Golf and Moneyball

Have you ever watched the movie Moneyball?  If not, it is about the “Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane’s successful attempt to assemble a baseball team on a lean budget by employing computer-generated analysis to acquire new players.”  Basically, it is about statistics; how to read them, work them to your favor and pray your decisions work out. Statistics are important when talking about a sports team, but are they really that important in golf?

In golf, statistics lie.  You heard it here first, stats mean nothing in golf.  They might be great to keep, fun to watch, but have no real value when predicting the outcome of any tournament, yearly money list or world ranking.  In 2013, the following were leaders on the money list and number of wins:

  1. Tiger Woods               8,553,439         5
  2. Henrik Stenson           6,388,230         2
  3. Matt Kuchar                5,616,808         2
  4. Phil Mickelson             5,495,793         2
  5. Brandt Snedeker         5,318,087        2

These players, who “dominated” the golfing world in 2013, rarely show up on any of the PGA statistic charts.  They show up on one or two, but basically, they are absent. However, a 47 year-old player, Steve Stricker, who had 0 wins in 2013, finished 7th on the PGA money list, and finished 8th in the world ranking, shows up on 5 of the major statistic charts.  Yet, he is considered in the twilight of his career with little chances of winning a Major or any professional tournament.

If Steve Stricker was 24 years old with the same statistics, he would be an up and coming phenom!  He would have the status of Rory McIlroy and be touted as one of the next great golfers.

Statistics do lie.  At this time, McIlroy ( in all likelihood will be one of the golfing greats) did not make the top 5 of any 2013 of the statistical category.  Is this just an anomaly?

I suggest not.  Gone are the days of Tiger Woods dominating the professional tour and the statistical categories.  The number of outstanding unknown players winning tournaments is on the rise.  Except for Webb Simpson, the statistics vs money list applies to the early 2014 golfing season.  As the world of golf grows and new events open up, how will the stats apply to top ranked players who more and more chose to play in places like Dubai vice Phoenix?

Statistics are not a good barometer of the golfing world.  The evolution of golf makes statistics meaningless and at the very least an exercise in futility.

I am a grateful golfer!  See you on the links!

4 thoughts on “Golf and Moneyball

  1. Great post Jim,

    Yes it’s interesting to the see the statistics and the absence of the top players on the winners list.

    Adam Scott is another world class player who doesn’t feature in many top 10 statistical categories and yet won 4 times in 2013.

    No question, they can be very misleading … but fun to look at!


  2. Jim, I think you’ll find on the pro tour and in the amateur ranks that greens in regulation are the most predictable measure of consistent performance. I’ve been tracking them for the last six seasons and inevitably when I hit 10 or more greens, I’m on to one of my better days. Thanks. Brian


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