True Strokes Gained Update: 2021 Season

Going into Pro Worlds, your winner in both fields will almost certainly be from these true strokes gained top 10 lists.

Heather Young at the 2021 Mid America Open. Photo: DGPT

Ultiworld Disc Golf’s coverage of the 2021 PDGA Pro World Championships is presented by Skybreed Discs, a top online retailer and preferred vendor of the 2021 Ledgestone Insurance Open, and Aria Discs, a new disc golf brand making discs designed for beginners.

Earlier this year, UDisc revealed a new, revolutionary statistic to disc golf – strokes gained over average. At its simplest, strokes gained over average quantifies how a player compares to the field (average) at getting the disc in the basket from different parts of the course (e.g, tee, C2, C1, etc.). 

However, as great as this new statistic is, it is limited because it compares players to the field within a given event. And different events, from A-tiers all the way up to invitational Majors like the USDGC, have very different strengths of field. So, pretty quickly after UDisc released strokes gained over average I developed true strokes gained for disc golf, which controls the disparity in strength of field.

Back in March, we published the true strokes gained for 2020 and the 2021 Las Vegas Challenge, and since we are almost exactly halfway through the season as Pro Worlds is about to begin, this week now seems like a good time for an update.

Just to quickly review, true strokes gained controls for strength of field by comparing an individual’s performance to the expected strokes gained for a player of a given rating. For MPO that rating is 1020, and for FPO it is 940. I chose 1020 because that is an approximate threshold rating for a successful touring player and the FPO 940 rating because it represents the same number of proportionate players as 1020 in MPO.

The plots below show the top 10 true strokes gained by players in both FPO and MPO.1 The values represent per round averages, so Paige Pierce averages a whopping 4.4 strokes tee-to-green over the expected strokes gained for a 940-rated player. You can hover your cursor over the bars to find more information about player values and ranks.

Not too many surprises in either group of players. Though, it is nice to see Valerie Mandujano on the list. Her tee-to-green game is quite strong, and her putting is above that of a 940-rated player. Much of the rest of the FPO list passes the eye test. Pierce is dominating, Catrina Allen is a wonder off the tee, and Heather Young continues to impress on the green. I will also note that Kona Panis is having an incredible season driving the disc. If she can improve her putting she won’t be waiting long for her next big win.

For MPO, everyone on the list is incredible off the tee and at least a solid putter. Speaking of solid putting, look at Drew Gibson! He has had a great season on the green, especially from C2. Not to mention that he was number 1 in strokes gained from C1X at the Masters Cup. I guess those new putters are working for him.

Kyle Klein has also jumped into the top 10 by improving all around on his stats from 2020. This is especially true for his putt. It has gone from a net negative to a net positive, and he has chopped his ranking in half – going from 57th in the field to 24th. It is exciting that he still has room to grow on the green.

Going into Pro Worlds, your winner in both fields will almost certainly be from these true strokes gained top 10 lists. If Drew Gibson is healthy, throws well at Mulligans, and can get hot with his putter I think he is a fun dark horse to consider. On the FPO side it is hard to pick anyone but Pierce. But, as with the MPO side, if Panis can get locked in on the green like she was at WACO, anything is possible.

As Uli says, I look forward to seeing how it will play out on the courses this week.

  1. The dataset includes only those who have competed in at least 5 events with UDisc strokes gained data in 2021. 

  1. Aaron Howard
    Aaron Howard

    Aaron Howard is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Franklin & Marshall College. He loves to play disc golf and to think about things he loves quantitatively. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Instagram.

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