By V1 Game engineer Dallas Webster
Memorial Tournament 2020
There’s a new Number One in the Official World Golf Rankings. Jon Rahm survived difficult conditions on Sunday to clinch the Memorial Tournament and become the first Spanish number one since Seve Ballesteros. High winds combined with fast and firm conditions decimated the field on Sunday where the golf became more of a game of survival than scoring.
Winning on the PGA Tour is hard, but it helps if you start with a four-shot lead with one round to play. Rahm really separated himself from the field on Saturday with a round he called one of the best of his career, especially given how the tough conditions forced some mistakes down the stretch.
Let’s take a look at his final day scorecard using the Scorecard Heatmap from V1 Game.
V1 Game Scorecard Heatmap
Rahm looked to be cruising through his opening nine on Sunday, putting on a solid display of golf and taming the par 5s as he had done throughout the week. However, things turned south on the back nine. Some wild drives around the turn, a missed short putt on 14, and then the debacle of the 16th (more on that later) almost undid the cushion he had built over 63 holes. However, clutch short-game play and putting kept the bleeding to a minimum.
Rahm is more of what you’d expect in a typical winner on the PGA Tour. He bashes the driver and dominates the par 5s, which can be seen below. Each day, he scored several strokes under par on the par 5s, with the exception of Sunday, where a double wiped out two front-nine birdies. All in all, Rahm birdied 11 of 16 par 5s. More than 61 percent of his birdies came on par 5s. For reference, par 5s are only 22 percent of the holes played.
Rahm has been a good closer in his young career, but it’s hard not to feel tight with the number 1 ranking in your sights. From the Strokes Gained Stacked chart, Rahm’s performance definitely took a hit on Sunday in a seven-shot swing from the day prior.
The majority of that came on the back nine where he lost over FIVE STROKES to an average Tour Pro performance (on an average week). A portion of those five strokes lost were on number 16, where a late ruling added two strokes two his momentum-saving chip in.
In real-time, the chip-in birdie added some much-needed help to his score and his psyche, despite later becoming a bogey. It would seem like a two-stroke penalty would be quite harmful from a strokes gained perspective, however, without the penalty, the chip-in gained almost 1.5 strokes. Thus, with the two stroke penalty, Rahm only lost 0.6 strokes on the shot. The momentum boost it gave him would have been eliminated and added significant pressure had he known about the penalty during the round.
T2G Gets the Green
There is a saying that you “drive for show and putt for dough.” However, the reality on the tour is that Strokes Gained: Tee to Green (SG: T2G) is the dominant factor in scoring. SGT2G accounts for all shots not on a putting green. Basically strokes gained without putting. If you correlate strokes gained performance to score, you’ll almost always find that tee-to-green performance dominates. In Jon Rahm’s case, tee-to-green performance was responsible for almost all of his scoring. In statistical terms, tee-to-green performance accounts for 98 percent of the variation in his scoring. Driving had the second biggest impact, followed by approach.
What can the average player learn from that? If you really want to improve your scores, your potential will be mostly determined by your tee-to-green play. Most players are much closer to a tour pro on putting green than off the tee box.
This week, the main takeaway is that sometimes golf turns into a game of survival. Get the ball in the hole any way you can. It is not always pretty.