A Week for Grinders: The Players You Can Count on to Avoid Bogeys at Pebble Beach

A Week for Grinders: The Players You Can Count on to Avoid Bogeys at Pebble Beach article feature image

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports. Captioned: Patrick Cantlay

  • The 2019 U.S. Open, which will take place at Pebble Beach Golf Links starting on Thursday June 13, will put a premium on players who can avoid big scores, perhaps more than any event on the golf calendar.
  • Which players does this grind-it-out style of golf favor the most? Jason Sobel examines the numbers.

At most professional golf tournaments, birdies are king. You can’t win if you don’t go low.

The U.S. Open ain’t most tournaments.

It doesn’t take hours of research to realize that this is the one week of the year when par is a good score. The one week when avoiding those dreaded squares on the scorecard is just as important as posting circles.

Whether the eventual winning score is a few strokes over par or a few into the red, that doesn’t negate the fact that grinding out pars will be of the utmost importance at Pebble Beach this week.

With that in mind, there are a pair of statistical categories to which I’m paying extra attention — and yes, they’re very close cousins.

Current season-long numbers for bogey avoidance and bogey average — very similar, yet different stats — should provide an informative look into the players who are best at saving par and staying away from those dreaded bogeys.

Bogey Avoidance

Bogey avoidance shows the percentage of holes on which players record that score. The top-10, through the recent Memorial Tournament:

1. Patrick Cantlay: 11.24%
2. Dustin Johnson: 11.67%
3. Matt Kuchar: 11.83%
4. Lucas Glover: 12.16%
5. Jim Furyk: 12.50%
6. Webb Simpson: 12.92%
7. Charles Howell III: 12.93%
T-8. Aaron Baddeley: 12.96%
T-8. D.J. Trahan: 12.96%
10. Scott Piercy: 13.19%

No surprise: Some of the world’s most talented — and most consistent — players are right near the top in this category. The list begins with Cantlay, the recent winner at Muirfield Village, who is sure to be a trendy selection to contend once again in his native California. For those already penciling him onto betting sheets and DFS lineups (myself included), this should simply serve as confirmation for what we were already thinking.

Next on this list comes Johnson, which many might not have predicted based on his aggressive mindset, but again, he’s proven to be uncommonly consistent. Kuchar is less of a surprise, and to an extent, so are Glover and Furyk, all players who understand the efficiency of keeping the ball in the fairways and on the greens.

Looking just below that aforementioned top 10, we find a bevy of potential contenders.

Rory McIlroy (11th), Xander Schauffele (12th) and Tommy Fleetwood (13th) are the next three on the list; they’re followed closely by Justin Thomas (T-16), Hideki Matsuyama (21st), Rickie Fowler (22nd), Marc Leishman (23rd), Jon Rahm (24th), Brooks Koepka (25th) and Justin Rose (28th).

A few other notables: Tiger Woods (T-36), Tony Finau (T-39), Adam Scott (54th), Bubba Watson (T-61), Jason Day (69th), Sergio Garcia (T-72), Bryson DeChambeau (T-82), Jordan Spieth (T-82) and Phil Mickelson (127th).

Michael Madrid-USA TODAY . Pictured: 2018 winner Patrick Reed places the green jacket on 2019 winner Tiger Woods

On the other end of the bogey avoidance list — again, not surprisingly — are players who aren’t enjoying successful campaigns. Satoshi Kodaira ranks dead last at 207th with bogeys on 22.57% of his holes; moving up that list, in succession from the bottom, are Michael Kim, Cody Gribble, Rod Pampling and Grayson Murray.

As for those who might actually be considered for a U.S. Open wager, a group of international players make an appearance. Granted, this could be explained by the fact that many of these players have competed mostly in majors and WGC events this year – tourneys with a higher degree of difficulty – and therefore, they don’t have the benefit of juicing these numbers with a few early-season birdie-fests.

Anyway, the numbers for Lucas Bjerregaard (201st), Justin Harding (196th), Matt Fitzpatrick (195th), Matt Wallace (192nd), Branden Grace (191st), Alex Noren (184th), Haotong Li (180th), Tyrrell Hatton (172nd), Martin Kaymer (170th) and Danny Willett (168th) could force us to second-guess whether they can contend at an event where avoiding bogeys remains of paramount importance.

Bogey Average

Bogey average measures the average number of bogeys per round for players during the current PGA Tour season. This predictably has plenty of overlap with bogey avoidance. The top-10:

1. Patrick Cantlay: 1.82
2. Dustin Johnson: 1.90
3. Matt Kuchar: 1.91
4. Lucas Glover: 2.03
5. Rory McIlroy: 2.05
6. Jim Furyk: 2.07
7. Aaron Baddeley: 2.08
8. Charles Howell III: 2.11
9. Justin Thomas: 2.12
T-10. Bud Cauley: 2.15
T-10. Webb Simpson: 2.15

As you’ll notice, the top four remain unchanged. After those players, McIlroy and Thomas each move into the top-10, while many of the same names appear not much farther down the list. Brooks Koepka (T-12), Xander Schauffele (T-14), Tommy Fleetwood (T-16), Rickie Fowler (T-19), Marc Leishman (T-22) and Justin Rose (T-25) are each within the top-30.

Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Brooks Koepka.

Most rankings parallel those of the bogey avoidance list, though it’s noteworthy to see that Jordan Spieth and Bryson DeChambeau move from a share of 82nd place to 35th and 41st, respectively.

On the bottom of the list? Poor ol’ Satoshi Kodaira again, with an average of 3.58 bogeys per round.

Other names farther down mirror those of the previously listed category, signaling negative marks for the likes of Bjerregaard, Harding, Fitzpatrick and Wallace.

These analytics might not offer make-or-break prospects for potential contenders this week, but they can give us encouragement for those near the top and second thoughts for those near the bottom when trying to define some separation between similarly talented players.

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