I.T.N. No. 2
PUBLISHED May 13, 2019
Inside The Numbers ...
is a brief numerical summary of the current happenings in the world golf, published every Monday — hopefully.
As we enter the year’s second major, Jordan Spieth is losing 0.6 strokes per round off-the-tee in the 2019 PGA Tour Season. Further, his 50-round moving average has reached a career low of -0.37. For some context, during his 2-major-win season of 2015, Spieth gained 0.63 strokes off-the-tee per round. While the ‘process’ moves along for Jordan, he continues to struggle mightily in this area. On the positive side, he is gaining 0.48 shots per round on the greens over his last 50 rounds, his best performance in that area since late in the 2017 season.
With just a 0.3% pre-tournament win probability, 22-year-old Marcus Kinhult defied the odds en route to his maiden European Tour victory at the British Masters. If you are wondering how unusual it is for a player with such a low win probability to actually go on to win, the answer is: not at all. At the British Masters, there was a 38% chance of the eventual winner being a golfer with a less than 1% chance of winning pre-tournament. In golf tournaments as in lotteries, somebody has to walk away the winner.
Tiger Woods has a good track record at Bethpage Black, winning the U.S. Open in 2002 and finishing T6 in 2009. Overall, he’s played 12 rounds at Bethpage Black, gaining 3.22 strokes per round on average. However, our suggested course history adjustment to Tiger’s baseline skill level is just +0.02 strokes per round. Why? First, Tiger only outperformed his expected strokes-gained in his 12 rounds at Bethpage by 0.48 strokes per round; second, course history simply isn’t that predictive – from that 12-round average, we only take 5% when predicting Tiger’s future performance at Bethpage.
Don’t look now, but Brooks Koepka is trending ahead of a major championship. Koepka has been gaining 2.24 strokes per round on an average PGA Tour player over his last 20 rounds, which is the 4th best mark across all tours. He is also up to 10th in the Data Golf player rankings.
PGA Tour events are difficult to win; major championship even more so. The PGA Championship has historically been the hardest event to win in professional golf. Dustin Johnson, the favourite according to our model this week, has just a 6.9% win probability. To put that into context, if Johnson managed to maintain his current level of form for a 10-year stretch (highly unlikely), we would expect him to win just 2.8 majors in that span. To put it simply, there just aren’t very many major championships to go around.