The Grateful Golfer discusses the increase in technology in golf and questions the value of statistics.
An evolution in the sporting world started with the advent of computers. In the days of hand written information, most sporting leagues maintained some statistics. This tedious process was more to compare wins and losses with the sprinkling of personal statistics thrown in for fun. Since early 1980s, the information gathered has grown exponentially and the expansive growth of the personal digital assistant; mobile phones, tablets, iPods, etc, enables avid sports fans instantaneous access to this data. Even with all the real-time access nothing has really changed.
The avid sports fan watches intently as their favorite team takes the court. The announcer digs deep into his pool of statistics and determines their team does not stand a chance because statistically they do not match up! However, one does not have to look far to see that the announcer was spouting nonsense as avid sports fan’s team wins that and two other games in a row against teams that were statistically better. Anyone watching the March Madness NCAA Basketball tournament know that University of Dayton Flyers, ranked 11 of 16 in their side of the bracket, consistently punched above their weight when it counted. What do the statistics say about that?
Golf is no different. A quick check of the statistics at PGATour.com shows that statistics are an integral part of professional golf. The accuracy of the information is astounding. They track greens in regulation, greens in regulation from 200+ yards, greens in regulation from 150+ yards, and so on. Actually, there are 31 categories just to track shots relating to greens in regulation….31 categories! However, this is only the beginning. There are approximately 250 statistical categories tracked by the PGA Tour. Moreover, those are just the ones loaded on the website. Exciting for some, every pundit, fan, fanatic, and casual onlooker has 24/7 access to this information.
The PGA Tour gathers all this data, shares it with everyone; so, now what? Announcers, odds-makers, pundits and avid fans use this data to try to forecast the future. Some with occasional success, others are not even close! This is big business collecting and using the data – calling themselves an expert – trying to beat the odds. However, this is where things get interesting because the entire statistical data collected to date in the golfing world is useless!
Using the PGA Tour’s statistics for 2014 here is why.
Top five in the world rankings: 1. Tiger Woods, 2. Adam Scott, 3. Henrik Stenson, 4. Jason Day, 5. Phil Mickelson.
Top five in the Money List: 1. Jimmy Walker, 2. Dustin Johnson, 3. Patrick Reed, 4. Bubba Watson, 5. Harris English.
Top five who finish in the top 10: 1. Harris English, 2. Graham Delat, 3. Matt Every, 4. Charles Howell III, 5. Dustin Johnson.
As you will notice, the top five in the world are not on any of the other lists. Their names sprinkle the other 250 statistical categories, but are not a statistical “sure thing”. Knowing nothing about golf and looking only at the statistics, the names like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson would never show up as a good choice to win a tournament. So, why the discrepancy? Why are the statistics useless when picking a winner during a professional event?
The real answer is that on any given day, at any given time, anyone has a chance to win a professional golf tournament. Unlike other sporting events, if the top player has a bad game and the rest of the team covers for them. Golf is an individual sport that relies on the players’ skill each and every time they hit the links. Golf is a challenging sport that requires every professional to prepare for battle against up and coming players who show no fear!
Thus, in golf, solely relying on the statistics to pick a winner is useless. There are too many factors to consider. Sometimes taking the easy approach such as relying on Eli ape, that has successfully picked the Super Bowl winner for seven straight years, is a better strategy. Eli’s winning percentage is better than all statistical pundits! What do the statistics say about that?
The Grateful Golfer, Pundit Arena.