Some might be I surprised to learn that tiny Onida (pop. 800), S. Dak., produced the second best player on the PGA Tour in 1997, but that's what Tom Byrum (above) was last year, if you go by the Tour's all-around statistic. "It was kind of neat," Byrum says, "although I don't know if I really believe it."
The all-around is deceptive. The name leads one to believe it identifies the best player, but the numbers frequently lie. Consider: Since the stat was created in 1987, a player has led the all-around and the money list in the same year just once ( Fred Couples in 1992). And what does the following tell you? Only three other times has the all-around leader been among the top 10 money winners. Bill Glasson, the '97 all-around leader, was 22nd in earnings while Byrum was 42nd.
The formula for getting a player's all-around number is simple: The Tour adds a golfer's rank in each of eight statistics (chart, below) and the man with the lowest total tops the list. Byrum's runner-up finish in the stat highlights its primary flaw: The all-around rewards competence in all eight categories rather than excellence in most of them. Byrum was only in the top 10 in total driving and between 12th and 46th in six categories. Tiger Woods, on the other hand, was in the top 10 in six categories, but because he was 60th in putting and 180th in sand saves, he was seventh in the all-around (chart, above).
Dave Lancer, the Tour's director of information, created the all-around almost by accident. He needed an item for Tour News, a weekly newsletter, when he added the stats. Voil�! the all-around. "It identifies the best statistical golfer," says Lancer, "not the best all-around golfer."
That sentiment is shared by Byrum, who this year is 109th in the all-around and 95th in earnings. "No question I'd rather rank Number 2 in the world than Number 2 in the all-around," he says.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]