2022 Stat Sifting: Recapping a Year of Golf

The PGA TOUR has pushed pause on their FedExCup events for the remainder of the year.

That allows golfers to enjoy the holidays with their families and recharge their batteries for the 2023 schedule.

This holiday break allows us as fans, gamers, and/or bettors to look back on the year that was. We can use history to learn but we should also remind ourselves that past performance is not always indicative of future success.

Drive for Dough

The old adage was "drive for show and putt for dough" but advanced stats have smushed that saying, to say the least. Year after year the top drivers tend to rise to the top of the money list. Here are the top 15 performers in average strokes gained: off-the-tee in 2022:

Jon Rahm
Cameron Young
Keith Mitchell
Rory McIlroy
Sungjae Im
Brendan Steele
Taylor Pendrith
Cameron Champ
Matt Fitzpatrick
Joaquin Niemann
Will Zalatoris
Hayden Buckley
Tony Finau
Corey Conners
Justin Thomas

Buckley would be the biggest surprise on the list for me. He follows the path of Sungjae Im of striping so many fairways en route to gaining his strokes while most of the others pick up a lot of their strokes through power. Buckley has three top 10s in 39 starts but if this level of driving continues then he'll surely pick up his first podium finish, and potential breakout win in 2023.

Throwing Darts

While elite driving puts you in the best position to score, you still need to dial in your irons if you want to contend on the big stage. Here are the top performers in strokes gained approach during the 2022 calendar year:

Will Zalatoris
Shane Lowry
Scottie Scheffler
Collin Morikawa
Russell Henley
Rory McIlroy
Tony Finau
Corey Conners
Mito Pereira
Xander Schauffele
Tom Hoge
Hideki Matsuyama
Cameron Smith
Joaquin Niemann
Viktor Hovland

Hovland has the reputation for crushing it with the driver but his long-iron game is a serious weapon. His ability to attack short par 4s off the tee and get home in two on the par 5s really gives him a lot of scoring upside.

Around-the-Green Wizards

Ball-striking is generally the easiest route to success but a strong short game shouldn't be overlooked, especially when the weather gets rough or a course setup proves tougher than expected.

Around-the-green play is also a good sign of course management because there are many spots out on TOUR that are near-impossible up-and-downs, even for the strongest of short games. If you continually have a good game plan then you'll put yourself in the best position to be able to gain strokes around the green.

Pat Perez
Matt Kuchar
Danny Willett
Scottie Scheffler
Russell Henley
Harold Varner III
Justin Thomas
Tommy Fleetwood
Chris Kirk
Stephan Jaeger
Francesco Molinari
Andrew Putnam
Billy Horschel
Harris English
Rory McIlroy

It turns out this Rory guy is a complete package. He's the only name to show up on all three tee-to-green lists.

Putting Prowess

The use of advanced stats has probably pushed the narrative of needing to be a good putter from one end of the extreme to the other.

While steady putting is not as important as once believed, the ability to pop with the putter is still a sneaky route to the winner's circle. You can erase a lot of tee-to-green blemishes with a friendly flat stick.

Here are the top putters from the 2022 calendar year:

Lucas Herbert
Tyrrell Hatton
Tommy Fleetwood
Brendon Todd
Denny McCarthy
Sam Burns
Beau Hossler
Maverick McNealy
Harris English
Kevin Kisner
Mackenzie Hughes
Kelly Kraft
Billy Horschel
Cameron Smith
Matt Fitzpatrick

Hughes is a very intriguing name on the list as he's always been one of the top short-game talents out on TOUR but is now adding distance to his game. We saw it pay off immediately with a win at the Sanderson Farms this fall. I will be following closely to start 2023 to see how his tee-to-green game performs because we know his short game is always Tier 1.

Big-Game Hunters

Performing in the biggest events is contagious. We see it time and again where particular golfers contend in a major and then continue to outperform their baseline in the majors for a year or two after that.

On the flip side, some golfers just struggle to find any success in the big events.

Who in trending in the big events? Here are the top performers in total strokes gained in the eight biggest events from an OWGR field rating perspective:

Rory McIlroy
Cameron Smith
Will Zalatoris
Joaquin Niemann
Scottie Scheffler
Matt Fitzpatrick
Xander Schauffele
Tommy Fleetwood
Shane Lowry
Justin Thomas
Max Homa
Collin Morikawa
Viktor Hovland
Patrick Cantlay
Jon Rahm

I think it's safe to say Rahm underperformed when you consider his spot on this list versus his baseline stats in all events. Just a small hiccup or a sign of things to come? I would lean on the former but only time will tell.

Morikawa finding a way on the list is promising when you consider he had a "down year" by his standards. He still shows up in the big events even when his game isn't the sharpest.

All of these names played at least six of the eight big events but notables in small quantities include Denny McCarthy (22nd on the list despite playing just four events) and Davis Riley (26th on the list in just three events).

2022 Round of the Year

To end things, let's go look for the best round of the year. To do this I will look at worldwide events during the 2022 calendar year and look for the top performers in terms of strokes gained versus the field (adjusted for field strength).

What we're left with is Cameron Tringale's opening round of 61 at the Genesis Scottish Open.

This was a strong-field event and Tringale lapped the field by 10.99 shots in round one. He was three shots clear of his closest competitor (Gary Woodland) and only five golfers total were within five shots of him after day one.

Hopefully this roundup of stats gives you something to snack on over the holiday break. We have the Hero World Challenge to look forward to next week and my top 150 golfers series will also be published during the break so keep your eyes peeled on the golf page for those updates.