Kenny Perry did at the recent Traveler’s Championship. Despite a 3-putt – albeit from 53 feet – Perry’s putting performance was the best yet logged into our 2009 Tour Winner's database. Brian Gay set the previous mark by making a remarkable 53% of the 70 1st-putt opportunities that he faced at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis AND without a 3-putt.
Perry had 71 1st putt chances and only made 46% and, as stated, recorded a single 3-putt in his final round. How then could his putting performance be considered the best ever? As I have written many times, it is the DISTANCE that counts NOT the total number of putts. In a nutshell, Kenny Perry may have made fewer putts than Brian Gay (five, if you are counting), but he was putting from significantly greater distances. The average starting distance of Kenny's putts for the week was 7 feet further from the hole than Brian Gay's. Kenny Perry’s average 1st putt distance: 17 feet vs. Brian Gay’s: 10 feet.
This 7 foot difference is extremely important because even the best of the best on the PGA Tour see their "make" percentage fall off rapidly outside 10 feet. Kenny Perry separated himself in the 11 - 30 foot range where he made 12 of 35 attempts, or 34%. The Tour average would be 26%. Coincidently, Kenny's three stroke difference exactly matches his margin of victory in the Traveler’s Championship.
Several key points can be gleaned about Kenny's 3-putt. First, it is not at all unusual for the winner on the PGA Tour to have one. The 2009 PGA Tour winners 3-putt once in every 100 attempts (1%). Second, most of their 3-putts fall in the 50+ foot range like Kenny's. Finally, more than one 3-putt generally results in players falling short of the winner’s circle. Our 2009 Top-10 profile comprised of players usually only 2 or 3 shots away from winning, shows that they 3-putt 2% of their opportunities.
What should we mere mortals take from all this? Nothing too profound, but two pieces of advice:
1. Don’t sweat a 3-putt from long range. It happens to the best.
2. On those days when your putter is "hot" and you are seeing and feeling the line, take advantage of it - they don't come along very often.
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More columns by Peter Sanders
Peter Sanders is a regular contributor to Golf Digest. His golf analysis and stats can also be seen on his own website at www.shotbyshot.com