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Birdies and bogeys

Birdies/Score vs. Hits/Runs

How big a role do you think birdies play on the pro tour in determining who wins the tournament? If you are thinking “decisive,” you are wrong. If the number of birdies or number of strokes under par, (gross negative score, GNS) before counting bogeys or worse, determined the winner of a golf tournament, the list of winners each week would change dramatically. Determining the winner of a golf tournament on the basis of holes under par would be equivalent to determining the winner of a baseball game by hits rather than runs.

Example: Colonel Bogey™ has long been a fan of and subscriber to Golfweek (full disclosure: no doubt partly because Golfweek’s predecessor Florida Golfweek carried a Colonel Bogey column many years ago) but even Golfweek can be trapped by the conventional wisdom that it is primarily birdies and eagles that determine the weekly winner on the PGA Tour. The lead headline on the cover of the 10/26/02 issue of Golfweek stated “Burns turns aggressive, goes low at Disney.” The inside story began:

“Funny, but it wasn’t until Bob Burns was on his way out of Las Vegas Oct. 11 that he decided to roll the dice. Stunned that he had made 19 birdies in three days yet missed the cut and faced yet another lost weekend in his quest to tie up his PGA Tour card for 2003, he grew bold in his moment of ire.

He swallowed hard and took a swing for the fences.

‘I’m going to win next week.’ The journeyman with –count ‘em—absolutely zero previous PGA Tour victories proclaimed to his caddy…”

And Burns did win! But not because he turned aggressive or went for the fences at Disney. On the contrary. Read on:

In Las Vegas, Burns had 19 birdies in three rounds for an average of 6.3 birdies per round. At Disney, Burns had 28 birdies for an average of 7 birdies per round. While this is not an insignificant difference on the PGA tour, remember that in Vegas Burns missed the cut, while at Disney he won the tournament. So, what was the real difference? At Disney, Burns had only three bogeys so that his average net below par for each round was 6.3 strokes (an average score of 65.8) while in Vegas while he had 19 birdies in three rounds his net below par for each round was 2 strokes (an average score of 69).

The difference was that Burns reduced the number of strokes over par from an average of +3.7 strokes per round in Vegas to an average of +.75 strokes per round at Disney. He didn’t go for broke and make more birdies. He played smart and made fewer bogeys so that his birdies really counted!!

How big a difference did this make?

The difference between missing the cut, making no money, and winning $666,000 and all the pluses that go with a tour win.

For you the difference may be just between losing or winning a few bucks in your weekly Nassau, but winning could become a habit. If you havn’t already, isn’t it time to
start playing the Colonel Bogey way?