Using Shots-Gained Data to Handicap Golf

by Hollywood Sports

Sunday, Jan 31, 2021
When the PGA started using ShotLink data to provide more information for its golf events, it provided a remarkable resource for bettors. ShotLink uses proprietary data accumulated from cameras and lasers that track information each shot a golfer takes per round. 

I have written previously about the expected goals metric used in soccer. This data works similarly. ShotLink collects the data for every golfer from every one of his or her strokes during an event. This information can provide a point of comparison than for individual golfers. The concept of “strokes-gained” represents how an individual golfer's performance compared to the average from the field. 

This ShotLink data facilitates the statistical breakdown of each aspect of a golfer’s skill set. As an example, this information can be used to compare how a golfer performs 200 yards out from the pin versus the rest of the field. More generally, this data helps to create six different categories to help analyze a golfer’s strengths and weaknesses. Shots-Gained: Off-the-Tee measures a golfer’s first shot proficiency. Shots-Gained: Approach-the-Green measures a golfer’s ability to reach the green after their first shot. Shots-Gained: Around-the-Green measures a golfer’s pitching and sand wedge play. Shots-Gained: Putting measures how a golfer performs on the greens. Shots-Gained: Tee-to-Green measures the performance of a golfer off the tee to get to his or her putter.

This collected data can be quite helpful in handicapping the field for PGA tournaments. When assessing the field for the PGA Farmers Insurance Open earlier this week, I gave considerable weight to the following statistics: Shots-Gained: Approach-the-Green, Par-4 Scoring, Bogey-Avoidance, Driving Distance. I did this given the nature of the South Course at Torrey Pines where three of the four rounds would be played this weekend. Past winners have excelled in those statistical categories. The South Course is a beast at 7465 yards with Poa Annua greens. The metrics I used to handicap this event given course history include Shots-Gained: Approach-the-Green, Par-4 Scoring, Bogey-Avoidance, Driving Distance. This event was graded as the fourth-most difficult on the PGA Tour last season with the average professional finishing +0.534 strokes above par.

These considerations led me to choose Patrick Reed as my Top Overlay Bet to win this tournament with him having +2800 odds at BetOnline. Reed ranked third in Shots-Gained: Birdies or Better so far for the 2020-21 season. He finished last season 11th on the tour in Shots-Gained: Total. Reed’s short game is one of the best in the world. He is eighth in the field in Bogey-Avoidance over his last six months. He ranked 32nd last year in Par-5 Scoring. He finished the ’19-20 campaign 26th on the tour in Shots-Gained: Tee-to-Green. Reed was sixth on the tour in Par-4 Scoring. He is also great with the blade. Reed was fifth last year in Putting: Birdies or Better and 10th on the tour in Shots-Gained: Putting. 

Reed rewarded this work by winning the 2021 PGA Farmers Insurance Open by five strokes with his 14 under par. On to the PGA Waste Management Open, next week where analyzing the statistics that past winners have shared can help identify which of the professionals in next week’s field offers value.

Best of luck for us — Frank.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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