I.T.N. No. 6
PUBLISHED June 10, 2019
Inside The Numbers ...
is a brief numerical summary of the current happenings in the world golf, published every Monday — hopefully.
This week major championship golf returns to Pebble Beach, site of Tiger Woods' historic win at the 2000 U.S. Open. Tiger managed to win by a few strokes that year — 15 to be exact. According to our model, that performance was worth about 7.5 strokes per round better than what you would expect from an average PGA Tour field that season. Throughout the 2000 season, Tiger averaged a mind-boggling 4.2 adjusted strokes-gained per round. Therefore, he only performed 3.3 strokes better than his year-long baseline en route to that historic U.S. Open victory. To put this into perspective, 3-4 strokes per round over the course of a 4-round tournament is the type of overperformance it takes for an average PGA Tour professional to notch a victory. In other words, relative to his year-2000 baseline, Tiger’s performance at the U.S. Open wasn’t that much of an outlier. Scary stuff.
Jim Furyk has been doing his best to defy the aging curve in golf: at 49 years of age, Furyk is averaging +1.35 adjusted strokes-gained so far in 2019. Here is how our career projection system (after the 2018 PGA Tour season) predicted Furyk’s career from ages 49-53:
Alongside Furyk’s projection (the faint lines) are the actual performance of the most similar 48-year olds in our database from ages 49-53. It is easy to forget just how much golfers’ careers tend to decline after they reach their early forties. Even Davis Love III, a PGA Tour winner at age 51, has seen a fairly steep decline in his performance post-50.
How dominant was Rory McIlroy’s Sunday performance at the RBC Canadian Open? Our live predictive model gave Rory a 100% chance of winning with 5 holes remaining in the final round. At 21-under-par and holding a 7-shot cushion, this conclusion seemed justified.
It’s hard to believe that Rory McIlroy’s last major victory came all the way back at the 2014 PGA Championship. At the time, having also won the Open Championship a few weeks prior, it seemed laughable to think McIlroy’s major tally would fail to grow in his next 4 seasons. Alas, golf is a fickle sport. In the 17 majors Rory has played since his PGA triumph, his performances have garnered just 0.17 expected wins. Recall that expected wins tell us how likely it is for a given strokes-gained performance to result in a win. McIlroy’s best major performance since 2014 came at the 2015 Masters, where he had an adjusted strokes-gained of +3.8 per round — good enough for just 0.08 expected wins.
With the U.S. Open looming, Phil Mickelson is struggling with the flatstick. Over his last 50 rounds, Lefty is losing an average of 0.16 strokes per round on the greens — this just one year removed from a 50-round stretch which saw Mickelson gaining over 1 stroke per round. Although Phil is often characterized as an inconsistent putter, the last time his 50-round moving average dropped below zero was 7 years ago! It’s a remarkable run of consistency in a statistical category prone to variability. Phil’s ball striking statistics for the 2019 season are comparable to recent years, so perhaps a good week with the putter can produce that elusive U.S. Open title.