You can’t win the Masters without all parts of your golf game in good shape, but Tiger Woods was clearly led by a dazzling display of iron shots that helped him hit a field-best 80.56 percent of greens in regulation at Augusta National. This shouldn’t come as a surprise for a player long considered the game’s best in this area, and who finished third in strokes gained: approach-the-green last season during his comeback campaign. What will probably come as a surprise, though, is that Tiger is hitting greens in regulation at a better clip in 2019 than he has in any previous year. And yes, that includes his mythical 2000 season.
Thanks to the 15th Club for noting this stat after Woods’ Masters performance pushed this season’s GIR to 75.56 percent. As you’d expect, this highest rate of his career is also first on the PGA Tour.
But before we declare Woods a better-than-ever iron player, there are a few key things to note. For one, since 2000, greens in regulation has been replaced by strokes gained: approach-the-green as the best indicator of iron play. And Woods’ performance in that category this season (+.700 or .7 shots gained per round on the field average) doesn’t come close to his best mark of +2.072 in 2006 (strokes gained metrics go back to 2004). We’re pretty sure his number in 2000 when he won nine times, including three majors, would have been pretty impressive as well.
The reason why strokes gained is a better measurement, of course, is that all greens in regulation are not equal. For instance, Tiger got just as much credit in that stat for his poor approach on No. 9 during the final round as he did for the near hole-in-one he had on No. 16. And the two stats don’t always correlate well as indicated by Woods finishing only 82nd in GIR last season despite ranking third in strokes gained: approach-the-green.
However, Woods’ PGA Tour strokes gained stats are incomplete since they don’t factor in certain courses/events, including the Masters (His GIR stats do factor in to his official stats). Considering 15th Club tracked this and had Woods ranked No. 1 for the week, we’re guessing that +.700 number would be a lot higher, though, still not as high as that mind-boggling 2006 mark in which he was gaining more than eight shots on the field per tournament just from his approach shots.
In any event, while GIR is a somewhat outdated stat, it still proved telling during Woods’ fifth Masters title. And because other metrics prove Tiger is no longer the putter he used to be, regularly hitting quality irons shots like he did in his prime is more important to his success than ever.