Friday, March 7, 2014

Shot of the Year?

Rory's 5-wood to last weekend's final hole of regulation from 245 yards in the fairway was remarkable for many reasons.  Had he made the putt and won the Honda Classic, that approach shot would be in the conversation for best all-time clutch shots.

The announcers did give the shot appropriate praise, but after Rory missed the 11-foot putt and didn't win, it was virtually forgotten.  Tiger used to WOW us with just that kind of pressure shot, but more often than not finished it by making the putt.

By ShotLink standards Rory's shot was great because of its relative proximity to the hole.  The ShotLink average proximity from 225-250 in the fairway is 53 feet.  OK, 11 feet is worlds closer, but it is actually much more than that.  The problem with the "Proximity" stat is that it includes all shots - whether they successfully hit the green or not.  A ball can be 15 feet short and in the water, or 10 feet away and buried under the lip of a bunker - and still be included in the average proximity.

ShotLink also reveals that tour players will hit the green-in-regulation from 200+ yards in 43% of their tries.  This is nice but it mixes all conditions (fairway, rough, bunkers, etc.).  Further, there is a large distance span of attempts greater than 200 yards.   Players are attempting to hit greens from 260+ these days.

I believe the best way to judge Rory's accomplishment is by comparing apples to apples.  Accordingly, I have looked a bit deeper.  The 2013 tour average for greens hit from 225 - 250 yards in the fairway was 36% (just over 1 of every 3).  When successful, the average putting distance from this range was 33 feet.

So Rory's success in hitting the green was impressive, but 11'4" from the pin was over the top, especially under the circumstances, and the looming downside of water short, right and long.  Missed putt notwithstanding, I think it qualifies for Shot of the Year so far.

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