Is crushing it on the Par 5s at the Masters really the key to winning? I seem to hear this a lot.
To evaluate, let’s take a look at players’ scoring for the week on the Par 5s versus their overall score (for this I consider only players that made the cut):
By far the most noteworthy. Tiger Woods shot -15 on Par 5s for the week, tying the Masters record, but didn’t win (finished -11, T4).
Phil Mickelson shot -12 on the Par 5s (recall the 6-iron from the pine straw on #13), and -16 for the Tournament to win by 3. Note the 8 stroke spread between he and Tiger on the non-Par 5 holes for the week.
Sergio Garcia finished 5th in Par 5 performance (-10), but finished the Tournament T45th - only Nathan Green finished behind him. Sergio finished at +10, meaning he played the Par 3s and 4s in +20 for the week. Ouch.
YE Yang shot -12 on the Par 5s for the week (2nd in the field), but finished at -3 overall (T20).
Ian Poulter finished the Tournament at -1 (T27) while playing the Par 5s in just -1. If he had played the Par 5s in -7, he’d have been in the Top 10. To put that in perspective, 2011 was a particularly low scoring year at Augusta. Only 12 players finished over par. The average score was almost -6.5 on Par 5s and -2.7 overall! Compare that to this week: -3 might get you Top 5 in 2014!
Fred Couples finished -4 for the week while only going -1 for the tournament on the Par 5s. That's rare for him- he’s usually much better on the Par 5s. For instance, Fred was -12 on the Par 5s in 2010.
Geoff Ogilvy finished -10 (T4) while only going -4 on the Par 5s. If he had gone -8 for the week on the Par 5s, he’d have been in a playoff (Aside: I’m bummed and surprised he’s disappeared of late. I like his swing)
Adam Scott posted the best total Par 5 score for the week with -13. He finished -12 (T2).
Snedeker tied for 1st in the Par 5 competition at -11!...and finished T19 overall at Even. +11 on Par 4s and 3s for the week.
Oosthuizen, who was T1 after 4 rounds and lost in the playoff to Bubba, was only -5 for the week on the Par 5s! That’s below average! And, that was with an ALBATROSS on #2 on Sunday (-3 in one hole for you hackers). That means he was -2 for the week on the Par 5s in his other 15 Par 5 opportunities. And he almost won! That speaks to how well he played the Par 3s and 4s.
Kuchar was only -5 on Par 5s as well, and finished -8 (T3). Therefore, -3 on all Par 3s and 4s. I like his game for Augusta and it looks like he’ll be in contention tomorrow. Remember, the Larry Mize Factor is at play - Kuchar attended Georgia Tech.
Tiger shot only -1 on Par 5s for the week in a +5 (T40) overall effort. Not only was it terrible by his standards, only 3 players were worse on Par 5s for the week.
Like Tiger in 2010, Ernie Els went -15 on Par 5s for the week, tying the Masters record, and didn’t win (finished at -1, T13). +14 on the Par 3s and 4s. Yikes! That’s the same as 14-year old Guan Tianlang, who finished 58th overall at +12. After over 20 years playing at Augusta, you’d expect Ernie to be a bit more savvy on the other holes.
Interesting to observe what is clearly the most “flat” Par 5 Scoring curve of the 4. The difference in the moving average from bottom to top of the leaderboard is only about 2.5 strokes.
Fowler posted a strong performance at -10 on the Par 5s (also was -8 in 2012). As it happens, he made birdies on all 4 Par 5s today on Moving Day to put himself in contention for tomorrow. His combination of strong wedge play and attack mentality (nevermind the way he dresses, just look at the way he walks) are excellent for the Par 5s at Augusta (unfortunately, like Els, he was +14 on the other holes for the week).
Bill Haas, one my picks this week and the 2014 first round leader, shot +1 (!!!!) on the Par 5s for the week and Even on the rest of the holes. He finished T20 overall. Bill, what might have been.
Thorbjorn Olesen shot -13 on Par 5s for the week. Not bad for his first Masters! I was glad to see he validated 2012 by making the cut again this year.
How about Sneds following up on 2012’s Par 5 performance with a -10 on the Par 5s in 2013? He badly wants a Jacket.
Tiger shot only -4 on Par 5s for the week. That is almost 2 strokes below the average for the field that made the cut. However, the infamous flag-rattling triple bogey on #15 on Friday was a 4 shot swing and makes his Par 5 stats a bit misleading. Those 4 shots were the difference between his actual -5 finish and and the playoff at -9.
The Par 5 curve is quite flat. That means that basically everyone making the cut is going under on the Par 5s. Those at the top of the leaderboard are doing just slightly better on Par 5s than those at the bottom, on average.
The average Par 5 score for the week over the last 4 years is about -6. That’s -1.5 under per day. That means playing the Par 5s in Even two days straight gives back 3 shots to the field. Playing the Par 5s over par for the week is terrible.
The big hitters aren’t always the one crushing the Par 5s. Sure, Ernie, Tiger, Phil, Bubba and Freddy are big hitters, but Snedeker and Fowler are more average and they’ve performed well.
Each of the last 4 winners played the rest of the course in under par. If you play the Par 3s and 4s under par for the week, you’re playing really well and the data shows you’ll likely finish at least in the Top 8 or so.
Playing the Par 5s well is not the key to winning. It’s key to contending. The key to winning is playing the Par 3s and 4s under par for the week.
A Note on Overall Course Difficulty
It looks like Augusta’s been playing harder as of late. Average score among those making the cut has gone from Even in 2010 to -2 in 2011 to +2.5 each of the last 2 years. It’s looking like the average this week will be several over par as well.
Anybody else notice any interesting trends in these scoring graphs? I'm curious about the slight but consistent S-shape in overall scoring (blue line) around the trend line...Get in touch @Stewza3.