Published May 02, 2016
The advice has been passed along for decades on the PGA Tour, and Matt Kuchar believes it has merit. He just doesn't like it.
Call it the 80-20 equation.
"I remember coming out and guys telling me you're going to make 80 percent of your money in 20 percent of your starts," Kuchar said. "The idea was basically you're going to get hot a couple of times, and that's what you wait for. And it makes sense. You're going to get hot and then peter off a little bit."
Scott Stallings would be an extreme example. He won the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines last year, and that was his only finish in the top 30. One week turned out to be 79 percent of his season earnings.
A more typical example: FedEx Cup champion Billy Horschel.
Horschel had a hot streak in the spring of 2013 when he was runner-up in Houston, tied for third in San Antonio and won in New Orleans in a span of four starts. He didn't really heat up again for another 18 months. Horschel had only two top 10s on the PGA Tour and missed seven cuts until he stepped into a phone booth and emerged as guy who couldn't be beat. He threw away a chance to win in Boston, and then won the next two FedEx Cup playoff events.
His tally for the year was $4.8 million to finish at No. 7 on the money list, and that doesn't include the $10 million bonus for winning the FedEx Cup. A closer look at Horschel's season last year makes him a candidate for the 80-20 club.
He made roughly 80 percent of his season earnings in 19 percent of his starts.
So maybe there is some truth to it.
"You get hot, you make your money in five or six tournaments. You make 80 percent in 20 percent of your starts," J.B. Holmes said. "I've been hearing that for years."
Holmes won 82 percent of his money in 25 percent of his starts, including a victory in the Wells Fargo Championship.
Kuchar used to be one of those guys. He also won roughly 82 percent of his money from 25 percent of his tournaments in 2009. Those days are gone. Kuchar has turned into one of the most consistent players on the PGA Tour. In the last five years, he has missed only eight cuts in 121 tournaments. He has 48 top 10s during that stretch, a rate of 40 percent.
Just like anyone else, Kuchar had a hot streak last year. In four straight weeks, he lost a chance to win the Texas Open with a 75 in the final round, he lost in a playoff in Houston when Matt Jones chipped in from 100 feet. He was in the mix at the Masters early on Sunday and tied for fifth. And then he won Hilton Head. After that, he was back to the consistent brand of golf. He never finished out of the top 20 in more than two straight starts.
Kuchar won 81 percent of his money in 42 percent of his tournaments. He likes that ratio much better.
"The streaky way is stressful," Kuchar said. "The golf I play ... you could watch me play a round of golf and it's pretty stress free. I don't do any crazy things. I don't make a ton of birdies, but I don't make a lot of bogeys, either. It's been a lot nicer the last five or six years."
Would he trade it for a $10 million bonus and one more victory?
"I don't think I'd trade with Billy Horschel," he said.
He loved the consistent play of Steve Stricker until his 2014 season was disrupted by injuries and the death of his brother. He loves the way Jim Furyk played last year. Furyk didn't win, but he gave himself plenty of chances. Winning is hard. Furyk earned 81 percent of his money in 38 percent of his starts.
Rory McIlroy, the best benchmark in golf right now, won 81 percent of his tour-leading $8.2 million in 41 percent of his starts.
Kuchar is all about opportunities, though he's willing to make an exception. Bubba Watson went through a 22-month drought without winning from the 2012 Masters until Riviera last year, and then he added another green jacket.
"I'd trade with Bubba," Kuchar said. "It would be streaky, but you'd throw a Masters in there."
Geoff Ogilvy is another guy who has heard all about the 80-20 equation, and he believes it to be accurate in most cases.
It's probably true for 80 percent of the players," Ogilvy said, adding to the math. "Guys like Tiger and Jack, and Jim and Kuchar, they make money in all their tournaments. So there's probably 80 percent of the players who make 80 percent of their money in 20 tournaments."
Winning is still the ultimate. Ask any of the 34 players at Kapalua to start the year. Even so, most players would take a steady diet of contention and take their chances.
"I would rather contend every week and win a lot, too. Can you have that one?" Ogilvy asked.
Tiger Woods managed that for the better part of 15 years. He's a different animal.
"The most fun is contention," Ogilvy said. "It's not fun propping up fields. I don't do this to finish 40th and have no excitement. The happiest I am on the course is in contention. I'd rather be that guy."