Ever since Paul Azinger tweeted that players with 5 matches lose 80% of the time in singles—I still don’t know where he came up with this—I wanted to take a look at what effect playing lots of matches has on a Ryder Cup record. So, I went back and looked at all the matches since1999 at Brookline.
Let’s start with the issue of playing twice in one day. Players that have played twice in one day record breaks down like this:

First Match: 50-32-19; + 51 (W-L-T; Hole differential)
Second Match: 39-35-28; +11

But, it’s important to take these stats into context. Players that are the best on the team tend to do the double. So, it’s not terribly surprising that they have a great first match record. The second match record is pretty surprising, and a lot worse. Let’s break it down even further among players with two matches.

Fri First Match: 26-18-10; +29
Fri Second Match: 21-18-15; +18
Sat First Match: 24-14-9; +22
Sat Second Match: 18-17-13; -7

Wow. So, there hasn’t appeared to be much effect on Friday (could probably be explained by randomness or sometimes having a weaker partner in the afternoon). But, Saturday is a whole different story. That second match on Saturday, appears to be a lot worse.
If you break it down even further, since 1999 32 players have played in all four team matches. Here is their record by session:

Fri First: 19-10-3; +28
Fri Second: 16-7-9; +22
Sat First: 18-9-5; +19
Sat Second: 14-10-8; +2
Singles: 14-13-5; -1

There is definitely a noticeable drop off after the third session. So, let’s slice it a few other ways. Do players that only play once or not at all on Friday see the same decline on Saturday afternoon. Fourteen players have done this, only one—Jerry Pate in 99, who played with Tiger—has played no matches on Friday and gone on to play two on Saturday. Here’s their record by session

Fri First: 0-0-0; N/A
Fri Second: 2-1-2; +4
Sat First: 6-4-4; +7
Sat Second: 3-7-4; -11
Sunday: 8-4-3; -11

So it seems that these players are equally as responsible for the drop off in play on Saturday afternoon. The one other thing would be to check the record of players whose first match on Saturday is in the afternoon. They are 12-9-11; +11. Players who played twice Friday, then rested on Saturday morning have an obscenely high tie rate, but I’m not sure that means anything. They were 1-2-7; -2. Players who played just once on Friday then Saturday afternoon were, 11-7-4; +13. Here is the session by session break down:

Fri First: 1-10-5; -21
Fri Second: 3-11-10; -24
Sat First: 0-0-0; N/A
Sat Second: 12-9-11; +11
Sunday: 12-13-6; +3

Rest does appear to have some advantage here. Additionally, players who wait until Saturday to make their debut are only 0-1-1; -1. That includes Vaughn Taylor who halved in 2002 and Jesper Parnevik who lost one down in 2006.
So, what does this all mean?

First, it’s important to note that the small sample size could make this pretty meaningless.

Still, the team might be more important than I thought. That makes Captain’s picks like Fowler and Cink even more brutal. It seems for the first three sessions any team is best off just using their best eight players. In the fourth the session, and singles, there probably is some benefit to being able to replace players.

For Tiger/Stricker/Furyk, this probably isn’t a big deal. There is almost certainly no combination of players who even when they are tired will be better. For your more mediocre players in relation to the team, like maybe Kuchar or Phil and Mahan, Zach and Dustin, there probably is a huge benefit to having similarly skilled players like Watney and O’Hair fill in for them at one match on Saturday (Oh, they aren’t on the team). This could be a huge benefit for Europe’s team. They only have one player who shouldn’t be there (E Molinari), while the US has Overton, Watson, Fowler and Cink.

Finally what is this worth?

Here are a few charts showing how a player fared in hole differential per match by session:

Situation HPM Diff
Second match on Fri -0.230
Second match on Sat -0.573
First on Sat after 2 Fri -0.043
Singles After HPM Diff
Four Prior Matches -0.530
Three Prior Matches 0.529
Two Prior Matches 0.960
One Prior Match -0.571

Tomorrow: I’ll work on some adjustments for matches played and come up with a strategy for each team.


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