue this pace on the greens or tidy up his ball-striking when play resumes. 

75% - Matthew NeSmith

Starts: 14
Cuts Made: 9
Top 10s: 1
Top 25s: 5
SG Off-the-Tee: 118th
SG Approach: 38th
SG Around-the-Green: 138th
SG Putting: 45th
Par Breakers: 55th
Strength of Field: 92%

Notes: Established himself as a bit of a DFS darling as he's gone 9-for-14 with five top 25s, while being priced in the bargain bin most weeks. The rookie doesn't have any historical data to rely on but he's gaining off-the-tee in 56% of measured rounds, 59% for approach, and 53% around-the-green. Putting is easily his best category right now (75%) but he's not a one-trick pony. A very well-rounded game but we'll need to see him do it against some stronger fields before we get too carried away. As you can see from his Strength of Field rating (92), he's faced a fairly weak schedule so far. 

77% - Nate Lashley

Starts: 12
Cuts Made: 7
Top 10s: 2
Top 25s: 4
SG Off-the-Tee: 171st
SG Approach: 140th
SG Around-the-Green: 77th
SG Putting: 55th
Par Breakers: 144th
Strength of Field: 120%

Notes: The Arizona product was very solid with the putter last season (gained strokes in 60% of his measured rounds) so this is not a fluke to see him as a standout putter. That being said, he's gaining on approach in just 35% of his measured rounds this season (61% last season). He'll need to get those irons back in working order before I consider a reinvestment with any confidence.

77% - Brandt Snedeker

Starts: 8
Cuts Made: 6
Top 10s: 1
Top 25s: 4
SG Off-the-Tee: 196th
SG Approach: 124th
SG Around-the-Green: 3rd
SG Putting: 20th
Par Breakers: 30th
Strength of Field: 109%

Notes: It should shock no one to see Sneds on this list. He was top 20 on TOUR last season in putting consistency and you have to go back to 2008 to find a season where Snedeker finished outside of the top 30 in putting. Gamers should continue to target him on courses that put a lot of wedges in hand, allowing him to set up lots of good birdie looks. 

80% - Adam Hadwin

Starts: 8
Cuts Made: 7
Top 10s: 2
Top 25s: 2
SG Off-the-Tee: 82nd
SG Approach: 32nd
SG Around-the-Green: 45th
SG Putting: 27th
Par Breakers: 64th
Strength of Field: 119%

Notes: The Canadian has played a somewhat limited schedule this season due to the birth of his first child. He's impressed when active, though.  Hadwin is currently gaining strokes around-the-green in 70% of his measured rounds and 80% in the putting department. Last season, those numbers were 40% and 53%, respectively. Which numbers should we believe? Historically, he's been a very good putter but just average around-the-greens. I would expect him to remain consistent with the flat stick but regress a touch around-the-greens. 


Other Notables: Aaron Wise is someone I will continue to monitor in this department. He splashed onto the scene in 2018 and gained strokes putting in a very respectable 59% of his rounds that season. The youngster hit the gym hard the following fall and a decline in performance has followed, mostly putting. Wise gained strokes putting in just 37% of his measured rounds last season and he sits at 30% for the current campaign. Was 2018 just an outlier or did the bulking up really lead to him losing touch? Certainly something Bryson DeChambeau will look to avoid as he continues to pack on muscle mass. DeChambeau's rate of gaining strokes putting has been 54% (2018), 59% (2019), and 54% (2020). So far, so good. 

What happened to Emiliano Grillo? He appeared to find his putting strokes in 2018, gaining in 56% of his measured rounds but he's fallen off a cliff since (positive putting in 34% of rounds last season and just 26% this season). 

Jordan Spieth is always a fun name to track. He made his rise up the world ranks in part due to out-of-this world putting from long range. From a more recent standpoint, he gained strokes putting in just 44% of his measured rounds in 2018 but improved to 65% last season (was just 45% off the tee and 52% on approach). Where does he stand in 2020? Right in the middle, gaining strokes putting in 53% of his measured rounds. Putting remains the least of his worries right now as he tries to fix his driving problems. 

Final Thoughts: Last week we talked about how around-the-green standouts were not so great when you compared them to the baselines set by the off-the-tee and approach lists in my first two articles. The top putting performers are similar to the around-the-green list with one exception. When looking at par breakers, the top putters currently average 52nd in par breakers (birdies or eagles per round) while the around-the-green list ranks just 105th in par breakers. In fact, the putters fall right in line with the off-the-tee and approach standouts when it comes to circling birdies or eagles. This makes steady putters an appealing option in fantasy formats that reward under-par scoring such as DFS. I will return in a few days to sift through the trends when comparing all four categories. 

Josh Culp
Josh Culp joined Rotoworld in 2014. The DFS enthusiast from Iowa State can be found on Twitter @futureoffantasy.