There is almost no point in trying to take the randomness out of golf. There is no point trying to take the British Open trophy away from Louis Oosthuizen. When you throw in weather, lies, putts lipping in or out, so much about golf is luck and randomness.
However, after Louis Oosthuizen held up the trophy it’s no longer worth noting who won the British Open. That tells us as much about Oosthuizen as a pitcher who is 16-4 on the season. What’s important is not the result, but how everyone got to that result and when looking at this field, this week, there is almost no doubt that weather played a significant role in this outcome. The tricky part, of course, is how much.
On Thursday night, I would have thought weather had already played an extreme roll in this tournament. The morning wave(players who teed off before the 31 minute break) averaged 70.66 strokes around the Old Course. For the afternoon wave, while good scores were still out there, took on average 2.2 shots more to play the first 18. Of course, it wasn’t quite as simple as that, as earlier tee times in the afternoon(Oosthuizen teed off 5.5 hours after first group and shot 65) did post some good scores and played generally easier conditions than those who teed off later in the afternoon. As this chart shows, there was a strong correlation between when you teed off and what your score was in relation to the field average:
There was not a similar correlation between how skilled a player was in relation to average and when he teed off.
Coincidentally, and maybe partially because of, Rory’s 63 came right as the conditions played the easiest. There is no doubt, however that Rory shooting 63 was the best round of the day, because at most he only played a course that was less than 1 shot harder than Louis Oosthuizen.
Here is a look at the top 10 based on actual scores after Round 1. The weather-adjusted score is in the “adj” column and “diff” means the average course difficulty if the field had played at that same time.
Now, the weather adjusted top-10:
The actual top ten averaged a course that played to 71.03 strokes and a tee time of 3.45 hours after the first groups teed off(field average was 4.84 after first group teed off). For the top ten weather-adjusted, however, they played a course that was 71.6 storkes in difficulty(right on average) and teed off 4.87 hours after the first group. This seemed like a big deal, until:
If weather has ever played a bigger factor in separating a golf tournament than it did on Friday I would like to know. Sure, it rained in the morning, but throw on some fancy golf suits and that was no problem. The 40-mph winds that delayed play for an hour were a huge problem.
This chart shows standardized scores in relation to the field average compared to time teed off after the leader. While the first chart was in strokes, this one is in standard deviations.
All crazy math terms aside, that means someone who teed off first(Calcavecchia!) played a course that was about 4.2 strokes easier that the field average and 6(!) shots easier than the players who teed off in the worst of the 40-mph winds.
If you want to know why this is important, just look at the tee times. Calcavecchia teed off first, Louis Oosthuizen was second on the day, completing a formidable combination of teeing off earliest in the afternoon on day 1, and earliest in the field on day 2.
On the other hand, Rory McIlroy teed off just one group behind the max of 1.88 strokes worse than average. Subtract that off his score of 80 and you get a reasonable below average round of 78.4 against a field average of 75.1.
It’s also intersting, that like I predicted on Friday afternoon, the players that teed off super late, avoided some of the weather because of the delay, then got easier conditions for the remaining portion of their rounds played Saturday morning.
Here’s a look once again at top-10 rounds of the day by actual score compared to top-10, by weather adjusted score:
|1||Miguel Angel Jimenez||67||68.229||74.11|
|1||Miguel Angel Jimenez||67||68.229||74.11|
The course average for Friday was around 75.1 strokes. Among the player who posted the best 10 rounds(less than or equal to 70) They played a course that was an average difficulty of 73.51 strokes(2 shots easier!) and teed off 2.6 hours before the average. Once again, by taking the weather out of it, the best rounds were evenly distributed amongst tee times and course difficulty.
Finally, this is the post-round-2 leaderboard, with adjustments for weather.
|10||Miguel Angel Jimenez||71.33||68.23||139.56|
|18||Fredrik Andersson Hed||68.01||73.43||141.44|
|23||Bo Van Pelt||69.83||72.16||141.99|
This is absolutely hilarious. Oosthuizen’s 5-shot lead was more like 2, Calcavechia isn’t even in the top 25(He’s 27), Nick Watney and Lee Westwood who were 7 shots back, were actually only 2. It’s still important to note, though, that even with favorable breaks on tee times Louis Oosthuizen did play the best over the first two days. He got good breaks for sure, but he capitalized on them, too.
Finally, it should be noted that 13 players who were not in the weather adjusted top-70 made cut. That’s a huge break for them.
Weather played much more of a factor in the first 2 rounds than it did on Saturday. That shaped up poorly for players who were hoping to make a Saturday move. One reason could be that the tee times were not as stretched out. If 6:30 AM BDT is set at 0 hour when the first groups teed off on Thursday and Friday and the last groups teed off some 9.7 hours later, then on Saturday, the tee times ranged from 3.5 to 10.16. A range of 6 and 2/3 hours compared to almost 10.
Overall, this meant a difference of about .6 strokes between the first tee time and the leaders. Smaller than both of the first two days and not what the chasers who were well back would have wanted to see. In reality, it was even less, considering that the players at -2 or -3 with a real chance to catch the lead were essentially playing the same course.
Here’s the top-25 after round 3:
|17||Miguel Angel Jimenez||71.33||68.23||73.10||212.66|
Paul Casey’s 67 was the round of the day factoring in weather, but Louis Oosthuizen was only a couple shots worse, but the weather advantage from round 1 and 2 was enough to make Casey basically even with Oosthuizen after round 3. I had Casey all else equal and 4 shots back as around 25% to win the British Open going into Sunday.
Here’s how Sunday looks now if everyone had played the same course:
There is a slightly stronger correlation than Saturday, but since the weather seemed similar, that could just as easily have been factors like mounting final round pressure or making silly decisions knowing that you needed to make up an absurd deficit in a short amount of time. Anyway, I proceeded to treat it all as weather again and here is the final 72 hole leaderboard adjusted for weather:
|23||Miguel Angel Jimenez||71.33||68.23||73.10||72.60||285.26|
|46||Bo Van Pelt||69.83||72.16||72.54||73.87||288.40|
|60||Fredrik Andersson Hed||68.01||73.43||72.49||77.92||291.85|
|65||Tom Pernice Jr.||72.88||73.96||71.76||74.34||292.95|
|71||Richard S. Johnson||71.28||72.69||76.63||74.00||294.60|
-Mark Calcavecchia ends up 76 out of 77 players who made the cut.
-Rory McIlroy played 3rd best of anyone in the field, all else equal
-Louis Oosthuizen still played well enough to win by a comfortable margin, but this was not a nine shot victory.
-Tiger Woods was 14th best, Sergio Garcia is 12, Rickie Fowler even with a weather adjusted 78 in round 1, played well enough to be 26th in this.
-Here’s the top-20 rounds of the week in relation to the field weather-adjusted average in strokes of when they were shot:
|3||Miguel Angel Jimenez||2||-7.19|
-Of players who completed four rounds, here’s the 10 who played the most difficult course(score is “weather-adjusted” field average, average for field was 291.08)
-And the easiest(Oosthuizen played the 14th easiest course(AVG: 288.30)):
Again, I would never want to take the randomness out of golf. It’s part of what makes each tournament different, fun and exciting. But, when your trying to project the next golf tournament taking as much random luck out of it as possible is the best way to go.