Justin Thomas dazzled this past weekend at the Honda classic.
At times JT seemed to be working really hard, much like the rest of the field at PGA National, known for its brutality. Thomas put on a full display of his ability to grind, an essential quality for any future PGA Tour star.
If you take a look at JT’s stats for the 2018 season however, you’d be surprised to find him in the top 10 in one, yes one, category – Strokes gained: Approach to the green. The other important categories … uh, not so great from the world no. 3.
I’m going to get a little Brandel Chamblee on you here; I respect that Brandel goes to stats and doesn’t sugar coat or ass kiss (yes, I’m referring to you Frank Nobilo.) Let’s take a look at some of the notable stats measured on the PGA Tour and where Thomas ranks:
- Strokes gained tee to green: 13th
- Total driving: 20th
- Strokes gained approach the green: 8th
- Greens in regulation: t-36th
- Proximity to the hole: 37th
- Birdie percentage from the fairway: 26th
- Strokes gained putting: 64th
- Putting 10-15’: 15th
- Putts per round: t-19th
- And most troubling … Shots gained around the green: t-105th
With these stats you’d be hard pressed to pick Thomas to win the Masters, unless you have that “gut instinct.” I’m sure that gut instinct served you well as Jordan Spieth stood on the 12th tee on Sunday in 2016 with a 5 shot lead and proceeded to dunk two balls in Rae’s Creek.
So let’s look at the stats that have proven to be vital to win the Masters.
Todd Schneider at fivethirtyeight.com, the stats whiz kid, composed this chart for last year’s championship. Schnieder prefaces by noting that the old adage, “Drive for show, putt for dough,” bears no truth. In fact, winners on the PGA Tour are proving that most strokes are gained from tee to green.
Based on these stats (minus Danny Willet – he didn’t have PGA Tour stats entering 2016), the average strokes gained ranking for tee to green was 17.5. Reminder, Justin Thomas is currently 13th. Strokes gained putting averages heading into the Masters for past champions was 87.25 – middle of the pack for the PGA Tour. Again, Justin currently checks in at 64th. Not to mention that Thomas is currently 9th in strokes gained approach to green.
Dustin Johnson will be the hot pick; he is top 10 in almost every statistical category and he has proven, at Oakmont, that he can win on tough greens.
I was lucky enough to play Oakmont last year. The greens are FAST! But they don’t have near the undulations and small quadrants that Augusta National has. I wonder what Masters Sunday pressure and the breaks in those greens will do to Dustin’s nerves.
Justin Thomas has exhibited nerves of steel and we know he can drop bombs, when he gets the putter going, he makes everything and his confidence goes off the charts.
Thomas wins by 4, you can bet the house.