A 3 Foot Putt or an Extra Point - Which is Easier?
01 Oct 2010
by Pete Wlodkowski of AmateurGolf.com
see also: Founder's Blog
I'm not much of a stats guy but there is one thing I always wonder during football season. Just how easy is it to make an extra point?
I must have been really bored the other day, because I took a few minutes to look up some stats.
My gut told me that at football and golf's highest levels, missing an extra point happens about as often as missing a 3-footer. And with Shot Link and the internet, it's pretty easy to find out if my intuition was correct.
Let's start with golf. In 2007 (and I'm sure that it's similar for any year) PGA Tour pros golfers mad 99.2% of putts from 3 feet or less. It may seem like a can't miss, but given that there were 168,000 putts attempted from this distance, over 1500 were missed. At over 99%, it's no surprise then that some golfers can literally almost go through a season without missing a short one.
In football, one internet site simply reported a statistic of 99% of extra points being made. But I looked a little deeper and found that in 2009, most teams made 100% of their extra points, but the worst team made approximately 92%.
Maybe the fact that it's so easy to make these two "plays" brings the mental game into them so much more under pressure. As one voice says "can't miss" the other can utter all sorts of disturbing comments. Who hasn't faced the pressure of waiting to make a big birdie or eagle putt after hitting the shot of your life, only to have to stand around for what seems like hours as the other players in the group play away, giving you your chance. To take a line from Tom Petty "The waiting is the hardest part."
I have been fortunate enough to play with the colorful Doug Sanders. Anyone who knows their golf history will recognize his 3 foot putt to win the 1970 British Open as probably the most recognizable gaff ever. Sanders estimated the cost of the putt in millions of dollars, but the way he spoke about it, those dollar value estimates were just a way he has come up to rationalize "it's only money."
Whether he won that tournament or not, I can tell you from experience that he's the nicest guy you'll want to meet.
And when my group played with him in Palm Springs, he made it easy on us by bringing up that famous putt before any of us put our foots in our mouth by asking about it.