Yesterday, the insane news that Corey Pavin might not take Tiger Woods floated across the wires. Of course, it was made even more insane by the fact the media treated it like Pavin would actually not do it.

That raised the question: Is Tiger Woods a lock?

I started with my rankings from 2009-2010, which is the period since the last Ryder Cup. In that time, Tiger has 79 stroke play rounds where he is about 3.1 strokes better than the average PGA Tour pro.

I then wondered, what if Tiger missed the cut in his next 10 events?(prompted by this tweet).

To start, the cut at a PGA Tour event is usually right around the field average. That is, if you play better than average you make money, if you play worse, you’re going home early.

For the sake of argument, I guessed that Tiger would be a full shot worse than the field average over his next 20 rounds(10 MCs) and added that to what I already have. If that is the case, Tiger will be around 2.25 shots better than the average PGA Tour player over a full two years.

Doesn’t mean too much, until you consider that Strcker, Mickelson and Furyk are about 1.9 strokes better per round than the average PGA Tour player during the past two years. Tiger Woods could play his next 20 rounds a 1 shot worse than the PGA Tour average and still be BETTER than any other golfer in the world over the past 2 years.

So, what would it take for Tiger to not qualify for the US Ryder Cup team. Currently the 13th US spot in my rankings is occupied by Lucas Glover who is slightly over 1 shot better than the PGA Tour average per round. Assuming Tiger plays those same 20 rounds, Tiger would have to be about 7 shots worse than the average to fall below that 13th spot.

Tiger could probably shoot 78 for the next 20 rounds and there he would still be inside the top-12 Americans. That’s what no one really understands about Tiger. You can’t compare him to Phil, Stricker, Furyk, Westwood, Garcia, Singh or any other golfer of this era. He has been so incredibly dominant that he is truly in a class of his own.

Now it should be mentioned that Tiger is exceedingly unlikely to miss 10 straight cuts. Even for an average PGA Tour golfer, missing the cut 10 straight times has about a one-tenth of a percent chance of happening. For Tiger, who has only missed 6 cuts in his professional career missing 10 in a row is almost impossible.

Anything can happen, but if you take a long-sighted view, there is almost no way Tiger will not be one of the 12 best Americans come September. Sounds like a lock to me.



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  1. Jamie

    You seem to have been a strong supporter of Woods recently, golf wise at least. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, but past performance is no guarantee of future results, as they say.
    If he’s injured or his mind is not focused then he will not play be playing well enough to make the team. If he does miss 10 cuts in a row from now until the cup then surely you would have to be crazy to pick him based on his performances from over 10 months ago? You are obviously someone who likes to use statistics (one of the reasons why I enjoy reading your site) – are you familiar with the term stationarity – a time series whose mean and variance are consistent over time (I think?). Well Tiger is not stationary at the moment so his performances should be viewed as 2 separate time series – one pre crash and one post crash, shouldn’t they?

  2. That’s definitely a factor. My point, which I probably failed to make in banging this out pretty quickly, was that based on the last two years, it’s almost impossible that any results in the next few months will be enough to say that Tiger is not one of the 12 best Americans going into the Ryder Cup.

    I don’t doubt that there is definitely a mental aspect to golf, but it presents a chicken and egg scenario that is almost impossible to quantify. Is Tiger playing poorly because he’s in a poor mental state, or is he in a poor mental state because he’s not playing well?

    I can’t say definitely one way or another, as my rankings don’t go far enough back(I’m working on this), but the sense I get is certain events(crash, Injury, father dying, swing changes) affect Tiger in the short run(more noticeably in the perception of his results), but in the long run he always has returned to a level around 3 strokes better than the average PGA Tour pro.

    I hope at some point to include results back a few more years and that should give a better insight on how to view such short term events.

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