Most important skill playing the Olympic Club (U.S. Open)

June 11, 2012

I was having lunch with Bill, a friend and former co-worker this week, and amongst the normal catch-up chit chat, our conversations steered toward the upcoming U.S. Open. We started talking about the course and asked each other the question, what is the most important skill required to win at the Olympic Club, location of this year’s U.S. Open?

Bill has had the pleasure of playing the Olympic Club and he felt pretty confident that driving accuracy has to be significant, “Olympic Club is unique in that there are really no water hazards, maybe one or two fairway bunkers, and doglegs that slope in the opposite direction! Driving accuracy has to be the most important statistic.”

I decided to dig a little a deeper to see if my friend is correct as well as figure out who to pick to win the U.S. Open in my golf pool. To help solve the answer, I developed an exploratory infographic tool that visually shows how members of the PGA tour performed at the Olympic Club during the past two PGA events at the course (1998 U.S. Open and 1987 U.S. Open).

Each axis indicates a different season long statistic for every golfer on either an absolute or ranking basis. For instance, in 1998 John Daly and Tiger Woods are the top two long hitters in the game. The actual driving distance value for John Daly and Tiger Woods is 299.4 and 296.3, respectively while the PGA ranking would be 1 and 2, respectively. Feel free to click/drag on any axis to highlight a selected range to view. The orange rectangles will shift accordingly showing you the average rankings of the selected players while the blue rectangles will remain constant representing the average of all players.

Below the exploratory tool is a correlation matrix that shows how each of the variables relate to each other. As the old saying goes, “Drive for show, putt for dough”, putting tops the list of the skill categories while being a long hitter or one of the better eagle makers on tour doesn't really matter. All other skill attributes measured in this analysis are somewhat positively correlated for winning at the Olympic Club, Bill was semi-right. When picking a winner, look for players who have an all around solid game but not necessarily long hitters. My picks: Luke Donald and Zach Johnson.


Actual or
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contributors to this post

headshot of Aaron Wolf
headshot of Dean Malmgren
headshot of Mike Stringer