Depending on who’s doing the talking, the advent of statistical analysis in sports like baseball has been either one of the greatest developments ever or one of the worst. Regardless of your stance on the matter or whether you think a computer wrote the book Moneyball (like Joe Morgan), the newfound love of numbers has helped people look at things like sports, business, and politics in a whole new light.
(Golf = sexy.)
So it was only a matter of time before the whitests and male-est of professionals - numbers crunchers - met up with the whitest and male-est of sports, golf, to look at a good walk spoiled in a whole new light. The results are actually pretty interesting.
The official online chronicle of pseudointellectual contrarianism, SLATE, has an interesting piece on statistical analysis in golf. Interestingly, the PGA has been all over it since 2002, implementing their own statistical analysis program, ShotLink:
Given that one’s score might vary by only a few strokes per round, it’s hard for a golfer to detect where he is losing ground with his peers. With ShotLink data, they can now discern clear trends. Phil Mickelson, for example, realized his ability to get up and down from the sand was subpar. In two years, he improved dramatically, moving from a ranking of 180 to 3 in sand saves.
There’s more, including whether using complex analysis can help you, amateur duffer, with your game (maybe a little) and whether it could help you at the sportsbook (nope, sorry). Of course, there’s also the requisite quotes from old-school golfers who think the whole numbers game is for ninnies, but that’s to be expected. Now if someone could just get those stats nerds working on a way to fit more beer in a golf cart, we’d really be onto something.