Best Approach to Green Players on the PGA Tour

Golfer Waiting to Tee off ca. 2000

Unlike greens in regulation, putts per hole, or driving distance, there isn’t a single statistical percentage or number that measures expertise at approaching the green.


The best resource to use is the Strokes Gained (SG): Approach the Green, which according to the PGA Tour website, includes “all shots that are not from the tee on par-4 and par-5 holes and are not included in strokes gained: around-the-green and strokes gained: putting and also include tee shots on par-3s.”


The Strokes Gained statistic measures a player’s performance relative to the other players in the field during a particular event. The concept has seen a steady increase in influence over the past decade to compare players’ performance in a way that goes beyond the traditional statistical measurements.


Morikawa Finds His Mark


Not surprisingly, the top Tour player in SG: Approach the Green for the 2020-2021 season was a two-time major champion and five-time winner Collin Morikawa, who had two victories last year, including The Open Championship, and led the FedEx Cup standings entering the playoffs.


On average, Morikawa gains 1.17 strokes on the field with his approach game, well in front of runner-up Paul Casey’s .895.


It’s well established that the weakness, if he really has one, in Morikawa’s game is around the green, specifically his chip shots from just off the putting surface. The SG: Approach the Green measure excludes that particular category, so this statistic shows just how dominant the 24-year-old second-ranked player in the world is from the fairway.


The Rest of the Top Five

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Closely behind European Ryder Cup player and perennial major championship contender Casey is former PGA Championship winner and defending Players champion Justin Thomas, who averages .887 SG: Approach the Green per round.


For both Morikawa and Thomas, this part of their game was the major contributor to them finishing second and third in SG: Tee to Green for the entire 2020-2021 season.


In fourth place was another former major champion and four-time Tour winner, with Keegan Bradley picking up .856 strokes per round with his approach shots. Bradley has struggled since the rules change that eliminated anchoring the long putter. Still, the rest of his game is seemingly unaffected as he looks to regain his former status and return to the Tour Championship for the first time since 2018.


Rounding out the top five in SG: Approach the Green for last season was the 2021 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am winner and American Ryder Cup team member Daniel Berger, who had an SG: Approach the Green figure of .834. Berger has four career PGA Tour wins and closed the 2021 Tour Championship with a 64 that elevated him to 11th in the final FedEx Cup standings.


The biggest name in the rest of the top ten in SG: Approach the Green is Jon Rahm, who led in SG: Tee to Green in 2021 primarily due to his play off the tee, but he was also eighth in the approach category with an average of .717. Rahm’s consistent all-around game is the primary reason he rose to the top of the world rankings and record 15 top ten finishes in 2020-2021, including his first major championship victory in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

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