Tiger Woods Scientifically Proven to Intimidate

It just doesn’t seem fair. Tiger Woods is the best golfer in the world by far, has the hottest wife, owns the biggest house, and gets to hide his receding hairline under a ball cap if he wants. However, that’s not the worst of it.

Elin Nordgren

(All part of the intimidation factor)

When opponents that would normally have a shot to win a PGA tournament see Tiger Woods’ name on the registration sheet for the tourney, they fold up like lawn chairs and hit for higher scores than if Tiger wasn’t in the event. They aren’t kidding about that “playing for second” nonsense they spout for the cameras; they really do quit a little.

Stef Szymanski of THE SPORTS ECONOMIST reports about a conference at North Carolina State about the economics of tournaments and contests. At the conference, Jennifer Brown of Berkeley presented a paper that concluded that Tiger scares exempt PGA players (with a better chance of actually beating Tiger) into upping their scores by .8 strokes than when he’s not there.

It’s also not because the golfers gamble and try the Mickelson “grip it and rip it” flails at the hole; they don’t take any more chances than they do when Tiger’s not around. They just swallow their tongues and hope Tiger slumps that year. (The effect lowers when Tiger appears momentarily vulnerable.)

Most interestingly, the scores of non-exempt players (who, in theory, don’t even consider Tiger in their league and are just playing for a decent result) are not affected in the slightest by Tiger’s presence.

It’s not clear how this “superstar” effect might apply to other sports, if at all. Did Jordan’s opponents give up a little when they saw him stride on the court in a cloud of rosin? Did defensemen tighten their sphincters a little when Gretzky threw his skates over the boards?

For that matter, did Kelly Roland and Michelle Williams have to clear their throats when Beyoncé stepped to the front of the stage? Additional study of Beyoncé may need to be undertaken.