This is the most (and least) important metric in predicting major winners

Which strokes-gained stats are the most important when predicting a major winner? We dove into the stats to find out.

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Want to predict which golfer is going to win a major? Good luck.

Every major week, pundits submit their best guesses on who is going to take home the crown. More often than not, they’re wrong. Save for a few savants, picking the winner is seemingly a crapshoot.

I dived deep into the stats — here’s what it reveals about this year’s winner

By: Luke Kerr-Dineen

However, it is possible to narrow down your options to a handsome list of names. If you rely on strokes-gained statistics, there are some trends that point to the type of player that will win.

With the importance of strokes-gained data in mind, I did my own analysis of the advanced stats of major winners over the past five years, analyzing six strokes-gained categories trying to see if there was a commonality among them. And, surprisingly enough, a trend line did appear.

Keep in mind, I am no stats expert — but I can use a spreadsheet. And after organizing the advanced stats, I’m confident that the stats listed below are the most (and least) important in predicting a major winner.

Most important metric

Far and away the most important metric among major winners of the past five years in SG: Tee-to-Green. Since the beginning of 2017, every major winner but one has ranked inside the top 50 in SG: Tee-to-Green for the season. (Phil Mickelson is the only winner that failed to meet that criteria, representing the biggest outlier.) Additionally, every winner but four has ranked inside the the top 20 in SG: Tee-to-Green.

2022 Winner SG: Tee-to-Green
Masters Scottie Scheffler 7th
PGA Justin Thomas 4th
USO Matt Fitzpatrick 3rd
2021 Winner SG: Tee-to-Green
Masters Hideki Matsuyama 15th
PGA Phil Mickelson 160th
USO Jon Rahm 6th
British Collin Morikawa 2nd
2020 Winner SG: Tee-to-Green
Masters Dustin Johnson 29th
PGA Collin Morikawa 5th
USO Bryson DeChambeau 5th
2019 Winner SG: Tee-to-Green
Masters Tiger Woods N/A
PGA Brooks Koepka 12th
USO Gary Woodland 16th
British Shane Lowry N/A
2018 Winner SG: Tee-to-Green
Masters Patrick Reed 29th
PGA Brooks Koepka 12th
USO Brooks Koepka 12th
British Francesco Molinari 2nd
2017 Winner SG: Tee-to-Green
Masters Sergio Garcia 9th
PGA Justin Thomas 4th
USO Brooks Kopeka 42nd
British Jordan Spieth 2nd

Ed note: Tiger Woods and Francesco Molinari did not log enough PGA Tour rounds to qualify for stroke-gained rankings in 2018.

The takeaway? If you’re going to win a major, you need to be a world-class ball striker.

Least important metric

You know the old saying “drive for show, putt for dough?” Well, it’s a bunch of bologna — at least when it comes to predicting major winners.

Twenty-two major winners have been crowned since the beginning of 2017. Just two(!) have ranked inside the top 20 in SG: Putting, and just one of them has finished the season ranked inside the top 10 (Brooks Koepka, 2017). In fact, you can be a certifiably mediocre putter and still win a major. Seven major winners over the past five years have won while being ranked outside the top 100 in SG: Putting, and four of them ranked outside the top 150.

2022 Winner SG: Putting
Masters Scottie Scheffler 40th
PGA Justin Thomas 57th
USO Matt Fitzpatrick 35th
2021 Winner SG: Putting
Masters Hideki Matsuyama 175th
PGA Phil Mickelson 115th
USO Jon Rahm 63rd
British Collin Morikawa 178th
2020 Winner SG: Putting
Masters Dustin Johnson 28th
PGA Collin Morikawa 128th
USO Bryson DeChambeau 20th
2019 Winner SG: Putting
Masters Tiger Woods N/A
PGA Brooks Koepka 48th
USO Gary Woodland 130th
British Shane Lowry N/A
2018 Winner SG: Putting
Masters Patrick Reed 72nd
PGA Brooks Koepka 48th
USO Brooks Koepka 48th
British Francesco Molinari 182nd
2017 Winner SG: Putting
Masters Sergio Garcia 167th
PGA Justin Thomas 43rd
USO Brooks Kopeka 5th
British Jordan Spieth 48th

Ed note: Tiger Woods and Francesco Molinari did not log enough PGA Tour rounds to qualify for stroke-gained rankings in 2018.

Now, while the season-long rankings don’t point to putting being an important predictive measure in majors, that doesn’t mean putting is unimportant. When a player wins a major, they tend to have a solid week on the greens — just don’t count on season-long SG: Putting stats to help you predict who’s is going to get hot.

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Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf.