Matsuyama’s Magic Metrics Were Key To Winning The Masters
Using Arccos Strokes Gained Analytics Feature to Breakdown the 2021 Masters Champion’s Performance
Betting odds and “win probability” on the PGA TOUR week-to-week are largely based on advanced analytics, like strokes gained, that measure how many shots a player gains or loses against the field.
When 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama sank his final putt on the 18th hole at Augusta National last Sunday, it’s safe to say that no one saw it coming.
Not the casinos, pundits and prognosticators in the U.S., and likely not the golf cognoscenti back in Matsuyama’s golf-crazed home country of Japan, where the game is as popular as it is here in the States. Why? The analytics simply didn’t work in his favour.
Make no mistake, Matsuyama has long been a top-flight player, and he even notched five top 10s during the 2020 COVID-19 interrupted season. And throughout his eight-year TOUR career, he’s been an elite ball-striker and iron player, with his strokes gained approach ranging from +0.52 to +1.02.
However, Matsuyama has long been considered a below average putter, and his strokes gained putting supports this assertion. In 2020, he was -0.46 and leading up to the Masters in 2021, he was -0.29. Traditional wisdom holds that any player donning the green jacket must be a wizard with the flat stick.
Unlike other major tournaments, the Masters doesn’t release strokes gained analytics for players, so we entered each of Matsuyama’s 278 shots into the Arccos Caddie App to generate a detailed report via the proprietary Strokes Gained Analytics feature. Benchmarked against an “average” TOUR player (plus-five handicap), here’s the breakdown by category.
Strokes Gained Driving
“Drive for show and putt for dough” is the old adage. And driving distance is the end-all-be-all statistic these days, right? Well, not according to Matsuyama’s strokes gained driving on Augusta National’s undulating, sloping fairways. Surprisingly, he was +1.6 over four rounds while finishing third to last in driving distance.
Both Phil Mickelson and Fred Couples finished ahead of Matsuyama in that category, and he bested only Larry Mize and Jose Maria Olazabal. In driving accuracy, he finished 32nd and on Saturday, when he made his big move up the leaderboard, Matsuyama hit only five of 14 fairways. On Sunday, he doubled up, hitting 10 of 14 fairways for a 71.43% clip.
This is a clear example of traditional statistics – driving distance and accuracy – not painting the full analytics picture. What’s more, many tournaments, including the Masters, only collect sample driving data on two or three holes. At Augusta National, holes 5 and 15 are used for driving distance.
Strokes Gained Approach Game
As you’d expect based on nearly a decade of excelling with his irons and wedges, Matsuyama finished in the top six in greens in regulation (GIR), hitting 69 percent over four rounds. His strokes gained approach was +0.4 – solid but not spectacular.
Diving a bit deeper, his strokes gained approach by pin distance was +1.0 on shots between 50-100 yards, -0.1 on shots 100-150 yards, +0.4 on shots 150-200 and -0.1 on shots over 200 yards. On strokes gained approach by terrain, Matsuyama was +0.2 off the tee on par 3s, +0.1 from fairways, +0.1 from the rough and -0.1 from the sand.
Strokes Gained Short Game
Anyone who watched Saturday’s round, and was paying keen attention during the restart following the rain delay, noticed that Matsuyama was simply brilliant around the greens that afternoon. On 0-25-yard chips, he was +0.8 strokes gained with an average distance to the pin of six feet and 100% on up-and-downs.
Matsuyama was also proficient from the sand, posting a strokes gained +0.1 on 25-50 yard bunker shots and landing his ball within eight-feet of the pin. In terms of putting, he did just enough to get by, finishing 26th in the field and posting a -0.3 strokes gained putting.
The bottom line: Matsuyama did just enough – and did just enough at the right time – to fly back to Japan with the green jacket on his arm.
Arccos Caddie’s Strokes Gained Analytics feature unlocks the data players need for rapid game improvement, decreasing their reliance on traditional statistics. Accessed via the Player icon in the bottom left corner of the App screen, Arccos members can set their target handicap (ranging from 20 to Tour player) and round average (from one to 50). The Strokes Gained Analytics feature offers detailed insights, trends and recommendations for both practice and on-course adjustments.
Related: Golf Monthly leveraged these stats to write an in-depth look at each round. Check it out!
Take a peek at the beta version of our web dashboard with newly integrated Strokes Gained Analytics with Matsuyama's Masters rounds below: