Monthly Archives: July 2011

IS LONG ROUGH REALLY UNFAIR?

Reading through the golf.com discussion this week you would think that one week of long rough ruined the game of golf forever. I’ll be honest I have a little sympathy for a pro golfer because the winning score is -3 instead of -16.

But, the main theme of the argument seems to be that it makes the game boring. I’m not so sure. I watched for about 30 minutes on Sunday and saw Sean O’Hair absolutely bomb a drive on one of the back-nine Par 4s have 120ish left and hit it to two feet for a birdie. On the same hole a couple of groups later, Bo Van Pelt drove it into the trees and hacked it around for a double bogey 6. When guys can make birdies if they play well, but make really high numbers when they don’t that seems pretty interesting to me.

The other argument seems to be that it negates skill:

Van Sickle: “Beyond that, too much rough negates ability and is an equalizer.”

Bamberger: “The great obstacles are wind, green speed, uneven lies, bunker depth. Length here and there. If you need rough to make your course hard, you’re doing something wrong and bad for golf.”

Shipnuck: “What’s wrong is that you can’t play shots out of those weeds. It negates skill, on approach shots and around the green.”

Read the full thing here.

Does rough really negate skill? It doesn’t seem like it. I compared last week’s Canadian Open to last year’s Greenbriar Classic. Obviously, the rough in Vancouver was unplayable, while Greenbriar was one of the easiest PGA Tour courses I can remember. Then I looked at “skill” – a player’s two year average score – compared to performance for the week.

The correlation between skill and performance was virtually identical at around .42 (r-squared ~ .175). That’s only two tournaments, but for all intents and purposes, the conditions didn’t really matter.

I just think the actual penalty of the rough is vastly overstated because it applies pretty equally to all players. As for not being able to “play shots,” I’m not really sure how much value this has anymore. Seems like most guys nowadays just line up and swing as hard as they can, especially off the tee, and more importantly it seems like the game of golf rewards that approach.

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THE VALUE OF LINKS GOLF?

Darren Clarke had only played above his average in two of his last seven starts coming into the British Open. Nothing special.

He really wasn’t getting too much respect, either, until two weeks ago:

My rankings had him overrated compared to the book in all events coming in except the EPGA Championship and Welsh Open.

Suddenly, two weeks ago, and for no good reason, that changed. All of sudden someone must have seen something they liked in Clarke because once he hit two links courses in a row, his prices shot down. It certainly wasn’t good play.

Clarke went off at a little better than the field average for the week. I wonder how much of an effect him being from Northern Ireland and theoretically playing lots of links golf helped.

Probably not as much as the weather.

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2011 BRITISH OPEN: FINAL ROUND

Player

total wins

Darren Clarke

33.7550%

Dustin Johnson

30.8800%

Rickie Fowler

8.9700%

Thomas Bjorn

4.1650%

Martin Kaymer

3.7400%

Miguel Angel Jimenez

2.9400%

Lucas Glover

2.9200%

Phil Mickelson

2.8600%

Davis Love III

1.4500%

Anders Hansen

1.3350%

Anthony Kim

1.1100%

Steve Stricker

0.8900%

Zach Johnson

0.8750%

George Coetzee

0.7400%

Tom Lehman

0.6700%

Ryan Palmer

0.5450%

Adam Scott

0.4600%

Chad Campbell

0.4400%

Webb Simpson

0.2800%

Simon Dyson

0.2300%

Charl Schwartzel

0.1400%

Raphael Jacquelin

0.1350%

Y.E. Yang

0.1100%

Rory McIlroy

0.1050%

Fredrik Jacobson

0.0950%

Sergio Garcia

0.0400%

Robert Rock

0.0300%

Charles Howell III

0.0200%

Richard Green

0.0200%

Pablo Larrazabal

0.0150%

Trevor Immelman

0.0100%

Bubba Watson

0.0100%

Tom Watson

0.0050%

Yuta Ikeda

0.0050%

Jason Day

0.0050%

Not sure Clarke is actually value. The record of closing at majors has been pretty horrendous for third-round leaders. Other than that, not much to say, without knowing how to factor in the weather. God knows what it will do, and it could have a huge impact and I have no idea how to account for it.

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THE WEATHER STORY: 2011 BRITISH OPEN

For all rounds, the BLUE line equals is the trendline for actual score compared to tee time. The RED line is a players 2-year average compared to tee time. The GREEN-DOTTED line is just one random simulation for comparison sake.

First Round:

You can see the weather basically shut off in the afternoon. Morning players came in about 1.5 strokes over the average, while the best of the afternoon conditions played a little over 2 strokes easier than what it should have.

Second Round:

The Late group on Thursday got another great break on Friday. The conditions were easy in the morning before a breeze blew across the course for the afternoon. The biggest difference was the first couple groups with the players who teed off after 5 hours after them. There was about a three stroke difference between those groups but for most of the field weather actually wasn’t as big a difference in the second round.

Third Round:

Then we get to Saturday. The PGA Tour has a nice solution for playing conditions like this: Suspending play.

It was pretty horrendous this morning at Royal St. George’s. The scores started high, with the early groups literally having no chance. They were slightly worse than the late tee times but not really that much. As the weather turned around, the course got easier, pretty much linearly. The course average for the final couple of groups was around 72.2 about where it was in easy conditions on Thursday. That’s just south of a 6 shot difference between the first and last tee times today.

I think it’s pretty safe to say the R&A should not have been playing. There was a 1% chance all things equal that someone at the cut number would come back and win this week. Playing a course six shots harder, that went to zero in a hurry.

Rickie Fowler teed off when the course average was about 74.5, so his 68 was 6.5 strokes better than the conditions. Dustin Johnson tied that 68, but that was only roughly four shots better than the conditions.

The Top Ten rounds of the day using this method are here:

Rank

Player

Score

RTCC (strokes)

1

Rickie FOWLER

68

-4.270

2

Tom WATSON

72

-3.235

3

Trevor IMMELMAN

72

-2.740

4

Gary WOODLAND

74

-2.630

5

Bo VAN PELT

73

-2.480

6

Dustin JOHNSON

68

-2.433

7

K.J. CHOI

75

-1.842

8

Raphael JACQUELIN

71

-1.745

9

Anthony KIM

70

-1.172

10

Louis OOSTHUIZEN

74

-0.990

It’s also important to note while there was a strong correlation between tee time and score (r-squared = .4) it may not be all weather, no matter how much it looked. There could be a lot of straight giving up going out there amongst the guys who were playing in a hurricane and already 7 – over and 15 shots off the lead at that point. As always, Randomness is probably the biggest factor in one round of golf from one player, too.

As for who has made out the best on the week, It’s hard to say exactly because there is some estimating with complex equations that Excel doesn’t handle too well. Just looking at it, some big winners looke to Darren Clarke, Lucas Glover, Martin Kaymer and Steve Stricker.

In Clarke’s case, he probably picked up about .5 strokes in round 1, 1 stroke in round 2 and then about 2.5 or so shots today. That makes about 4 strokes on the week. Lucas Glover is in a similar position.

Dustin Johnson was the opposite case. He played a course that was about +2.5 strokes harder with his Thursday-Friday draw, but probably made up for it today.

As for the worst of it overall, probably Paul Casey, who with better luck might have won last year’s British Open. He’s probably played conditions about 6 strokes worse than average. Paul Lawrie is right around there, too, although a lot of guys that played early late ended up missing the cut.

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2011 BRITISH OPEN THIRD ROUND

Player

total wins

odds

Martin Kaymer

13.7742%

626

Darren Clarke

6.9787%

1333

Lucas Glover

6.9787%

1333

Charl Schwartzel

6.6844%

1396

Dustin Johnson

6.2292%

1505

Miguel Angel Jimenez

4.3971%

2174

Phil Mickelson

4.2472%

2255

Rory McIlroy

4.1250%

2324

Steve Stricker

3.6587%

2633

Chad Campbell

3.6254%

2658

Tom Lehman

3.1979%

3027

Davis Love III

3.0924%

3134

Adam Scott

3.0258%

3205

Thomas Bjorn

2.2263%

4392

Anders Hansen

2.0542%

4768

Jeff Overton

1.9931%

4917

Sergio Garcia

1.9876%

4931

Zach Johnson

1.5545%

6333

Pablo Larrazabal

1.4546%

6775

Rickie Fowler

1.2769%

7731

Y.E. Yang

1.2714%

7766

Fredrik Jacobson

1.2603%

7835

George Coetzee

1.2547%

7870

Jason Day

1.2381%

7977

Ryan Palmer

1.2270%

8050

Webb Simpson

1.0215%

9689

Stewart Cink

0.6496%

15295

Simon Dyson

0.6107%

16275

Bubba Watson

0.5996%

16578

Robert Allenby

0.5885%

16892

Anthony Kim

0.5829%

17054

Justin Rose

0.5552%

17912

Robert Rock

0.5330%

18663

Kyle Stanley

0.5108%

19478

Charles Howell III

0.4886%

20368

Bill Haas

0.3775%

26388

Rory Sabbatini

0.3553%

28044

Bo Van Pelt

0.3109%

32064

Raphael Jacquelin

0.2831%

35218

Jim Furyk

0.2720%

36659

Yuta Ikeda

0.2609%

38223

Louis Oosthuizen

0.2443%

40836

Gary Boyd

0.2387%

41788

K.J. Choi

0.2387%

41788

Spencer Levin

0.2276%

43832

Richard Green

0.2276%

43832

Paul Casey

0.2110%

47300

Ricky Barnes

0.1832%

54482

Tom Lewis

0.1777%

56188

Stephen Gallacher

0.1666%

59940

Seung-yul Noh

0.1499%

66611

Ryan Moore

0.1332%

74950

Mark Wilson

0.1166%

85671

Trevor Immelman

0.1110%

89960

Joost Luiten

0.0999%

99967

Paul Lawrie

0.0999%

99967

Henrik Stenson

0.0888%

112475

Edoardo Molinari

0.0833%

119980

Harrison Frazar

0.0777%

128557

Richard McEvoy

0.0666%

150000

Gregory Havret

0.0611%

163645

Kenneth Ferrie

0.0444%

225050

Gary Woodland

0.0444%

225050

Gregory Bourdy

0.0333%

300100

Fredrik Andersson Hed

0.0222%

450200

Tom Watson

0.0167%

600300

Simon Khan

0.0167%

600300

Peter Uihlein

0.0056%

1801100

Floris De Vries

0.0056%

1801100

Jung-Gon Hwang

0.0000%

#DIV/0!

Matthew Millar

0.0000%

#DIV/0!

Rick Kulacz

0.0000%

#DIV/0!

Don’t look now since Rory McIlroy has been anointed the Tiger, but Martin Kaymer has the best chance to be the first 20-something to win multiple majors since Tiger.

I’ll try to do live odds when possible tomorrow morning.

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2011 BRITISH OPEN 2nd ROUND LIVE UPDATE

Player

Wins

Score (Thru)

Martin Kaymer

14.11%

-3 (F)

Darren Clarke

6.68%

-4 (F)

Lucas Glover

6.58%

-4 (F)

Charl Schwartzel

5.77%

-2 (F)

Sergio Garcia

5.64%

-2 (14)

Dustin Johnson

4.86%

-2 (17)

Rory McIlroy

4.51%

E (15)

Miguel Angel Jimenez

4.21%

-3 (F)

Phil Mickelson

4.14%

-1 (F)

Steve Stricker

3.28%

E (F)

Chad Campbell

3.08%

-3 (F)

Tom Lehman

2.85%

-2 (F)

Adam Scott

2.69%

-1 (F)

Davis Love III

2.42%

-2 (F)

Anders Hansen

2.40%

-2 (13)

Jeff Overton

2.09%

-1 (F)

Thomas Bjorn

1.92%

-3 (F)

Rickie Fowler

1.57%

E (15)

Pablo Larrazabal

1.43%

-2 (F)

Luke Donald

1.43%

2 (14)

Zach Johnson

1.36%

E (F)

George Coetzee

1.34%

-2 (F)

Ryan Palmer

1.28%

-1 (F)

Fredrik Jacobson

1.14%

E (F)

Jason Day

0.99%

1 (F)

Y.E. Yang

0.94%

E (F)

Webb Simpson

0.91%

E (F)

Justin Rose

0.63%

2 (F)

Simon Dyson

0.61%

E (F)

Bubba Watson

0.58%

1 (F)

Robert Allenby

0.58%

1 (F)

Stewart Cink

0.55%

1 (F)

Anthony Kim

0.51%

E (F)

Seung-yul Noh

0.50%

E (10)

Kyle Stanley

0.45%

E (F)

Robert Rock

0.40%

E (F)

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THE MOST UNFAIR STARTING HOLE IN GOLF

Remember when ESPN was flipping out about players starting on No. 10 at the US Open at Congressional. Turns out that wasn’t even close to the worst starting hole in golf.

It’s turns out the most unfair starting hole in golf is the first hole of the British Open’s first two rounds.

Unlike the US Open and all other tournaments I can think of, which use split tees, the British Open has 156 players in the field and they all tee off No. 1. Sounds more fair than the US Open right?

Actually, it’s completely wrong. There may be a small difference in scores for starting on a tough hole, but it turns out it’s nowhere near the potential disadvantage of teeing off spread out over 9.5 hours of the same tee. This can, and has, exposed the field over the past two years to wildly different playing conditions. Here’s a look at today’s action:

The chart shows, in blue, the average score a player could be expected to make based on his two-year ranking and the full field average today. In red is the average score by tee time that the field actually recorded. Obviously score, in strokes, is on the Y-axis. The X axis is time, in hours, after the first group teed off.

The R-squared for each of these lines was about .2, which seems pretty high for something that has a lot of randomness in it like threesome scores and supposedly PGA Tour pairings. Obviously there is some correlation between tee times and skill because the majors all group the good players together in certain windows so they can maximize their appearances on TV.

What does this mean?

Both of these lines are sixth-order polynomial equations, so Excel wasn’t very good at rounding them. I messed around with them a little and came up with a chart about the stroke difference relative to the field based on your tee times. It was roughly a 4.7 stroke difference between the worst tee times (Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald, Ryo Ishikawa, Ernie Els, Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy) and the best (Robert Rock, Webb Simpson, Alejandro Canizares, Justin Leonard, Jeff Overton, Kurt Barnes).

It’s probably not too exact and there is a good deal of randomness in a small sample of golf results for sure, but once again, I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to say different weather conditions for different times did have some impact on the British Open today.

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