What will it take to win this year’s Canadian Open?


VANCOUVER-- Researchers at UBC’s Sauder School of Business believe they have found the keys to winning the Canadian Open. Applying multivariate statistical techniques to PGA TOUR Shotlink data from the 2003 to 2007 Canadian Opens, Dr. Martin Puterman and Stefan Wittman believe that they have determined the relative importance of different shot-making skills (driving, iron-play, wedge-play, putting) as predictors of success at this year’s event. In the process, the two academics, who are both avid golfers, have also gained insight into how to improve their own games by seeing which skills have the greatest impact on score as well as which facets of the game the pros really excel at.

One key finding is that power, which we define as length off the tee and frequency at which players go for the green on par 5’s and short par 4’s, doesn’t have much of an effect on scores. In fact differences in power between players account for only 3% of the variation in total scores between players. Somewhat more surprising is that driving accuracy accounts for even less variation, 2%, in scores. Furthermore, longer hitters have been every bit as accurate as shorter hitters at the Canadian Open.

When analyzing iron-play, Puterman and Wittman found that accuracy of shots hit from the 125-175 yards have the greatest impact on the variation in scores. These short iron shots account for more than twice as much variation (5%) as wedge shots from inside of 125 yards (2%) and longer irons hit from outside 175 yards (2%).

To no great surprise, short game performance affects scoring the most, accounting for about 20% of variation. Of that, putting accounts for 11% while scrambling accounts for the remainder 9%. Putting from inside 10 feet matters most, and pros at the Canadian Open drain an average of 72% of them. Mid-range putts from 10-20 feet are made at a rate of about 1 in 4, while putts from beyond 20 feet fall about 1 in 10. Even more impressive is that the pros get up and down from the sand at about the same rate as they do from the rough. In both cases, a remarkable 50%.

Expressing these findings slightly differently, in order to decrease a player’s score by one stroke over the course of the tournament, he needs to either: drive the ball on average 15 yards further, hit 5 more fairways, go for the green 1.5 more times, hit his wedges five feet closer, hit his short irons three feet or hit his mid and long irons 10 feet closer.

Are these findings unique to the Canadian Open? Puterman and Wittman plan to investigate this question in the near future, looking at which factors contribute to success at other tournaments.

So who is going to win the Canadian Open this year? An outstanding short iron player with a great short game.

Professor Martin L. Puterman
Sauder School of Business, UBC
Office 604-822-8388
Cell 604-999-6754

Stefan Wittman
Sauder School of Business, UBC
Cell 778-229-7662