The FedEx Cup Playoffs are over, Viktor Hovland is your Tour King for the year, and now we look ahead to the Ryder Cup, the new fall stretch, and what lies ahead in 2024.
Before we do, it’s worth one last backward look at the season that was, and a deep dive into the stats. Each year, there are some eye-popping surprises buried in the data, and this is a great time to dig out the treasure.
What follows are 10 stats that caught our eye from the 2022-23 season
1. Brian Harman is the scramble king
Did it seem to you, on Saturday and Sunday in the Open Championship, that Brian Harman was constantly getting up and down from some very tough spots to maintain and even increase his lead? As it turns out, this wasn’t at all out of character. Harman’s scrambling percentage, 67.74 percent, was first among all players this season. It’s an impressive rate that put him ahead of other top-10 players such as Scottie Scheffler, Matt Kuchar and Tommy Fleetwood. And Harman needed it; unlike Scheffler, who was No. 1 in SG/approach, Harman was all the way down at 105. If his short game wasn’t so on point, he wouldn’t have had the year he did, and probably wouldn’t have won an Open Championship. (Harman was particularly good from the sand, saving 72% of all chances from 10-20 yards, also first on tour.)
2. Scheffler’s scramble game is quietly ridiculous
At this point, most of us know that Scheffler was first in SG/off the tee, first in SG/tee to green, and first in SG/approach—a terrifying triple crown of ball-striking. But here’s something that flew under the radar—around the green, the guy was also a genius. Along with the top 10 in scrambling, he was sixth in SG/around the green, and first in average distance to the hole in scrambling situations—the only player to average closer than seven feet.
Basically, along with being the best ball-striker in professional golf by pretty much any metric you want to find, his opponents also lived with the reality that the few times he messed up, he was going to get really, really close anyway.
3. Maverick McNealy notches a putting feat not done in almost a decade
The last time a player averaged more than a stroke gained per round over his opponents in putting was nearly a decade ago, when Jason Day amassed an absurd 1.130 SG/putting in 2015-16. This year, Maverick McNealy shattered the ceiling for only the second time in history, with an average of 1.058. Unfortunately for him, a solid fall gave way to a pretty miserable 2023, and putting was about the only thing that went well before a shoulder injury sidelined him for most of the summer.
4. Taylor Montgomery led pretty much every putting category you can name
Montgomery may have finished second to McNealy in SG/putting, which is the Rolls Royce of stats (though Montgomery had 76 measured rounds to McNealy’s 46), but here’s part of a very long list of all the putting categories he led in 2022-23: total putting, putting average, overall putting average, birdie or better conversion percentage, putts per round, total one-putts, putting from over 25 feet, putting from 10-15 feet, average distance of putts made. And many more. The guy’s a machine!
5. Harris English boldly crossed the 100-foot barrier for the second-longest putt ever
Here’s some trivia: How many putts of longer than 100 feet have ever been made on the PGA Tour? The answer is “we don’t know,” but we do know the total since 2003, when this stuff was first measured. Angel Cabrera buried a 103-footer in 2011 in Phoenix. Ben Curtis dropped a 100-foot, one-inch bomb at the 2007 Players, and in 2008 Craig Barlow hit the longest putt ever—111 feet, five inches—at the Buick Open. (Except, when we followed up on that mystery, it turned out it wasn’t really a putt at all.
This year, English joined that elite club when he hit a 100-foot, three-inch putt at the sixth hole of the WM Phoenix Open on Friday. Unfortunately, there is no video of this shot immediately available, but stay tuned for more on this.
6. Koreans have a grip on the “total hole outs” stat
The best thing about going super granular on tour stats is that it gives you the opportunity to find some details that are half-fascinating and half-stupid. This one meets both criteria—in 2020-21, K.H Lee led the tour with 24 hole-outs from anywhere off the green (T-1 with Troy Merritt). Last year, it was Sungjae Im leading with 25. And in 2022-23, Byeong Hun An kept it in the Korean family, holing out 25 times to tie with Ben Griffin for first. The Koreans take dead aim!
7. Hovland loves the thick grass
In approach statistics, one unmissable stop on the grand tour is the stats from the rough. This year, one takeaway is that Hovland is incredible from the rough. He’s fourth in proximity from the rough, first in proximity from the right rough, a respectable 34th from the left rough, and sixth in “birdie or better percentage” from the rough in general. We hear so much about his improved short game and all the other things he does well, but here’s an underrated aspect—the man can play from the thick stuff.
8. Patrick Cantlay will not lay up
9. Rory became a driving pioneer, again
In 2003, for the first time in measured history, a player averaged more than 320 yards for half of his measured drives. That was Hank Kuehne, who crossed the threshold at 56.72 percent. Bubba Watson was the next to do it in 2006, followed by J.B. Holmes (2011) and Trey Mullinax (2017-18).
At that point, the distance gains took serious hold, and by last season, fully six guys averaged 320 or better 50 percent of the time. Then, this year, Rory McIlroy broke the 60-percent barrier, finishing at 63.28 percent. It’s the latest sign that distance keeps gaining on the professional game, and that McIlroy is at the forefront. (It will also not surprise anyone to know he became the first player ever to average more than 325 yards for all drives.)
10. Russell Henley is the new Calvin Peete
Peete was so famous as a guy who never missed fairways that a gambling game based on accuracy was named in his honor, and now it appears that mantle belongs to Henley, whose 71.74 percent fairways hit percentage led the tour. He’s been in the top 30 for the last five years, but this is his first time leading, and represents a continuing evolution. Based on this, it seems like there is a very good chance we might be second-guessing U.S. captain Zach Johnson not picking him for the Ryder Cup in a month, since the rough is awful thick at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club.