I.T.N. No. 16
PUBLISHED February 5, 2020
Inside The Numbers ...
is a brief numerical summary of the current happenings in the world golf, published every Monday — hopefully.
Another week, another missed chance for Tony Finau to notch his first win since capturing the coveted Puerto Rico Open in 2016. So, what is the deal with Tony — does he deserve to win more than he has? Since the start of the 2019 season, our model estimates Finau should have 1.5 wins given his strokes-gained performances (which translates to 2 true expected wins, i.e. wins at average strength PGA Tour events). This stat does not speak to Finau’s performance under pressure, it simply says that he has had enough high-quality weeks, as measured by the number of strokes he beat the field by, to warrant a couple wins by now. Whether Finau has been ‘unlucky’, or is actually performing poorly in the clutch, is something we’ll have to look into in the future... In the meantime, keep showing up Tony! I think a win is on it’s way!
One size won’t fit all this week as players face the famed three-course rotation at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Spyglass Hill is a bit of an outlier course on the PGA Tour, and offers a very different test than Pebble or Monterey. Out of all courses on the regular PGA Tour circuit, Spyglass ranks as Pebble Beach’s 10th most dissimilar course. As you can see in the plot below, Spyglass’s main features are that it rewards length off the tee and doesn’t seem to penalize inaccuracy (relative to average courses). Hm.. suddenly I’m a lot less surprised that Phil has strong course history here.
For the 4th time in recent memory, I am going to make the claim that Jon Rahm is one of the most underrated golfers on the PGA Tour. Since joining the professional ranks, his performance has hovered around that of a top 5 player in the world. It’s worth emphasizing that you almost never expect anyone to be a top 5 player in the world in a given season; it typically requires some degree of overperformance. Apart from Tiger, we have not really seen anyone start their career like this in the last couple decades.

Speaking of the chronically underrated, shown below is a plot from our true strokes-gained page detailing every strokes-gained performance of Rahm’s career, along with the Top 5 benchmark (+1.9 true strokes-gained per round) indicated in blue.
One of the big changes we made in preparation for the 2020 season was the addition of course-specific adjustments to our predictive model. While for the most part these adjustments will be small, sometimes they can be pretty meaningful: Phil Mickelson’s probability of finishing in the Top 20 this week when course-specific adjustments are accounted for is 23.3%; without the adjustments, it is just 16%. As mentioned above, this is in part due to Mickelson’s good course fit at this week’s 3-course rota: the fact that nobody without a helmet is safe when Phil steps up to the tee is less of a hinderance at all 3 courses this week. Further, Mickelson has a good track record at this tournament, historically performing significantly above his baseline at both Spyglass and Monterey.