The “dreaded” four-putt… Isn’t that the way all golfers think about it? I certainly do – and so must the eight players at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am who suffered four-putts this past week. None more so than Nate Lashley who left the 16th green on Sunday after a four-putt for triple-bogey.
This dropped him from the lead to three strokes behind with only two holes left to recover. Devastating I’m sure! Not to pile on, but there are a few things that set Nate’s four-putt apart from the other seven at Pebble Beach:
- His was the only four-putt in the final round.
- His 13-footer 1st putt was the closest to the hole. There were two from 15 feet, two from 30 feet and the other three from 42, 47 and 53 feet, respectively.
- 13 feet was also the third-closest starting distance of the 54 four-putts recorded in the 2021 PGA Tour season so far. The closest was a painful four feet and second place was 12 feet.
- His was the only four-putt by a player in the lead.
Just how rare, or frequent, do these embarrassing four-putts happen? My focus group of one has always considered the four-putt to be a relative rarity. I only tend to play in a couple of stroke play events each year and throw in a few stroke play qualifying rounds.
The remainder of my 70 to 90 rounds per season are all match play where the unfortunate third putt is almost always conceded and picked up. In short, I expect on four-putt max each season and am usually relieved when I can get it out of the way early and blame it on “winter rust.”
I have studied putting and distance control on the PGA Tour for many years and know fully well that four-putts are by no means that rare among the best in the world. To update my conclusion, I looked at the 14 events of the Tour’s 2021 season including last week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Here is what I found over the course of 4,906 ShotLink-recorded rounds:
- 4-Putts: 51
- 5-Putts: 2
- 6-Putts: 1 (and it was from 4 feet!!)
- The average start distance of all 54 putts was 43.8 ft. The complete array of starting distances is in the chart below.
This amounts to a dreaded putting result once in every 91 PGA Tour rounds. In other words, just about every full-time Tour player has one each season.
Other points of interest:
The course matters.
- Winged Foot (home of the 2020 US Open) had the most with TEN four-putts and ONE six-putt (again, from four feet. OUCH!).
- Torrey Pines (South) was 2nd with nine four-putts.
- Pebble Beach was 3rd with eight four-putts.
- Five courses had one
- None of the 14 courses had zero 4-Putts.
How do amateurs match up?
To answer this, I had my genius friend and programmer run a quick query on 2020 ShotByShot year. I expected the frequency to be similar to the Tour’s, if not lower, due to the vast majority of rounds being match play – again, the third putt is generally conceded or picked up. I also believed that as the player handicaps go up, so will the instance of stroke play rounds dramatically diminish. Not true!
ShotByShot subscribers recorded 53,309 rounds and incurred a four-putt or worse once in every 19 rounds. That is 4.7 times the frequency of the PGA Tour. My only conclusion is that not only are ShotByShot subscribers extremely loyal, they are also much MORE HONEST than the palookas that keep beating up on me every week.
Peter Sanders is the President and a founding partner of ShotByShot.com, a unique strokes gained analysis program that helps golfers determine the precise strengths and weaknesses of each facet of their golf game, the system SwingU uses for its Versus product.
Peter has worked with PGA Tour players and major champions such as Zach Johnson, Lucas Glover, Smylie Kaufman, Zack Sucher, Sepp Straka, Dylan Frittelli and Michael Thompson to analyze and interpret their data for game improvement.
Read more from Peter on his Niblicks of Truth blog at ShotByShot.com.