Reading Form

Most golf tippers decide their weekly choices for European and US tournaments by using the same procedure. First, they go by the form guide of the player. Next, past form on the links. Next comes more personal items, like injuries or messy divorces.

And then there are statistics. Golf is one of those sports where stats are an essential betting guide. The PGA Tour lists 47 various categories of number crunches. Most are as useless as a European at a US Open, but some are invaluable in the pursuit of winners. The fundamental point is to know which stats to study. In golf, not all stats are the same. When you are preparing to place your bet, you need to know just what to look for when you read golf form.

The main statistic is a player's Scoring Average. Not to be mistaken with a player's Stroke Average (called Actual Scoring Average in the US), it's listed on the PGA's website. The governing body of the US tour defines Scoring Average as: 'A weighted average, which takes the stroke average of the field into account.

'It's calculated by adding a player's total strokes to an adjustment, and dividing by the total rounds played. The adjustment is calculated by determining the stroke average of the field for each round played, deducted from par to make an adjustment (per) round. A player accrues these adjustments for each round he plays in.'

Flip side of the anomaly

Basically, it's a far better assessment of a player's performance because it takes into consideration how tough a golf course is. A player's Stroke Average, by comparison, is his average hits per round.

But how do you use this for you own benefit? Odds compilers pairing golfers together for match bets sometimes take a snap judgment on the merits of certain players using the wrong figures. This is the place you can find some value. It advantageous to check carefully how players have been assessed to see which Averages the compilers are using.

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Putting stats are sometimes misconstrued, leading to poor player selection by bettors in tournaments requiring prowess with the flat stick. The US Open is commonly thought to require players to putt well to win.

Therefore, Putting Average - which counts only putts taken on greens that are hit in regulation - better gauges a player's putting ability. Why? Consider a player continually missing the green with his approach. He will be constantly chipping from off the green towards the cup. It makes sense that he will take fewer strokes with his putter because he will be closer to the hole when first using it. The Putting Average stat eradicates the effect of chipping close and one-putting a green.

Solid gold irons

Remaining on the US Open theme reveals another area of stats ignorance. It is continually mentioned how tight the fairways are at Augusta, so many golf punters study the Driving Accuracy stats to look for a player who can drive the ball straight. Amazingly, only one of the previous five US Open champions has been ranked in the top 50 in the Driving Accuracy category, using year end figures and through August for this season. All five champions, have dominated a top 25 spot in the Total Driving class, which takes into consideration both Driving Accuracy and Driving Distance categories.

Total Driving better mirrors how straight a player drives from the tee, as the further you hit the ball, the more it deviates from a true line. While this infers the shorter hitter should land the ball in play more often, it doesn't necessarily mean he is straighter.

The Total Driving stat also explains the controversy that the Greens in Regulation category is the best way to form an opinion on how good a player is with his irons.

You should also reject Sand Save Percentage, which measures ability to finish a hole on par after being in a bunker. There isn't sufficient data around to make this stat worthwhile. To boost my case, just take a look at Els' ranking on the PGA Tour. Any instructor will inform you that the South African is considered the best in the business from sand.

Finally, be wary of carrying a set of stats from one tournament to another, notably if two courses falling consecutively on a player's schedule are radically different. If you want to familiarise yourself with the strength of a tournament, look at how many world ranking points are on offer for that event. The higher the number of points, the stronger the field and the more worthwhile the form.

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