What matters most?
We will skip over the Putts per Round stats because they leave out too many important factors, as well as the Average Putting Distance because the numbers again are not comparable. This leads us to the last category namely Putting Average. The nice part here is, that the stats in that category also take into account the greens hit in regulation. Going back to our thoughts of what makes a player a better putter than another, we figured that a lower putting average per GIR will separate you from the rest of the field.
At the Players Championship Bryan Harman (T3) led with an average of 1.638 before Cameron Smith (T17) with 1.651 and Bryson DeChambeau (T3) with 1.660. While the margins are very slim and again difficulty, as well as distances, are not a factor, there is a correlation between that performance and the tournament finish. Obviously, this is the case, because a low average means fewer strokes than the rest of the field. In terms of world rankings this stat is led by Justin Thomas (2) followed by Patrick Reed (7) and Peter Malnati (157), also showing a correlation between world rankings and performance in this category. Noteworthy is Peter Malnati, because of his high world ranking in comparison to Thomas and Reed.
This emphasizes that being a good putter does not automatically make you a world-class player. One last factor of being a good putter is the Birdie Conversion Rate per Green in Regulation. Of course, there are other factors such as how close you hit your approach shot that does play a role in determining if one player is a better putter than another, yet are not represented in that statistic. In general, however, it is a fair assumption that if you have a good birdie conversion rate, you are also at least a decent putter and in terms of difficulty of a putt, you probably encountered some easy, and some more difficult putts. The conversion rate is calculated by setting the number of greens hit into relation to the actual number of birdies or better made.
At the Players Championship Bryan Harman again had the best performance with 43.48%, followed by Paul Casey with 43.14% and Cameron Smith with 42.86%. The assumption that the conversation rate does factor in, is also underlined by looking at the Year-to-Date stat. World Number two Justin Thomas leads the field before Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau, all of whom are inside the World Top Ten. This is the stat that actually shows the biggest correlation with the world ranking, simply because despite its flaws, if you manage to keep that percentage high throughout the year, you are a good putter and will likely have high finishes.
Putting Average © pgatour.com
Is putting important?
Now it is time to write down the learnings from all this information we just gathered and give you an idea of how to separate a player that had a good putting week, from a player that is brilliant on the greens throughout the year.
Obviously, weekly performances are easier to compare to each other because everyone encountered similar conditions. You probably noticed that some of the players popped up in various stats, even the ones that we determined to be not fit for comparison. While the stats are sometimes not comparable within themselves, chances are that a player who pops up in multiple stats does underline the general notion of a player having had a good putting week or not. There is no single stat to look at in order to figure out who was the best putter for a specific week. As mentioned above all of the stats have flaws and leave out important parts of reality. However, if you look at a combination of the following statistics per tournament, you will have a good idea of who outperformed his fellow competitors on the green. Those statistics are: Strokes Gained Putting, Putting from 10-15 feet, Green in Regulation 10-15 feet, Total Putting, Putting Average, and the Birdie Conversion Rate. Taking into account those stats for the Players Championship the players with the best overall putting performance were Bryan Harman and Paul Casey because they managed to appear in almost all of those stats within the Top 3.
If you want to do the same for world rankings, the best combination of stats to look at are Putting Average and Birdie Conversion Rate, because they are the least influenced by other factors, and despite the fact they do not factor in distance or difficulty, they hold the test of time. Why? Because throughout a season you will eventually have shorter putts, longer putts, and more difficult putts, if you are able to keep your average and conversion rate low, you will gain an advantage over others. Furthermore, just like with the statistics per tournament, you will see players that perform well in those two stats, also pop up near the top of the board in other categories even if those stats are not comparable within themselves. Again, it simply underlines the assumption of a player being a good putter, the categories by themselves just won’t help you make those conclusions. Having looked at all those stats the best overall putter, using the available data, is world number seven Patrick Reed, who popped up on various other stats and is second in both categories we named above. Having said that, you might have noticed, that being a good putter ultimately does not guarantee good world rankings. Directly contradicting the notion of putting being the most important aspect of a player’s game. But keep in mind: coming down the stretch of a tournament, it will eventually come down to that last putt. So you better make sure, that your confidence level on the greens is high enough to convert that last putt for the win.