Greatness

What makes a golfer great? We answer that question historically by looking at win totals, majors won and – depending on the player – reputation.

But with so many tools at our disposal now with Shotlink data, we can now show how great a player is in a tournament, a stretch, a season or even a career. The flood of information since 2004 has changed how we measure that success.

Last year, Rory McIlroy had one of the greatest statistical seasons in PGA Tour (modern) history. He knew it, and was proud of his +2.551 Strokes Gained: Total final mark. It was one of the best seasons of the past 15 years, and only Tiger Woods really showed as much dominance.

Hey Will, what does that number mean?!

Simple answer: Over the course of an entire season, Rory McIlroy was 2.551 strokes better than the average PGA Tour golfer. So, if the average player shoots 71 on a Friday, Rory fired 68.5, on average.

I’ve come to appreciate that +2 SG: Total number as the characteristic of a GREAT (not good) player. If you can hit that number over a significant stretch of golf, you are doing everything really well. Which leads to Webb Simpson…

There may not be a player in the world right now playing as much under-appreciated golf as Simpson. Go back to the middle of April last year, the week after the Masters. Start then and look at 16 tournaments that Simpson has played since. That is a fair sample size. [Tiger Woods played an average of only 18 tournaments in 2006-2007]

Simpson’s Strokes Gained: Total in that span since the 2019 Masters = +2.23

Webb Simpson is a top 5 player in the world right now

But Will, he hasn’t won

You’re right. A lot of top 3’s, but no W to show for it. Should we expect a win soon? History says, ‘YES.’

Since 2004, there have been 12 golfers achieve that magical +2 or greater number, on 24 occasions. Here is the list, with the number of total wins achieved in each season:

2019 – Rory McIlroy (won 4 times)
2018 – Dustin Johnson (won 3 times)
2017 – NONE
2016 – Jason Day (won 3 times)
2015 – Day, Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson and Bubba Watson (12 total wins)
2014 – McIlroy (won 4 times)
2013 – Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods in 2013 (5 total wins)
2012 – McIlroy and Woods (8 total wins)
2011 – Luke Donald (won 4 times)
2010 – NONE
2009 – Woods (won 7 times)
2008 – Woods (won 3 times)*
2007 – Woods (won 7 times)
2006 – Donald, Jim Furyk, Adam Scott and Woods (15 total wins)
2005 – Vijay Singh and Woods (11 total wins)
2004 – Singh and Woods (11 total wins)
*Season cut short by knee surgery

That is 97 wins from players in the +2 Club, or just over 4 wins per player on average. Of those 24 occurrences, only two players did not win. Here are their resumes in more detail:

Henrik Stenson in 2015: 24/25 made cuts, 6 runner-up finishes, 11 top 10’s
Steve Stricker in 2013: Semi-retired, 14/14 cuts made, 4 runner-ups, 8 top 10’s (57%)

So, in reality, Stenson’s wild ride in 2015 (he would win a major in 2016) is the only season at that statistical height that doesn’t have a win in it. While Simpson’s current pace overlaps two years, the odds would indicate he will win sometime in his next half dozen starts.

 

 

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