US PGA Championship: The key stats that tell the story of Southern Hills

A look at the numbers behind Justin Thomas’s playoff victory over Will Zalatoris and other takeaways from the second Major championship of 2022.

In the build-up to the US PGA Championship at Southern Hills, a number of key skills had been identified.

The club's director of golf, Cary Cozby, had said: "Whoever wins here is going to have to be a great chipper."

Eventual winner Justin Thomas had said the course "challenged all facets of your game".

Others picked out approach play and hitting greens in the right number.

So how did it play out?

Putter was key for Thomas

Thomas went into the week with a reputation for being a "great chipper" and he certainly used those skills, ranking 13th in the field for Strokes Gained: Around The Green.

Notably, when the pressure was really on, he was 6th best in that category in round four.

Previous Southern Hills winners Retief Goosen (2001 US Open), Tiger Woods (2007 US PGA) and Alex Cejka (2021 Senior PGA) had all ranked 4th for Greens In Regulation when they won.

Thomas strengthened that trend, finishing 2nd for GIR at Southern Hills.

As for his own take that every part of the game needed to work well, Thomas ranked 7th on the All-Around.

But in such a tight finish, what really made the difference was his putting.

The 29-year-old American finished the week ranked 2nd for Strokes Gained: Putting and outputted all his rivals at the top end of the leaderboard on the final day.

Zalatoris and the putting myth

Runner-up Will Zalatoris has emerged as a leaderboard regular in the Majors in recent seasons.

In the last seven, he's finished second twice, sixth twice and eighth.

A big reason is that he's solid across the board.

Zalatoris was the only player in the field this week to finish in the top 20 for all five main Strokes Gained categories.

He was 6th Tee To Green, 10th in Putting, 11th for Approach, 18th Around The Green and 19th Off The Tee. Zalatoris was also 3rd for Greens In Regulation.

Ah, yes, his putting. Much - far too much - was made of the youngster's sometimes wonky putting stroke but take a look at his Strokes Gained Putting figures in those strong major finishes.

2022 US PGA (2nd) - ranked 10th for SG: Putting

2022 Masters (6th) - ranked 6th for SG: Putting

2021 US PGA (8th) - ranked 52nd for SG: Putting

2021 Masters (2nd) - ranked 7th for SG: Putting

2020 US Open (6th) - ranked 38th for SG: Putting

Three times he's ranked in the top 10 for SGP. Looks can clearly be deceptive.

However, if really drilling down, he recorded negative SGP figures in the final rounds of both the 2021 Masters and last week's US PGA.

Perhaps it's still the case that under the severest of pressure, his putting isn't quite robust enough.

Short game cost Pereira

Although his drive into water will be seen as the defining moment for Mito Pereira's loss, it could have been a different story if he'd gone up and down for bogey and made the playoff.

Looking at the stats, the Chilean was ranked 6th for SG: Approach and 3rd for SG: Putting on the week. Impressive stuff.

But check out that final round. Pereira was 69th out of 78 for SG: Putting and 61st Around The Greens.

In other words, his short game just wasn't strong enough when it mattered most.

This chimes with his overall performance this season. Pereira is 10th for Approach in 2021/22 but 117th Around The Green and 82nd in Putting.

With a better short game performance on day four, perhaps he would have had a healthy cushion playing the last and there would have been less pressure on the drive.

If, buts and maybes.

Saturday regrets for Rory

When Rory McIlroy goes through his US PGA post-mortem, the focus again needs to be on short game.

On the week, the Northern Irishman ranked 5th for SG: Off The Tee, 15th in Approach and 5th Tee To Green.

He also returned positive SG: Putting figures, something he's struggled to do in past Majors.

But here's a glaring stat. By finishing with a 72-hole total of 2-under, McIlroy finished three shots adrift of the playoff number. But on Saturday he lost 3.841 strokes on the greens.

Rory McIlroy 2022 Palmer Invitational

That Saturday SGP performance, which resulted in a 4-over 74, was the worst in the field and left him too much to do on Sunday when, statistically, he was the 13th best putter on the day.

McIlroy also lost strokes Around The Green in both weekend rounds.

Smith backers left cursing

Cameron Smith was fancied to challenge heavily for the title after his near miss (tied third) at Augusta last month.

And although tied 13th represented his best result in seven starts at the US PGA, he walked off with a feeling that it could have been so much better.

The Aussie went into the week ranked 4th for SG: Putting and 40th Around The Green.

But he recorded negative SG: Putting figures in round one, was still negative overall for the week at halfway and then lost 2.255 strokes on the greens on Saturday and was -1.447 on Sunday.

Time and time again, putts didn't drop and how costly that proved.

Smith ranked 1st for both SG: Approach and Tee To Green but was only 76th out of 78 in SG: Putting for those who made the cut.

Cameron Smith at The Masters

Overall, he lost 3.780 strokes to the field on the greens while Thomas gained 6.313 strokes with his flatstick.

That's a 10-shot swing and Smith only missed the playoff by five!

READ MORE: Justin Thomas rallies to score dramatic win in Tulsa

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