A LOOK AT RANDOMNESS ON THE PGA TOUR

If you read enough about golf, you keep coming across the general consensus that Phil Mickelson is the second best player of the Tiger Woods era. I’m not sure why he is the unquestioned second best, but every writer and analyst seems to accept it as fact.

But, let’s look at it another way. Let’s assume that Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Vijay Singh are approximately the same golfer over a decade(not as big an assumption as you think). This probably isn’t 100-percent fair, but it’s closer than you might expect, so let’s set them at a 6.5-percent chance to win a major.

Over a 40 major stretch(simulated 10,000 times), a player with a 6.5-percent chance to win a major would average 2.83 Majors, with a standard deviation of 1.64. That basically means anything between 1 and 4 majors is within one standard deviation of the mean. Randomly taking 5 simulations you get this:

Golfer #1-1 Major
Golfer #2-1 Major
Golfer #3-4 Majors
Golfer #4-0 Majors
Golfer #5-1 Major

It’s over simplifying it, but Golfer #3 would be considered a hero, possibly an all-time great, while Golfer #4 would almost certainly not be remembered at all. What is the difference between them?

Nothing but variance.

Now, let’s take a look at the average PGA Tour golfer. He can be expected to win a tournament about once every 200 outings. Simulating 200 events(~8-10 seasons) 10000 times, the average PGA Tour pro wins 1.01 tournaments, with a standard deviation of 1.01. This means not winning at all could not be a factor of choking, but instead just bad luck. 36% of the average PGA Tour pros that tee it up 200 times will not get a win. 8 of them will win 6 times. What is the difference between them?

Nothing but variance.

To be fair, this almost certainly oversimplifies this debate, but we definitely must consider that luck or variance has been a factor in the assumption that Phil Mickelson is the unquestioned number 2 golfer in the world.

More on this to come as I fill in data from past seasons.

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