More on Bryson’s Driving and his lofty Strokes Gained Ranking.

Just a week after I had praised Bryson’s Driving prowess in Distance AND Accuracy (20 yards farther with a miraculously lower than Tour Average ERRORS), he blows up and misses the cut at Jack’s Memorial.  The low point was scoring a TEN on the 15th hole in his 2nd, and final, round.

I was intrigued because double digits are true rare occurrences on Tour and because it was the mercurial golf scientist.  It is the worst I have seen since Kevin Na recorded a 16 in the 2011 Valero Texas Open.  (You can YouTube the good-natured Kevin detailing his difficulties to a film crew at the scene.)  I became obsessed with Bryson’s troubles when I noticed that the Tour stats allocated the huge, negative Strokes Gained (SG) number to the wrong facet – his Approach the Green game.

In a nutshell, here is what happened to Bryson on this potentially reachable par 5: 

  1. His Drive was pulled left, well into the trees and into a Penalty Area, 287 yards from the hole. 
  2. Penalty/Drop near the point of entry – fairly deep in the woods.
  3. He obviously tried to hit a big hook, with a wooden club, to ADVANCE the ball to where he could Approach the green.  The result was long, but too straight, across the fairway and OB (over a neighbor’s boundary fence).
  4. Penalty/Drop back at the point of entry
  5. An exact repeat of #3 above.  This time his ball ended up against the fence.  After some contentious debate his ball was indeed confirmed to be OB.
  6. Penalty/Drop back at the point of entry
  7. Same thing but this time more hook got him into the right rough with an Approach to the green.
  8. Approach shot successfully on the green 30 feet from the pin
  9. Putt to 4 feet
  10. Putt holed

   I have TWO issues with the Tour’s handling of this hole from a statistical standpoint:

  1. In both cases, they do NOT properly designate the results of shots #3 and #5 as Out of Bounds (OB).  Instead, they call it “Unknown”.  Fun Fact: There is no such thing as OB in the Tour’s healthy list of shot results.  The Tour rules official can clearly be heard confirming that the ball was OB. Why not simply call it what it IS?
  2. Each of the three advancement attempts were mis-categorized for Strokes Gained purposes as Approach the Green.  But they were clearly Advancement shots or “Recovery Shots”  which is part of the Tour’s Strokes Gained designations.  Did the on-course statistician simply make a mistake?  And the technicians in the truck also overlook it?  Or, was there a conscious decision made to protect the ranking of the young star’s marque skill?

WHO CARES?  I do, and Bryson and the Tour should too!  As a result, Bryson’s Driving (Off the Tee) SG for the event was a false +2.12 and he remains #1 in SG Driving on Tour.  In ShotByShot.com, all FIVE strokes lost on this hole would be allocated to his Driving facet.  (We consider Recovery shots following Driving errors to be part of the Driving facet.).  Additionally, Bryson made two more Driving errors @ Memorial that would have added at least another -2.0 SG.  This potentially negative SEVEN SG in only 2 rounds would have shocked his Driving numbers.

At the same time, Bryson’s Approach SG for the event was -3.12.  This dropped his Approach position for the year to date from 36 to 62. Not a big deal?

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