PGA Tour: Statistical analysis of top-20 finishes

PGA Tour stats analysis

Golf correspondent Andy Swales unravels the stats behind the stats to make sense of the anomalies which sometimes exist in tournament results. He breaks down top-20 finishes into five categories ...

"Golf's major championship star of recent years (Brooks Koepka) remains an anomaly. His top-20 percentage for Category 1 + 2 events is 57.69%. But for Category 3 - and its considerably weaker fields - this reads 27.27%."

The number of golf betting markets available to punters is increasing all the time. From the days when the only choices were to either select an 'outright winner' or opt for an 'each-way' bet - or chance your hand on both - the variety of markets have grown at a steady rate.

'Spread Betting' became big business in golf during the mid-1990s, having started two decades earlier in the financial markets of The City.

During the 1970s, people would bet on the daily movement of the price of gold, and this was later extended to cover most financial markets, and subsequently sporting events.

Two and three-ball betting also became popular while, more recently, there was the introduction of markets for Top-5, Top-10 and Top-20 finishes.

This feature takes a look at the current PGA Tour stats behind Top-20 Finishes.

It analyses the results of official Tour events staged since January 1 2018.

The first table is an overall listing, compiling the percentages of top-20 finishes during this period.

The other four tables break this down into sections, with tournaments afforded one of five categories, depending on their status.

Using points awarded by the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) to determine which category a tournament belongs in, the general rule of thumb is as follows:

Category 1 includes the four majors, The Players Championship, most WGC events, and some other tournaments.

Category 5 includes tournaments with the weakest fields, as stipulated by the OWGR points system.

General Trends

Before attempting to make sense of these listings, it is worth pointing out one or two general trends, which the majority of punters will probably be aware of anyway.

By and large, golfers will register more top-20s in weaker fields than stronger ones.

This is fairly logical, although there are some anomalies, including one high-profile case which I'll discuss later.

Another trend is that golf's biggest stars focus their attention on the more prestigious events, which attract large purses and stronger fields.

If a golfer is lucky or good enough to qualify for the four majors, WGC tournaments and other special events such as those at Bay Hill and Muirfield Village, why bother teeing-up in the John Deere Classic or the Puerto Rico Open.

For example, during the period in question, Rory McIlroy played 41 tournaments, of which 34 were either Category 1 or 2.

McIlroy tops the list of percentages for all five categories combined. Click here to view complete list of top-20 averages (categories 1 to 5)

The main purpose of these tables is to identify players whose records between the various categories appear to be more disproportionate than others, and therefore might offer decent value when the PGA Tour is back up and running again.

This applies to the lower ranked players as much as the higher profile ones. Here are a few interesting cases:

Paul Casey

The world no.24 has been one of the sport's most consistent players in recent years. Since January 1st, 2018, he has posted top-20 finishes in 50% of his outings. And while this reads 41.38% for Categories 1 + 2, it rises significantly to 71.43% for Category 3 events. In this category, his number of top-20s was 10 from 14 starts. Not surprisingly, his two victories during this period came in Category 3 events too - both at Innisbrook. Click here to view listing for Category 3

Brooks Koepka

Golf's Major championship star of recent years remains an anomaly. Since the start of 2017, his performances in the big four events have far outstripped anyone else. Thanks largely to his form in the Majors, his top-20 percentage for Category 1 + 2 events is 57.69%. But for Category 3 - which are considerably weaker fields - this reads 27.27% (Just three top-20s from 11 starts). Click here to view listing for Categories 1 + 2

Webb Simpson

Mr Consistency at all levels of golf, rising from 53.85% for Categories 1 + 2, to 76.19% for Categories 3 + 4 + 5. No wonder he is a former US Open champion and Players' Championship winner. In Category 3 alone it is 80%. Click here to view listing for Categories 3 + 4 + 5


Other golfers who show a marked increase between Categories 1 + 2 and Category 3 include: Byeong Hun An (25% to 52.63%) and Scott Piercy. The latter's two from 18 starts for Categories 1 + 2 (11.11%), becomes 11 from 24 (45.83%) for Category 3.

The records for Charles Howell and Andew Putnam are interesting when you compare their performances in the top two Categories (1 + 2), against the lowest two Categories (4 + 5). Howell's range is 24.14% to 50%, while Putnam's rise is even steeper from 19.05% to 54.55%. Click here to view listing for Categories 4 + 5

Leading 10 For All Five Categories

%...........(Starts - Top 20s)
75.61: Rory McIlroy (41 - 31)
70.00: Jon Rahm (40 - 28)
69.57: Justin Thomas (46 - 32)
65.00: Dustin Johnson (40 - 26)
63.83: Webb Simpson (47 - 30)
60.53: Tommy Fleetwood (38 - 23)
60.47: Patrick Cantlay (43 - 26)
59.62: Hideki Matsuyama (52 - 31)
57.78: Rickie Fowler (45 - 26)
56.76: Justin Rose (37 - 21)
Min. No. of Starts = 15

Twitter: Andy Swales@GolfStatsAlive

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