I can’t remember the last round of a PGA Tour event with as much consistent drama as we saw this weekend. Sunday’s final round of the BMW Championship was great TV. I didn’t even mind the commercials as they gave me time to process what had happened and make quick trips to the kitchen.
Bryson’s driving distance WITH accuracy was front stage and incredible. It was only rivaled, in my opinion, by Cantlay’s unflappable demeanor and answer after answer to the onslaught of challenges thrown his way.
Before I get to my main point, here are a few stats that I found interesting:
Bryson outdrove the FIELD by 40 yards and Patrick by ONLY 34 yards (345, 305 & 311 respectively). Given the sizable gaps, it is not a surprise that Bryson hit fewer Fairways (8, 9.2, 9.3)
Again, given Bryson’s driving advantage, we’d expect him to hit more Greens in Regulation. With 13.5/round, Bryson bested the FIELD’s 13.03/round – but NOT Patrick’s impressive 14.5!
It was also no surprise that Bryson was #1 in Going for the Green with an impressive 96%. Patrick was more human at 65% – but still above the FIELD’s 60%.
Bryson was closer to earth with his % Greens Hit (when going for it) at an almost mundane 28%. Heck Patrick hit 27% and the FIELD 19%.
The final gem in this area was the Average Distance (of the going for it shots). Bryson’s driving prowess netted him a one yard DISADVANTAGE to Patrick (278 yards for Patrick vs. 279 for Bryson) and a wapping FOUR yard advantage over the FIELD (283 yards). Where did Bryson’s 40-yard driving advantage go on the Par 5’s???
Putting was the difference!
In the 30+ years that I have studied performance on the PGA Tour, it became clear early on that there are two critical 1-Putt distance ranges. The 6 to 10 foot range separates the good putters from the rest while the 11 to 20 foot range separates the WINNERS from the rest. Both held form in influencing the outcome of this event.
In the chart below, I have provided Bryson’s and Patrick’s 1-Putt numbers for the regulation four rounds. For perspective, I have added the PGA Tour average and the 2021 Winners to date. Clearly Patrick Cantlay’s performance was otherworldly especially considering that in the final round and playoff, these holed putts were all must makes.
To emphasize my point, in the last pressure packed 14 holes (8 regulation and 6 extra holes), Bryson had ten 1-Putt opportunities in these two important ranges. He made only 3 of 10. In his last eight holes, he had FIVE opportunities to win outright (11, 13, 16, 6, 18 feet) and 1 to extend (9 feet) – Bryson missed them all.
By contrast in the last 14 holes, Patrick had seven 1-Putt opportunities in these two critical ranges. He made FIVE, all MUST makes, including the 18 foot birdie to close out the title.