[Study] Best Iron Game Will Win THE PLAYERS Championship 2021

Last updated: March 4, 2021

Golf Reporter’s team analyzed PGA Tour data from several years’ tournaments to conclude that the player with the best iron game stands the highest chance of winning THE PLAYERS Championship of 2021.

For the last seven years, this pattern has repeated itself consistently. We predict that this pattern will continue in THE PLAYERS Championship 2021 as well and whoever will have the best iron game will be the winner of the tournament.

The data clearly shows that golfers who have played well with their irons in the approach and around the green shots have had a better chance of winning THE PLAYERS Championship.

The Research

Our study’s rationale was to identify the patterns, trends, or particular techniques that previous champions have used to win the Championship.

For this, we used the strokes gained data from the last seven tournaments and had our analysts take a closer look at it. After the analysis, we spotted a repeated trend year after year for the last seven tournaments. 

Our final conclusion is that players who have the best iron game consistently finished in the top spots in THE PLAYERS Championship.

Methodology 

PGA Tour tracks the players’ performance in the tour, analyzing every shot they are making right from the tees to the last putt. The quantitative details of the players are available in various categories for each of the PGA Tour since the year 2004.

The statistics include Strokes Gained for Off The Tee (SG: OTT), Strokes Gained Approach (SG: APP), Strokes Gained Around The Green (SG: ATG), overall Strokes Gained Tee to Green (SG: TTG), which does not include putting and Strokes Gained Putting (SG: Putting). These statistics can be found here. 

This Study on The Player Championship has used Strokes Gained quantitative data to analyze which part of the golf course the players are gaining scores to win the Championship. 

The Strokes Gained statistics for all the aspects of the game for the last seven years of THE PLAYERS Championship were drawn from the official PGA Tour website. Each year, we analyzed the Winner and the Runner-up on what aspects of their game gave them the edge against other players on the field.

Then, we compared the top 10 ranks of the players in each of the Strokes Gained categories to identify the scoring zones leveraged by the Winner and Runner-up.

The strokes gained data was analyzed for players who played exceptionally well in some categories and poorly in others. Comparing these contrasting data points gave us critical insight into the high-performing players.

We further explored how players scored on the Tee shot, Irons, Wedges, and Putter, to identify the consistent equipment that is winning championships. 

Detailed Observations 

2013

Tiger Woods won the 2013 Players Tournament, and Kevin Streelman, Jeff Maggert, and David Lingmerth were tied for second place. Woods ranked 30th in the SG: OTT rankings by gaining a total of 0.926 strokes and occupied the 38th spot in the SG: Putting rankings by gaining 1.78 strokes.

However, he finished 2nd in the SG: APP rankings by gaining 7.972 strokes and 6th in SG: ATG rankings by gaining 3.842 strokes. All the three runner-ups had a similar scoring pattern where they performed poorly in putting but scored well in approach and around the green shots.

Also, the Runner-up players have also followed a similar trend however they could not match Woods on the significant gains he had created on SG: APP. Hence, It was apparent that iron shots from the fairways won him the Championship.

2014

A similar pattern emerged in the 2014 tournament where Martin Kaymer was the winner. He ranked 20th in SG: OTT rankings by gaining 2.014 strokes and 19th in SG: Putting rankings by gaining 2.873 strokes.

Whereas, in SG: APP, he was ranked fourth and gained 5.969 total strokes, and in SG: ATG, he finished 13th with 2.696 strokes gained. 

The runner-up, Jim Furyk, finished 7th in SG: ATG rankings but finished 25th in SG: APP rankings. This could probably be the reason he lost to Kaymer.

2015

Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler, and Kevin Kisner tied for first place in THE PLAYERS Championship 2015. All three of these had poor performance on SG: Putting as neither of them finished in the top 10. Fowler and Kisner were lackluster in SG: OTT as they occupied the 26th and 34th spots, respectively. 

However, their performance in SG: APP and SG: ATG was up to the mark where they managed to compensate for their putting and off the tee shots.

Particularly in approach play, Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler performed significantly well as they grabbed the 2nd and 5th spots in SG: APP. 

2016

Jason Day won the 2016 Players Championship but had a poor scoring run in off the tee shots, where he finished 28th in SG: OTT rankings by gaining 1.874 strokes.

However, his strong iron play in approach and around the green play helped him win the tournament.

The runner-up, Kevin Chappell, finished 72nd in the SG: Putting rankings and 15th in SG: OTT rankings. Still, he managed to finish as the runner-up due to his superb display in SG: APP rankings, where he grabbed the top spot by gaining 11.143 strokes.

2017

The 2017 Players Championship winner was Si Woo Kim, who had a good scoring run in off the tee shots, but his performance in putting was unsatisfactory. He finished 37th in the SG: Putting rankings by gaining 1.16 strokes.

Whereas he gained 4.109 strokes on SG: APP and combining 4.924 strokes on SG: ARG occupying the 3rd spot in that that gave him an edge over the other players.

The trend repeats itself again where the winner is determined by strong iron play instead of putting.

2018

Webb Simpson, the winner of the 2018 Players Championship is the only winner who performed well in putting and had a disappointing scoring run in approach play.

However, it must be noted that Simpson finished 32nd in SG: OTT rankings and occupied third place in SG: ATG rankings. 

However, the three runner-ups, Jimmy Walker, Charl Schwartzel, and Xander Schauffele, followed the same trend from the past tournaments where they played poorly in putting.

Of these, Walker and Schauffele performed poorly in off the tee shots as well. All three of these gained significant amounts of strokes in SG: APP and ultimately finished as runner-ups. 

2019

Finally, in 2019, Rory Mcllroy won THE PLAYERS Championship purely based on his off the tee shots and approach play, where he occupied the 2nd and 6th spots, respectively.

However, his performance in SG: Putting was below his standards as he finished in the 46th spot. 

Tommy Fleetwood led the SG: OTT rankings, but he squandered that lead in his approach play, where he finished 41st.

Whereas the runner-up, Jim Furyk, followed the same pattern as he performed poorly in off the tee and putting, but his inspired iron play in SG: APP and SG: ATG earned him the 2nd spot in the tournament. 

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