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20190627 The Ridiculous Open Championship Website

The site url is: The Open For many years it has been the worst website in the world of golf. Sadly, it’s returned in 2019 more or less unchanged.

There are myriad reasons for its bottom-feeder status among golf sites, but the one that has always frustrated me the most is its player listing. This is is a completely incompetent, outmoded, collage of confusion – allied with an utter lack of appreciation of user needs.

Firstly, when you land on the homepage there is no link entitled ‘Players’ or ‘Field’ or ‘Qualifiers’. That’s ridiculous.

I’d suggest that finding out who’s playing would rank higher in user priorities than the links that are presented such as: ‘Upcoming Venues” or ‘Join the One Club”. I mean, seriously?

In fact, there are only two significant reasons for a person to visit the site in, say, May or June: finding out about players or tickets.

Anyway, you click the ‘Menu’ icon. Happily, there’s an entry entitled ‘Players & Qualification’ so you select that and it loads a page that contains, among a lot of dross, a link entitled ‘Players in the field’. This is an irritating extra step, but at least you feel you’re close to seeing the player list you seek.

What occurs next is not so good; in fact, it’s the most fucking brainless approach to a field list that has ever existed in the history of golf on the internet!

The ‘Players in the Field’ page loads and there is an icon at the top entitled ‘Filters’. Selecting it gives you 5 options: Champions, Amateurs, Debutants, Exempt & Not Playing. The last one is especially hilarious; as if you care that some retired 59-y-o who won The Open 30-some years ago isn’t going to get out of his wheelchair and use his last exemption in 2019!

Anyway, you’re looking for the players who will be playing and the only item among those 5 filters that seems logical is ‘Exempt’, so naturally you select it but it only returns a message stating “No results. Please try making your search a little wider.” Wider? wtf?

Not only is this moronic, but selecting any of those 5 filters returns the same ‘no results’ message. You wonder to yourself what level of website haplessness this represents.

However, you soldier on. Below the five useless filters there is a set of player pics and names. You immediately wonder how they’re ordered as the first two names are: Prom Meesawat & Yoshinori Fujimoto, so you know this listing is not in alphabetical or fame order.

However, upon scrolling, you discover there are 18 pics & names which you intuitively know, as a golf fan, is not everybody who has qualified as at today (27 June 2019) – just three weeks before tee-off.

Also, Ian Baker-Finch is listed and you can’t recall him teeing it up in a golf tournament for years. Anyway, despite some growing suspicions, you continue your torturous website experience.

After initially being concerned that there were only 18 qualifiers listed, you scroll and discover a ‘Load More’ button, off screen, at the bottom of the page. You click it and 18 more pics and names are added in a new page. It’s hard to put into words how annoying this is but you’re getting the hang of such inconvenient impishness and scroll, again, to the bottom of the new page.

Sure enough, there’s an icon entitled ‘Load More’. So you click it and, yes you guessed it, another 18 pics & players load. You’re up to 54 players now and you wonder how long this madness will go on!

Nonetheless, like a monkey in training, you scroll, again, to the bottom of this new page. Sure enough, there’s that icon entitled ‘Load More’ so you click it and, lo and behold, a new page loads with 18 more pics & players added. 72 players.

Scroll to the bottom, again, and there’s the now too familiar ‘Load More’ icon; it’s now as welcome as a red warning light on your dashboard in rush hour, when it’s raining and you’re running late for a meeting!

But, like the helpless victim you now are, you click it and a new page loads and, now a fully trained monkey, you immediately scroll to the bottom and discover that there’s no ‘Load More’ icon there. Your field of Open qualifiers must be complete! Your search for The Holy Grail is over!

The final two players listed are: Padraig Harrington & Rory McIlroy, confirming, as you suspected from the first page, that the listing is randomised. Anyway, to make sense of a now huge page, and to get rid of the unnecessary player photos, you copy it and paste it into MS Excel.

There, you filter out all the redundant data and end up with a list of 75 players to contemplate. At last, sigh.

To try and double-check these data, you visit the European Tour site for The Open and select ‘Entry List’. It returns a message stating “Entry List will be displayed here when it is made available” Not for the first time, the ET site proves unhelpful.

However, you then recall (too late!) some output from the excellent and helpful Rob Bolton (@RobBoltonGolf) on the other side of the world; a 26 June (yesterday) tweet linking to article for PGATour entitled: 2019 Qualifiers for majors, THE PLAYERS, WGCs

You check it and find there are 135 players listed as qualified for The Open; no Ian Baker-Finch, by the way.

Wait, 135 players? The Official site lists only 75. Somebody’s wrong!

Of course, the culprit is the Official Open website with its exasperatingly hopeless approach to user-friendliness – and to pretty much everything else.

My two conclusions:

  1. If you want info on Europe’s only golf Major, go to a USA source and;
  2. For health reasons, never, ever, ever, visit the Official Open site.

 

Ⓒ Copyright MJ Miller (Mike) 27 June 2019.

 

 

 

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20190307 Golf Strength by Country

Executive Summary

Top Countries for Mens’ Golf: USA, England, Australia, South Africa, Japan …. (full listing  of 60 below).

Top Countries for Womens’ Golf: South Korea, USA, Japan, Thailand, England ….. (full listing of 49 below).

Combined Nation rankings (Top5): USA, South Korea, Japan, England, Australia.

 

Introduction

This post was inspired by a twitter follower @TolfGipster who was pondering the strength of Korean Mens’ golf and how many Koreans would eventually make the World Top10.

It got me thinking about how I would rank all the countries in the world for their ‘golf strength’.

Logic

I crunched some numbers, primarily using owgr average points, and taking a variety of approaches.

I looked at counting wins and / or places but the data set was too small.

I also looked at averaging the points per player but a Rory McIlroy, Lydia Ko or Jhonattan Vegas skewed their countries’ number too much.

The data below were drawn from the official world golf rankings as at 3 March 2019; there were 2,016 players with points.

My final rankings are sorted in order of the sum of owgr points for each country – which I deemed the best ‘national strength indicator’. Even this is skewed because players in a few countries enjoy Pro Tours where owgr points can be earned without traveling overseas.

Anyway, for better or worse, here are the tabulations. Scroll down for the Womens’ table.

For additional indicative context, I’ve added, in the final column, the number of players from each country that contributed points.

Country Rankings (Male) 2,016 players:

Rank Country Points Players
1 USA 263.64 467
2 England 72.61 187
3 Australia 47.56 142
4 South Africa 40.55 129
5 Japan 34.79 111
6 South Korea 31.97 146
7 Spain 23.28 42
8 Sweden 21.28 79
9 Thailand 17.82 68
10 France 14.42 73
11 Scotland 12.10 47
12 Denmark 10.74 40
13 Italy 10.48 31
14 China 9.60 27
15 India 8.78 36
16 Canada 8.57 35
17 Germany 7.39 44
18 Northern Ireland 7.00 7
19 New Zealand 6.80 24
20 Ireland 6.19 18
21 Argentina 5.44 25
22 Finland 4.74 18
23 Mexico 4.17 14
24 Belgium 4.10 7
25 Netherlands 3.59 16
26 Taiwan 2.71 17
27 Chile 2.54 10
28 Austria 2.38 18
29 Malaysia 2.22 14
30 Philippines 2.21 9
31 Wales 2.12 10
32 Norway 1.69 15
33 Zimbabwe 1.69 5
34 Portugal 1.63 10
35 Colombia 1.47 6
36 Venezuela 1.40 2
37 Switzerland 0.94 6
38 Brazil 0.93 5
39 Paraguay 0.89 1
40 Slovakia 0.78 2
41 Bangladesh 0.70 5
42 Greece 0.69 1
43 Poland 0.57 2
44 Singapore 0.51 8
45 Czechia 0.47 6
46 Puerto Rico 0.43 1
47 Iceland 0.39 5
48 Fiji 0.36 1
49 Hong Kong 0.27 2
50 Pakistan 0.25 5
51 Indonesia 0.20 4
52 Zambia 0.20 1
53 Guatemala 0.09 1
54 Botswana 0.08 1
55 Morocco 0.08 3
56 Sri Lanka 0.08 3
57 Costa Rica 0.04 1
58 Uruguay 0.03 1
59 Nigeria 0.01 1
60 Russia 0.01 1

Country Rankings (Female) 1,122 players

Using the same logic as for the Men, the Womens’ ranking are tabulated below.

The data were extracted from the Rolex Rankings at 3 March 2019:

Rank Country Points Players
1 South Korea 132.69 245
2 USA 74.14 152
3 Japan 57.02 242
4 Thailand 21.49 59
5 England 14.06 32
6 Australia 13.20 27
7 Taiwan 10.27 59
8 Sweden 9.78 34
9 China 9.68 46
10 Spain 9.16 24
11 Canada 6.14 11
12 Germany 4.82 10
13 France 4.12 34
14 New Zealand 4.05 6
15 South Africa 1.90 8
16 Norway 1.72 10
17 Mexico 1.51 6
18 Netherlands 1.49 2
19 Scotland 1.45 12
20 Denmark 1.23 5
21 India 1.13 10
22 Finland 0.96 13
23 Puerto Rico 0.79 1
24 Wales 0.69 5
25 Philippines 0.66 10
26 Colombia 0.61 3
27 Belgium 0.47 5
28 Austria 0.45 3
29 Czechia 0.39 6
30 Iceland 0.37 3
31 Italy 0.32 7
32 Switzerland 0.32 6
33 Georgia 0.30 1
34 Israel 0.25 1
35 Ireland 0.23 1
36 Hong Kong 0.22 1
37 Northern Ireland 0.22 1
38 Slovenia 0.21 1
39 Malaysia 0.17 6
40 Paraguay 0.14 1
41 Singapore 0.12 3
42 Morocco 0.10 1
43 Peru 0.05 1
44 Hungary 0.04 1
45 Russia 0.04 1
46 Brazil 0.03 3
47 Latvia 0.02 1
48 Swaziland 0.02 1
49 Panama 0.01 1

If we unite the two sets of rankings to calculate an overall global ranking for both genders, USA wins, well ahead South Korea, Japan, England, Australia, South Africa, Thailand & Spain.

 

Ⓒ Copyright MJ Miller (Mike) 7 March 2019.

 

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20181129 LET: Losing Every Tournament

I Used to Like the LET

I used to admire the LET (Ladies European Tour). In many ways, it reminded me of a much-liked childhood fairytale: ‘The Little Engine that Could’.

LET Logo.jpg

For evidence of that admiration, look no further than the Mikes Awards it earned for: 2015 & 2016’s Best Tour Site (men or women) and its runner-up gong for 2016’s Best Tour Tweeter!

That admiration endured until perhaps two years ago when LET entered a spiraling decline, seemingly on all fronts: online quality, tournament schedule, relationships with other golf governing bodies, sponsorships and, especially, leadership.

To me, the LET today looks to be on the brink of either bankruptcy or irrelevance, like the OneAsia Tour did last year; it’s an eerily similar decline. Today, the LET offers less than half of an acceptable schedule for its playing members!

Its failed CEO, Ivan Khodabakhsh, was kicked out in August 2017 and to date no replacement has been appointed. That’s a gap of 15 months, which to me is beyond belief. Is the problem affording one? Well, you can’t afford to not have one!

Womens Sports

Life is never easy where sponsorship is difficult to secure yet key to survival; even more so for womens’ sports, such as golf. Across all of sports the men have garnered the lion’s share of available sponsorship dollars.

Nonetheless, global womens’ sports such as tennis have made giant strides in the area of sponsorship / prize money. In golf, so has the LPGA which itself was in struggling decline not so many years back. It solved its problem via the appointment of a quality CEO, Mike Whan, and is today a healthier tour than it’s ever been. Leadership matters! Are you listening, LET?

It’s no surprise that Whan’s from both a golf and marketing background with a steely focus on building sponsor partnerships. It is against this background of LPGA success that the LET, as historically the planet’s second-ranked womens’ golf tour, must be measured and it doesn’t measure-up! Today, it may not even be the world’s #3 ladies tour; even the lowly Symetra Tour, the LPGA’s feeder, presented 21 tournaments from March to October in 2018 at $100-225k per week.

Lost Tournaments

I had a flick through my database to see what’s disappeared from the LET tournament schedule since 2014: Turkish Airlines Ladies Open – Turkey, Deloitte Ladies Open – Netherlands, European Masters – UK, Ladies Italian Open – Italy, Tipsport Golf Masters – Czech Republic, Helsingborg Open – Sweden, Omega Dubai Ladies Masters – UAE and Ladies German Open – Germany. It’s a long list!

There were also ‘disappeared’ joint-sanction tournaments: RACV Ladies Masters – Australia, Vic Open – Australia, Sanya Ladies Open – China, World Ladies Championship – China, Xiamen Ladies International Open – China, Buick Championship / Invitational – China …

In toto, that’s a lot of ‘disappeared’s’ in just four years. A lot more than any other golf tour on earth, in fact.

Most concerning must be the loss of continental european events and sponsors; this is LET’s home turf. Countries with a proven appetite for sponsoring, attending and watching womens’ golf tournaments. There are no longer LET tournaments played in any of these big Euro-markets: Great Britain, Sweden, Germany, Turkey, Italy, Netherlands, Czech Republic ….

That’s a damning indictment on the LET and especially its Chairman, and for the past 15 months, acting CEO – Mark Lichtenhein. Is he playing Nero, fiddling while Rome burns? We all hope not.

Current (2018) LET Schedule

If we ignore Majors and a group of early-year Australian events, where I assume the ALPG threw the LET a co-sanction bone, this years schedule was: South Africa, Morocco, Thailand, Scotland, France, Spain, India & Spain. That’s just 8 LET tournaments, including Scotland boosted by LPGA support.

Note: in compiling this sad and skinny listing I’m ignoring the European Tour’s silly Golf Sixes where a bit of opportunity exists for a limited number of LET girls.

If we skip back a few years to 2014, the equivalent LET tournament schedule consisted of 16 tournaments. How many of those were played in mainland Europe, that LET home turf? There were eleven. Yes there were 11 in Europe compared to 4 in 2018!

An epic failure in its own backyard? Yes.

Insanity

When I say that’s a lot of lost events, I mean LET lost half its own tournaments in 4 yrs! Can you envisage LPGA Tour slipping from 32 to 16 tournaments over a 4 year period?

In this ‘madness’ context, I can’t resist mentioning the LET’s introduction of a QSchool pre-qualifier in Cambodia, late in 2016. Yes, Cambodia, that epicentre of asian golf! To my simple mind that looked about as insane as the OneAsia Tour holding dual QSchool qualifiers in USA for a few years before it disappeared.

Incidentally, that 2016 Cambodian qualifier drew 11 players and a few of the scores could have been bettered by blind golfers using broomsticks! Anyway, 2017 went ahead and 7 players competed. 2018 in Siem Reap drew 9 players. Draw your own conclusions.

Help?

Help appeared on the horizon during 2017 in the form of LET discussions with the LPGA & European Tour senior execs. The latter subsequently launched its incorrectly and grandiosely-named European Golf Team Championships and sixteen 2-person LET teams were invited.

The LPGA engineered something tangible; an LPGA/LET co-sanction of the Ladies Scottish Open and a consequent trebling of prizemoney.

However, nothing else seems to have occurred subsequent to those discussions and LET members must be more worried than ever about their future livelihoods. They must also wonder if the LET is on the brink of bankruptcy, given that it seemingly has no assets other than its brand name.

Some millions of assistance money apparently was on the table from those other Tours but the LET would not accept the associated conditions. Maybe that was smart; maybe it was stupid; I don’t know.

It Starts at the Top

Having been a Board Member & CEO myself, of both larger and smaller organisations than LET, I fully understand the pressures and frustrations inherent in the role. I also know that as CEO I will take credit for successes because I know I will inevitably take the blame for failures – whether my fault or not.

I also understand that if those failures are public or threatening to the viability of the organisation then I will lose my job. And rightly so; the rewards for success are large and, rightly, the consequences of failure must be severe.

I know the LET, technically, is not a business in the conventional sense, being a company limited by guarantee, but it exists primarily to provide prizemoney for its members instead of profit for shareholders – so the commercial imperatives are the same: form alliances and partnerships, get sponsors on board, etc. Host tournaments; produce prize money.

Money

Referring to the 2018 LET Money List and with the aspiring, non-superstar, girls very much in mind:

  •  #50 Astrid Vayson De Pradenne earned EUR25,885;
  • #100 Stephanie Na earned EUR10.546.

The equivalent-rank earnings on the LPGA Tour for 2018 were:

  • #50 IK Kim EUR404,517;
  • #100 Brianna Do earned EUR99,424.

In percentage terms, therefore, #50 on the LET earned 6.4% of her LPGA equivalent while #100 earned 10.6% versus her opposite. It’s a large pay discrepancy.

For a direct Euro/USA comparison, lets look at the Mens’ European Tour versus the PGA Tour for the 2018 season just completed:

  • #50 PGA Tour  Brendan Steele EUR2,102,423;
  • #100 PGA Tour Harold Varner III EUR1,074,125.
  • #50 European Tour Wu Ashun EUR956,937
  • #100 European Tour Jacques Kruyswijk EUR391,933.

The percentages for the Euro’s versus their US counterparts were thus 45.5% for #50 and 36.5% for #100.

The yawning ‘failure gap’ between the two primary european tours is thus obvious. The big failure here is LET.

Just in case there’s some solace for the LET in only referencing Ladies’ tours, let’s look at Asia for 2018:

  • #50 on the KLPGA earned EUR111,014 (one event still to play);
  • #100 on the KLPGA earned EUR25,121;
  • #50 on the JLPGA earned EUR172,357;
  • #100 on the JLPGA earned EUR32,473.

No solace there for those unhappy LET girls.

It’s no wonder some Europeans are looking at the Symetra Tour as a potential escape from the litany of LET failures, a means of assisting them play 20+ tournaments a year and perhaps a more practical pathway to the LPGA.

But, what did the mid-tier girls earn on the Symetra Tour in 2018, where the tournament purses are on average half what a regular LET tournament offers?

  • #50 Symetra Tour EUR19,061
  • #100 Symetra Tour EUR6,521

No good, this is 30% less than their LET counterparts plus players need to relocate to North America and travel for 20+ weeks.

So, the only financial answer in terms of providing opportunity, incomes and career development for the Euro girls has to be for the LET to get its act together and at least restore the status quo that applied just a few short years ago.

I believe LET needs to:

  • Restore its Chinese partnerships and a consequent 4-5 tournaments late year;
  • Grow its Aussie / Asian / UAE / Sth African connections to supply at least 6 early-year tournaments and, most importantly;
  • Get its European house in order and host at least 14 tournaments in mainland Europe; especially in its 2 biggest failed markets: Great Britain and Scandinavia.

That’d be 24 tournaments, plus up to 5 Majors, in which the LET girls could compete.

Finally, on the topic of money, the European Seniors Tour recently signed a 10-year sponsorship deal with Staysure. That optic is round-bellied, older men compared with the LET’s: fit, taut, often physically attractive, young, sportswomen.

The primary viewing audience is middle-aged men. Do the math! Duh! There’ll be money out there, LET; go get it!

Back to Leadership

I’d like to make my point about leadership / stewardship via the words of Mark Lichtenhein, whose LET power and influence seem to have ascended at approximately the same rate at which the LET has declined.

By way of background, and the dates are significant in my humble opinion, Mark:

  • Was appointed an LET non-exec director in 2015;
  • Became Chairman of the LET Board in Dec 2016 and;
  • Had the role of acting CEO added from August 2017.

Jan 2018: Question. “Would you want to do it?” (Become CEO). Answer.”I’d love to do it if the board wanted me to do it.”

Mike’s comment: it’s been more than 15 months, Mark, so you are now actually the Chairman & CEO and have been for over a year! What have you achieved?

Jan 2018: “We want to get back to around 30 tournaments in the next five years.”

Mike’s comment: Reaching for the stars or star-gazing? Or just dreaming?

Jan 2018: “The whole digital revolution is really helping us.”

Mike’s comment: how has it helped?

Jan 2018: Question. “What is the mood like on tour?” Answer. “One of cautious optimism.”

Mike’s comment: who are these (blind?) optimists? You and a few Board members over a boozy lunch?

Jan 2018: “There is a lot to do particularly in Scandinavia which is where we seem to be struggling and I’ve not yet got to the bottom of this.”

Mike’s comment: The LET Player President, Helen Alfredsson, is Scandinavian! LET Director Sophie Gustafson, is Scandinavian! You’ve been Chairman for almost two years. How come you haven’t yet ‘got to the bottom of this’? Ffs!

Apr 2018: “There’s a fantastic tailwind behind women’s sport right now, more so than ever before.”

Mike’s comment: I think you may have missed that wind.

Apr 2018: “The back end of this year, from July to the end of the year is actually not too bad.”

Mike’s comment: really? It looks disastrous to me.

Apr 2018: “Obviously the board is encouraged by the steps we’ve been able to make.”

Mike’s comment: ‘the board’ would be you, right?

Thx for Jan 2018 quotes to National Club Golfer: https://www.nationalclubgolfer.com/news/ladies-european-tour-mark-lichtenhein/

Thx for April 2018 quotes to Golf365: https://www.golf365.com/features/golf365-exclusive-future-of-womens-professional-golf-europe/

In closing, let me just say this.

Most of this piece has been negative and we’re still awaiting a 2019 tournament schedule from the LET.

We ladies’ golf fans hope and pray that, despite losing the Vic Open to LPGA, the LET girls soon receive a 2019 schedule that features:

  • 1+ UAE tournament in January;
  • 4+ Aussie co-sanctioned tournaments in Feb;
  • 1+ South African tournaments in March;
  • 1+ Middle East tournaments in April;
  • A solid run of 14+ tournaments in Europe during May-October before;
  • 3+ Chinese tournaments to close out the year.

If only!

Cheers and good luck with all your golf involvement and especial good wishes for the future to all those fine European female golfers who are working part-time to supplement their incomes, not because of their own lack of golfing ability but because of the failure at the top-level of their tour organisation!

 

Copyright MJ Miller (Mike) 29 November 2018.

 

 

 

Uncategorized

20181002 Does Course Form Matter?

Introduction

By course form, I mean amateur or professional tournament performance(s) in the past by a player on a particular course – with the rider that the course should today fundamentally be the same (eg greens not changed from bermuda grass to bent grass).

Does Course History Matter?

The short answer, for those who can’t be bothered reading further, is: occasionally it does; mostly it doesn’t.

What are the elements in handicapping a field of golfers?

There are many, but I’ve summarised my primary five elements (plus the vexed ‘Miscellaneous’ category) below:

  1. Recent Form. Firstly, how has the golfer been playing recently? Define recently, you say. For me it’s six weeks or roughly his or her past four tournaments. Secondly, how strong have been the fields in which he has been playing? A guy coming in with three consecutive Top20’s on the PGA Tour may be rated 33/1 whereas the form of a guy coming in off three consecutive wins on the Australasian Tour will look good on paper but he may be rated 150/1;
  2. World Ranking. Yes, I know it’s imperfect but if I’m handicapping an asian field with a lesser-known competitor from South Africa’s Sunshine Tour & I’m trying to line him up against an equally obscure player from Japan’s JGTO Tour then their respective world rankings become relevant. (My software has an adjustment factor, by the way, for owgr points earned on all tours; it discounts Japanese points by 35%, for example));
  3. Course Form. How has a player has performed in previous tournaments on this week’s course? If he’s played it three times for 3xTop10’s that’s going to change my rating of his chances versus a player with identical recent form & world ranking who’s played the course four times and missed the cut every time;
  4. Course Fit. What are the characteristics of a player’s game versus those skills proven to be required in order to play well on this course? eg If the track is long (say 7,700yds) I will discount the chances of a guy who’s one of the shortest drivers on tour versus a long-hitter of otherwise similar ranking;
  5. Trends. By this, I mean is a player on the improve or decline? What are his form and career trajectories? eg Has he consistently been stepping up in performance quality over recent months / years? Or we often observe a decline in form after the birth of a player’s child. Let’s say the post-partum form line reads: 2 weeks off, mc, 2 weeks off, mc, 46, 15. We might conclude that his mind is now off nappies and back on his employment;
  6. Miscellaneous. This is where it gets interesting as this is mostly what we don’t know. There are myriad things that affect humans & a few will be known to us whilst most will not, but all these things affect sporting performance. Consider the following examples, among many more:
  • An airline loses a golfer’s clubs, including his treasured lucky putter. We may know this and we may know from his twitter feed that he’s angry & upset about the situation and so we may downgrade his chances a bit;
  • A golfer has been cheating on his wife. His wife has just found out and late on Wednesday night he’s received that dreaded confrontational and emotional phone call. As a consequence, he’s deeply unhappy & distracted when he tees off early on Thursday; we do not know this;
  • A golfer may regularly wage an internal battle with his rising temper when paired with a slow, deliberate player such as Na or Cantlay. He may hide his anger but it may negatively affect his play. We may not know this;
  • A golfer who typically voids his bowels before tee-off is constipated and tees-off Thursday morning with a ‘full load on board’ & is uncomfortable and plays poorly as a result. We do not know why.

My point here, if you have not yet grasped it, is that we’re assessing humans not machines and while we may have a bucketload of data on which to base our assessment of his winning chances, there is an equally large or larger shitload (no pun intended) of relevant data of which we’re blissfully unaware!

This introduces randomness & variance and, sadly, renders all golfer assessments invalid to some degree. Not only that, but in golf we’re trying to gauge the relative chances of 156 players – which is exponentially more complex than assessing the respective chances of a ‘field’ of: two football teams or eleven horses!

Golf betting, fantasy line-up construction & handicapping are very: DIFFICULT, FRUSTRATING & IMPERFECT!

Narrowing the Focus

As handicappers / assessors / gamblers we accept there is a lot we don’t know but we can only address what we do know, so we gather as much information as we can in the (limited) time available and process it to arrive at our conclusions – which we summarise as odds or prices or salaries.

I wrestled for ages with this, but I calculated that once you’ve firstly arranged a field of golfers in descending order of their chances (using rankings, knowledge and other peripheral data) then you can apply form in order to arrive at semi-intelligent odds / prices. In my estimation, that initial (pre-form) ranking process is 50% of the overall price assessment weighting.

In then applying form (the other 50% of the process), I use a mixture of ‘Recent Form’ and ‘Course form’ in a ratio that ranges from 80:20 to 100:0. Importantly, this means that my data analysis shows that recent form is, at a minimum, four times more relevant than course form and that often course form is often non-existent or irrelevant.

This conclusion is derived from mapping golfer performance (across 31 tours; Ladies & Men; 5 years) on each course versus his lead-in form to that week and his historical course form. In other words, did he perform: better, worse or the same as his prior form suggested he would?

Perhaps surprisingly, some courses suggest they merit up to a 20% ‘weighting’ while others suggest ‘zero weighting’. The average & median ratios are both 94 (recent):6 (course), by the way. There is also the issue here of possessing a sufficiently representative sample size but, since most courses are only used once a year for relevant events, I go with that I have!

Conclusions

  1. Course form does matter, on some courses; I’ve identified 72 such courses (roughly 6%) across the 31 Tours and;
  2. Course form is most often irrelevant, or statistically insignificant, and it represents 0-10% of all the known factors that feed into my assessment; average 3%;
  3. Given that we don’t know half of the relevant factors that affect golfer performance (see above), course form thus represents an average of perhaps 1.5% of all the factors influencing the golfer’s chances.

However, it can represent up to 10%, on particular courses, and that’s a big number when the odd stroke gained here and there can represent the difference between winning and placing 7th!

Therein lies the key to using course form. Use it selectively!

Good luck with your golf handicapping, betting & fantasy play!

 

Copyright MJ Miller (Mike) 2 October 2018

Uncategorized

20180918 Fixing the FedEx Cup

Introduction

Golf’s FedEx Cup, while famous for its $10m paychecks, has not exactly caught fire since its inception in 2007.

Nor has it captured public interest in the manner of season finales in other sports such as: a Stanley Cup, Superbowl, Champions League or a Baseball World Series.

If it’s to remain, I believe it needs remediation, even though the most recently announced set of improvements for 2019 make some sense as it continues to evolve.

Is the FedEx Cup Needed?

My belief is no, it’s not. The PGA Tour was doing just fine without it up to 2007 and it already produced its champions based on various metrics: Vardon Trophy, Money List, Major winners, Rookie of the year, POY, etc.

PGA Tour already had a season ending, elite, Tournament of Champions, in Hawaii. It could have become the FedEx Cup but the PGA Tour (leaving it in January more than three months after season’s end) rendered it meaningless & instead invented the FedEx Cup – to try and get a new mega-sponsor an entire season of bang for its (huge) bucks.

Just Another Champion

Herein lies the crux of the FedEx Cup’s problem; the sport of golf can never produce a definitive ‘playoff success’ because the top players build their: reputations, income & rankings over long periods of two to five years; often by winning just once or twice per year (eg Brooks Koepka in recent seasons).

In addition, golf is radically different from the above-mentioned team sports in that it consists of fields of 30, 78 or 156, not two, and a top golfer might win just once per ten starts, whereas an elite NFL team might win nine times out of ten. So, only a one-in-ten chance of the best golfer winning means a golf season playoff finale winner will be somewhat random.

Heritage

Finally, golfers earn their enduring fame at iconic venues, in Major tournaments that carry decades of heritage, not in a playoff series. Can a FedEx Cup win ever supersede raising the Claret Jug at St Andrews or slipping into a Green Jacket at Augusta National? No, it can’t.

So, I say you simply can’t produce a golf post-season playoff champion, and expect people to hail him as The Champion Golfer of the season. With all due respect to these quality players, does anybody believe these past FedEx Cup champions: Horschel, Furyk, Haas, McIlroy, Stenson & Snedeker were the champion players of those seasons?

They weren’t, because it’s not the playoffs that defined their seasons; it was Majors and, to a lesser extent, WGC’s & Ryder Cups.

How to Proceed?

If there has to be a season-ending ‘playoffs’ in golf, here’s my three suggested guiding ‘rules’:

  1. Playoff qualifiers must be elite. You shouldn’t allow a guy plodding along at #120 on the money list to attend; he didn’t earn the right;
  2. The season needs to end sooner and the playoffs need to be executed more quickly; a maximum of two weeks after the regular season end and;
  3. There need to be heartbreaking ‘knockouts’ to add drama.

My Suggested New Structure

The 2019 Wyndham Championship is scheduled for 1-4 Aug. I say ditch it, or another tournament, and complete the playoffs to crown a FedEx Cup Champion during the first two weeks of August – enabling a ‘clearing of the decks’ before: NFL, Olympics, Ryder Cup, player holidays, whatever.

Here’s my simple recipe to achieve this:

  1. Assemble an elite field; all players that have recorded a Top Two placing during the season (who are Tour members);
  2. In Week One they play a 72-hole stroke play tournament, no cut; the top 8 advance to the ‘Champion’s Weekend’ and;
  3. Seed those eight based on the regular season money list and in Week Two they play 18-hole knockout matches to determine the winner – who takes home the entire purse along with the ‘FedEx Cup Champion’ title.

It satisfies all of my ‘Rules’. It’s elite, it’s dramatic – with most players facing going home at the end of week one – and it’s fast. 11 days start to finish.

Finally, it’s easy to cater for the Finals on tv with, say: two quarter-final matches on Thursday & two on Friday, the two semi-finals on Saturday & the Final on Sunday. Every shot can be televised. Done!

 

© Copyright Mike J Miller: 18 September 2018.
Uncategorized

20171108 Lies Damned Lies & Statistics

Introduction

In recent years many golf tours, led by the PGA Tour, have been producing player performance statistics, in ever-growing volumes and (some might say arcane) breadth.

 These stats may well be helpful to players and coaches but are now devolving into an industry based around investment in golf outcomes via Fantasy sport or traditional betting. In my opinion, that’s insane! Well, perhaps insane is an inappropriate word; let’s just say silly.

Me, Annoyed

Statistics, its perpetrators and its proponents intensely annoy me at times; I’d like to explain why and it’s not just because statistics can be lies, as rightly categorised in the famous quote popularised by Mark Twain: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics”.

It’s also because those glib (sometimes even paid) providers and quoters of stats (to justify their conclusions / tips) are clearly existing in some type of alternative universe where fiction has become fact!

Time Matters

I’m a management consultant and have been since the early 1990’s – the dawn of the internet age. My biggest problem in those pre-internet years was getting information; books, newspapers, wire services, television, radio, magazines, personal networks and so on needed to be continuously mined for information to help enable me to stay on top of what was happening in the world, in my country, in my clients’ areas of business and so on.

Getting data was key as it enabled data analysis and problem, solution, opportunity & threat identification.

Now, a short couple of decades later, guess what my biggest problem is? It’s too much information! Don’t get me wrong, I love the way the internet has enabled info availability and I could not function without it. However, my biggest challenge as a busy executive is how to best allocate and consume my time!

Time for: meetings, holidays, business analysis, personal relationships and family, strategising, staff, critical suppliers & partners, sleep, recreation and so forth. Each day only delivers 24 hours; that never changes. How those hours are used has become more challenging in the internet age and I attribute this to the sheer volume of information available. There is simply too much of it and filtering it is a daily challenge if one wishes to be successful while retaining sanity and leading some sort of balanced existence.

 Background

This leads me back to golfer performance statistics. When I started seriously betting on golf, 20 or so years ago, performance stats were minimal and I necessarily used as my guides only some among the following:

·         Form. Players’ placings (won, T10, MC, etc);

·         Course & Conditions. Players played well or badly on which types of course (links / parkland, long / short, windy / calm, etc) and;

·         Grass. Did players putt better or worse on bermuda, bent or poa greens, etc)

 Even compiling such basic data points was challenging and occupied many hundreds of hours of research. However, my process was: I accumulated my data, let it feed into my personal price assessments of golfers, worked out whether I thought bookmakers had priced a golfer wrongly and, if so, I bet on that golfer. By the way, I made money; every year.

Nowadays, so much more data are readily available and this should make golf analysis more accurate. But therein lies the crux of the problem! There is simply too much information available and I’m not qualified to interpret it; hardly anybody is.

 A Parable

Let me illustrate my point with a parable from a modern golf bettor:

“I’d been consistently losing money and I decided that: throwing darts at a field, backing the top 4 favourites in the market or the 3 players I like best were all dumb strategies. So I decided to adopt a scientific approach: 

I research the internet and establish that this week the weather forecast is for near perfect conditions and that the course:

·         Is relatively long at 7,500yds;

·         Has fairly fast bent grass putting greens;

·         Offers up generously wide fairways and;

·         Feeds inaccurate approaches into tightly mown runoff areas.

Research from past tournament previews and reviews suggests I should be looking for a long driver who putts well on bent grass greens and has good scrambling / around the greens ability.

By the way, have you noticed all those betting previews say players need to putt well? Duh!

In other words, I’m getting a wee bit stressed and already considering a return to my normal betting approach cos I don’t have time to invest in a lot of statistical analysis after having already spent time googling those previews. However, I persevere and, to assist my deliberations, I sign-up with a stats supplier that allows me to examine all stats for the players in this week’s field. Cool. Science. Focus.

Driving comes first as I pretty much know I need to back a bomber off the tee. Easy, right? Just look-up driving distance. The only thing I don’t know is if I should use driving distances on this course from past tournaments, but I can’t find those numbers so I just use generic driving distance stats; seems simple enough.

I don’t know that the data I’m reading are not each player’s performance data on all Tours or that the numbers are derived from the measurement of just a few drives and only on this Tour. I also don’t know if the measurement is how far the drive travels in the air or how far it travels, including rollout; I expect it’s the latter. This causes me a bit more concern as it seems to me that measuring distance only, without taking account of how soft or hard the fairways were, could be misleading. Anyway, I figure there must be enough data points in the stats, so I can rely on them; stats never lie, right? I shortlist the 20 longest drivers in the field. Progress.

Next comes getting those long drives onto the green; there are twelve Par4’s so I reckon I know what I need. I examine the Par4 yardages and find my 20 bombers should be approaching the greens from 100 to 150 yds on average, so I use some wonderful-looking stats that tell me how successful these guys have been when approaching from 125-150yds & 100-125yds. I’m slightly dubious that the stats were most likely derived from performance on all courses except this week’s course and on various fairway grasses with varying degrees of hardness, but never mind, push on. I rank my 20 guys in order of ‘approach ability’ and move on to ‘around the green’ cos I know this is also important.

Referring to the stats, I start to get hot under the collar. There’s a stat called SG:ATG, ‘strokes gained around the green’ and I thought that was perfect. But then I saw ‘Scrambling’ which sounded like the same thing, but the 20 players I’m looking at all have different rankings in these two seemingly identical categories. Confusing.

I pause and think a bit deeper and start wondering if these stats include bunkers, cos one of the previews I read said the course was heavily bunkered, so I figure sand might be an issue. I google and find an aerial overview of the course where I see a lot of bunkers on Par3’s but only a few around the greens on the longer holes. So, I stop worrying about bunker play and hit the stats again but, fuck me, in addition to ‘scrambling’ there’s ‘scrambling from the fringe’, ‘scrambling from 10-20yds, scrambling from sand’, ‘scrambling from the rough’ and more! So, I decide to just stick to ‘scrambling’ and rank my 20 guys for that.

Finally, on to putting. I know from my research that the greens are bent grass, so I go to the PGA Tour site and my stats supplier to get that stat; dammit, it doesn’t exist. That seems stupid in the extreme! Instead I find maybe 75 categories of putting statistics including some I think are just silly, like ‘average putting distance – GIR 3+ putts’. Anyway, another subscription service has putting average by grass type for the PGA Tour, perfect. I sign-up & rank my 20 target guys by their bentgrass putting ability. 

Now, I finally have everything sorted stats-wise and can focus on which of the 20 guys to bet on; the fun part. So, I start to review my findings. I have an uneasy feeling it shouldn’t be this easy but, what the hell, I’m using science instead of gut feel so my conclusions will be superior. Right?

Firstly, however, I re-read those tournament betting previews I’d previously researched and compare them with the outcome of the tournament last year. Shit, the guy who won only ranked 34th in driving distance! Gotta be a statistical anomaly, I figure. I check some earlier years and see some longer drivers who won, so with confidence at least partially restored, I push on.

My immediate problem is I have 3 sets of theoretically important rankings for my 20 long drivers; how much weight do I give to each? I don’t know. So, I decide to give them points in every category, based on their rankings and to stratify them that way. Simple math, easy. I’m happy; it took a long time to get there but I now have three selections to back and six for my Fantasy team. I feel better about my investments and next week will be much faster.

 But ….

In reviewing my three top selections I recall reading that the wife of one of them gave birth a few weeks ago. I check to see when that baby was born and I find that my guy hasn’t played since. I wonder if the baby has changed his form dynamic; maybe he’s been missing out on sleep? Would he be anxious leaving the new family for the first time? Is his wife ok post-partum? Is he feeling on top of the world as a new father and going to play better?

I check the hundreds of stats categories for ‘performance of new fathers’ or ‘scoring after birth of first child’ or something, anything, but there is nothing to help me. Anyway, I figure, the guy’s a pro; he can block out babies and home life and just get back to work, right? No worries.

But then I start thinking about all the other players and what’s going on in their lives, which I know nothing about. Hell, a guy might have caught his girlfriend naked in the jacuzzi with a neighbour last week or had an argument with his partner about money or slept on a bad mattress in his motel room and woken with a stiff back. Though uneasy, I again comfort myself with those stats; they never lie and all those data points must combine to eliminate variance!

 Even More (Human) Data!

As part of my new statistical / factual approach to betting I’d started following about 230 players & caddies on Twitter, just in case there was something significant I’d otherwise miss. However, I soon started unfollowing them all cos my timeline got filled up with their crap every day and I couldn’t read it all; not enough time!

However, I noticed a player, one of my six selections, who recently withdrew from a tournament with a wrist? injury. I tried to research it properly but there was nothing much in the media except he pulled out after 12 holes. Anyway, I figured, he’s a pro, he won’t be playing this week if he’s not 100%. Right? I couldn’t find any stats on ‘player recovery from wrist injury’ and I didn’t know if there were other factors at play like: quotas of tournaments that must be played per season or the intricacies of medical exemptions; I haven’t got time to research such things, anyway!”

 More Stress

Right, enough storytelling, back to my original discourse. My thoughts often dwell on the variegated factors at play in golf and how much they differ from other sports and thus how stats must have a lesser role to play in predicting golf performance.

For example, baseball is rife with stats but they’re more meaningful because the ball is thrown through the air by a pitcher, always standing the same distance from the batter, every time. No comparison with a golfer hitting off the ground, with 14 different ‘bats’, on a different course every week, aiming at a different target with every shot and in all sorts of weather conditions.

Or in football or tennis, where the ‘fields’ are all the same dimensions and there is little environmental impact on players from their surroundings as compared with a golfer who has to learn a new ‘field’ every week, in all types of weather conditions.

Further, all of the above stat focus presumes that past performance is a predictor of future performance, which is patently incorrect. We’re talking about humans here, not machines, and if past performance were an accurate predictor, there would be no place for Fantasy pools or bookmaker bets because the outcomes would be too predictable.

It’s the very unpredictability of sport that is part of its compelling interest to viewers / gamblers and golf is perhaps the least predictable of all and with the largest number of possible winners. For many of the reasons touched on above.

In Conclusion

I believe performance statistics can be a contributing element to the process of making golfer fantasy or betting selections, but that the total picture cannot be glibly summarised by stats because:

·         All the necessary stats do not exist;

·         Humans experience emotional & physical ups-and-downs and;

·         Past performance is not a precise predictor of future performance.

So, to all the persons out there who make confident selections, predictions, tips or line-ups that are derived solely from statistical analysis, I say this:

1. You’re not using all the relevant data and you’ll never have it all because it’ll never be publicly available, but that doesn’t matter because;

2. Your efforts will inevitably become meaningless as they’ll be able to be duplicated by a thousand computer models and will thus have no value-add.

As Aaron Kay so perfectly put it: “Believing the world distributes success & failure haphazardly provokes anxiety.” Whether they know it or not, this anxiety about haphazardness leads gamblers to seek comfort before investing and the ‘comfort-du-jour’ is performance statistics!

By all means, use stats as your prescription to help control your anxiety; it’s cheaper and less addictive than bourbon, Xanax or Valium, but don’t expect the investment outcome to be greatly improved. It may even be diminished.

If you’re a vendor in the market and you’re going to try to sell me on your stats model, I want value to be added. It might be who to fade or dodge, and why. It might be calculations of player upside relative to price (fantasy salary or bookmaker odds) or external factors like what’s going on in the player’s life off the course, etc.

But I want value for money, so if you’re gonna glibly claim that three selected statistical categories is all it takes to determine how I’ll invest my golf betting money, piss off and try to sucker-punch somebody else!

Finally, consider this. If you do have an edge, whatever your edge is, it is exceptionally valuable (to you) and should therefore not be publicised or shared because that will automatically make it of lesser value!

© Copyright Mike J Miller: 8 November 2017