Golf is a numbers game. From ShotLink to strokes gained, there’s plenty of information out there for golfers to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Not all pros go as far as Matthew Fitzpatrick—who performs statistical analysis by tracking every shot he’s hit since the age of 14—but for any elite golfer, it’s a mistake not to pay close attention to the data that’s out there.
But as evidenced by Fitzpatrick’s relentless upkeep, collecting and digesting those numbers isn’t as simple as it might seem.
Cory Jez, a sports analytics expert and consultant, thinks he has a solution to that challenge. In his 10 years in the industry, Jez has implemented full-scale infrastructure systems for both the NBA’s Utah Jazz and MLS’s Austin FC, in addition to on-air analysis for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Most recently, however, Jez has pivoted to golf, where he sees a gap in the market. The sports strategist just launched a platform called TourIQ—the first advanced analytics platform specifically designed for PGA Tour players.
“The economics of the individual sport do not allow golfers to exploit data to help them. The technology is expensive,” Jez says. “It doesn’t make sense for one person to pay half a million dollars to build that themselves.”
“I’ve built data systems for pro teams, I’ve done it in basketball, I’ve done it for professional soccer, one of my advisors does it for pro baseball. We want to give golfers the same things that the NBA teams have, the NFL teams have, the soccer teams have. It’s all sitting there waiting to be exploited and nobody has figured out that model yet. I think that’s what we’ve figured out—I know that’s what we’ve figured out.”
Twelve million ShotLink data points from the past five years allow TourIQ to package information for players in a simple and easy-to-use manner. Jez and his team have built a platform so that pros can both analyze their performance with specific time windows in mind and plan for course strategy in upcoming events.
For the past 18 months, Jez has consulted closest with South African PGA Tour player Dylan Frittelli. After analyzing data with Fritelli individually, Jez saw an opportunity to expand his work.
“Dylan wanted a way he can get answers to questions, and give them to his team, his swing coach and his caddie—whether it’s to prepare for a course or ask questions about his game—without having to pick up the phone and call me,” Jez says.
For that reason, TourIQ was born.
The platform’s capabilities are broken down into four main categories.
First, the platform provides an overview of each player’s overall performance using strokes-gained data—and each pro only has access to their own profile. The platform uses windows of 76 and 24 rounds as their standard time frames of analysis, but players can adjust those as they please. For example, if a player made an equipment or swing change, they can easily customize their analytics periods to compare data from their performance before and after the switch. TourIQ gives a complete overview of one’s game: Driving, approach, scrambling, and putting are all broken down into varying degrees of specificity according to what a player is looking for.
Next, TourIQ has a course analysis dashboard, which helps players evaluate which PGA Tour venues are best fit for their game using that consolidated strokes-gained data. Depending on each player’s strengths, they can easily view which events on the PGA Tour schedule will give them a statistical strokes-gained bonus.
Beyond the schedule-planning module, pros can access course-specific overviews on TourIQ to hone their practice regimens leading up to events. For example, for any given PGA Tour course, the system identifies the most common approach-distances a player will have that week using ShotLink data. The feature is highly beneficial for players looking to target certain areas of their game in pre-tournament preparation. TourIQ users can also easily view the course’s hardest holes, the holes that have the highest missed fairway penalty, and the holes with the trickiest scrambling potential.
Perhaps TourIQ’s most involved feature is its hole strategy section. Select any hole on the PGA Tour, and players can look at “mean-estimated score” data from all the shots hit on that hole within the past five years.
An array of dots, colored with a red to green gradient, shows the score a player is most likely to make from a certain location on that hole.
TourIQ’s hole-by-hole breakdowns might look familiar: The graphics are very similar to those that often appear on NBC and CBS broadcasts, but there’s a distinction. The TourIQ team uses “mean-estimated score” on these displays, rather than just past results (whether a player made a par, birdie, bogey, etc.), for a reason.
“Let’s say you three-putt from 15 feet. Does that three-putt have anything to do with your tee shot? No. And it shouldn’t,” Jez explains. “Even though that person three-putted, everyone else around them who hit good shots in the last five years on average made a quarter-shot under par. We take all of that into account with machine learning.”
Take a look at the 15th hole at TPC Sawgrass (above), the site of this week’s Players Championship. A relatively straightforward par 4, many players will look to avoid the bunker on the right hand side of the fairway off the tee. TourIQ’s data, however, actually shows that players who missed the fairway on the 15th hole have a lower scoring average when they miss the fairway on the right (4.22), rather than when they miss the fairway on the left (4.31). Taking on the bunker might not be as risky as one might think.
TourIQ recognizes that pin locations can shift hole strategy, which is why the platform allows players to filter the data to only show tee shots from days with particular pin positions.
For example, when the pin position is tucked to the right (D), players might decided that the left side of the fairway should be prioritized off the tee. TourIQ’s data shows that in reality, a tee shot that veers to the right is still the better miss.
If a player ends up in the fairway bunker rather than the pine straw to the left of the fairway, they save .1 strokes on the hole.
According to Jez, adding up those margins over the course of a season can have a significant impact on player improvement and development.
“Working with Cory and TourIQ has helped me understand my data at a much deeper level,” Frittelli says. “It gives me detailed information to see my trends and also a unique course reconnaissance feature to prepare for each hole, each round, and each event.”
Great article written by Gabrielle Herzig of SI.com