If a golf organization in the mold of the Society for American
Baseball Research (SABR) is ever formed, we'll probably have Sal
Johnson to thank for it. Like Bill James's Baseball Abstracts in
the 1980s, Johnson's statistical rants are aimed at the numbers
lovers of his sport. Only you don't have to wait for an annual
publication. Johnson's stuff is available every day at
golfonline.com, a three-year-old website from Golf Magazine.
Click on the "Sal Johnson..." links on the home page or on the
Golfstats link to get the data and pronouncements of Johnson, 44,
a longtime TV golf highlights and replay producer and columnist
for various publications. "Golf stats will never get as crazy as
baseball's," he says, "but they could stand to be a lot more
In 1993, frustrated by the lack of records in his favorite sport,
Johnson started spending hours in the Library of Congress,
researching and photocopying until he had produced the first
complete statistical history of the U.S. Open. The Official U.S.
Open Almanac, published in 1995, inspired a database that now
holds the most extensive numbers from the PGA, LPGA, Senior and
European tours. In November '99 the database came online.
Johnson is providing the stats-starved among golf fans with
continually updated reams of data. In his recap of last month's
Mercedes Championships, Johnson hailed victor Jim Furyk as the
King of Resort Golf for winning all six of his PGA Tour victories
and 37% of his career earnings on resort courses. As Johnson
noted in a chart after Mark Calcavecchia's triumph in the recent
Phoenix Open, Calcavecchia was only the fourth player since World
War II to win a tournament on the same course in three decades
(1989, '92 and 2001). For golf fantasy fans, the site includes
detailed box scores for every player in every tournament since
1997, complete with rankings in major statistical categories like
fairways hit, driving distance, greens in regulation and putts.
How has Tom Lehman fared at the Bay Hill Invitational? You can
call up his results dating back to his first appearance, in '92.
(The answer: Lehman has three top 10s, including a playoff loss
to Tim Herron two years ago.) "Players tell me they check the
site to see where they should play," says Johnson. "We must be
doing something right."
"Golf's stats will never be as crazy as baseball's," says
golfonline.com's Johnson--but it won't be his fault.