MEMPHIS ST. JUDE CLASSIC

CONTENDERS
Retief Goosen: Goosen is this week’s case of favorite who should be getting more attention than he is. He’s played well this year and he’s on par with anyone in the field except maybe Westwood. Goosen, however, can be found slightly back of the favorites and I’m guessing the only reason is that he hasn’t played since the Masters.

SLEEPERS
Kevin Na: One of the reasons I seemed high on Na is because he has such a high standard deviation compared to other players around his level. I looked back, though, and Na has always had a relatively high standard deviation from round-to-round. That means he has the skills to contend, but also could throw up a Sunday 77.

PRETENDERS
Jordan Spieth:Hate to knock an high school junior, but these lines are flat ridiculous. It will definitely take more than one tournament on the PGA Tour to convince me he is near the average PGA Pro, especially when the books weren’t giving him nearly this much credit last week.

HORSES FOR COURSES
NOT Brian Gay:Looking at the odds, the one name that jumps out to you is Brian Gay. Obviously, Brian Gay won this tournament by a lot of strokes last year(and qualified for the US Open in the process). I have 18 rounds for Brian Gay at the Memphis St. Jude Classic, which he has in fact played above average in.

The two dilemnnas we face are that in 18 rounds we can neither be very confident about his true level of play and there is a ton of variance over a small sample size of 18 rounds.

Gay has played to an average of about 1.7 strokes better than the field at the Memphis St. Jude Classic. Unfortunately, because of the SSS we can be 95% confident that his true level of play in those events was somewhere between 1.4 and 2 strokes better than average.

Now, the second part is how rare is it that a player who is -.7 strokes better than average over a two-year sample beats his average by one stroke in 18 rounds? Well, not that unlikely. Just taking his two-year average there is about an 8% chance Gay plays to that level or better randomly. It’s possible the course in Memphis suits Gay, but any benefit would likely be fractions of a shot per round, and most of his good play can still be attributed to good variance. To think about it another way, it’s possible he could be fractions of a shot better on average due to course factors, but there is still a 15% 1 standard deviation below his average. Over 18 rounds, that translates into just slightly better than the tour average.

Again, it’s possible that Brian Gay is better suited for this course, but it’s even more possible that most of his elevated level of play is good variance.

MATCHUPS:
Poulter v. Gay
At no point during his career has Brian Gay ever been a better player than Ian Poulter. Maybe his history at Memphis means something, but I doubt it’s enough to make him a better player than Poulter

Leonard/Goosen v. Jacobson
Ummm…No. Jacobson has a strong history in Memphis, too, but even if you assumed that was a 100% accurate reflection of his skill, it would not be enough to make him better than Goosen and Leonard.

Weibring v. Spieth
In 7 years, this might look really stupid, but it’s hard to imagine Spieth right now as an average PGA Tour player. The lines at the Byron Nelson were nowhere close to giving Spieth this much credit, so I’m not doing it now.

Goosen v. Toms
Arguably no one is better in Memphis than Toms. Give him a small boost for that and I still come out with around 50-50.

Harrington v. McIlroy
A quick slice of any players who came out as young talent’s does not really bode well for McIlroy’s “upside.” Obviously, he is already an incredibly talented player, but I’m not sure how reasonable it is to expect that he will get noticeably better. Harrington, who has remained a top-10 type player for ten years, probably should be no worse than a toss-up in this one.

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