Welcome to the fourth installment of Sporting Solutions Analysis.
Well, a good place to start is always looking at the common characteristics shared by those that have won in the past. After all, that’s who we are trying to find.
So, as a starter for ten, here is the round by round positions of the eventual winners of each of the four majors since 1998. Let’s see if there is anything worth noting here:
The British Open – Winner’s position by round
|Leader win %||7%||40%||53%|
|T5 win %||47%||60%||87%|
The US Open – Winner’s position by round
|Leader win %||27%||53%||60%|
|T5 win %||53%||93%||93%|
US PGA – Winner’s position by round
|Leader win %||13%||60%||60%|
|T5 win %||33%||80%||100%|
The Masters – Winner’s position by round
|1999||Jose Maria Olazabal||5||1||1|
|Leader win %||7%||20%||60%|
|T5 win %||47%||87%||100%|
The first thing you will probably notice is the reasonably strong trend between most of the numbers for all of the majors above. It is common to assume that The Masters is a completely different tournament due to it always being held at Augusta National and the reduced field versus the other three majors but in reality it isn’t all that different.
One thing the eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed is that the “Average position” values might look a bit squiffy. If you did, grab yourself a celebratory biscuit. Grab yourself two if you also figured out that they are in fact median averages rather than mean averages. Sometimes in statistical analysis the median doesn’t get enough love. When you have the potential for significant outliers within a sample, median average analysis is underutilized – so we thought we would spread the love.
Our first serious point would be the clustered nature of the historical winners of The Masters. Only twice in the last fifteen years has someone other than Tiger Woods managed to win the coveted Green Jacket (Mark O’Meara in 1998 and Phil Mickleson in 2004) from outside of the top 10 after the first round. That is compared to five, five and six non-Tiger winners from further back in the field at the other three majors respectively.
Ultimately however, tournament position is a product of score, and just as with any leaderboard format, it’s more informative to analyse based on the relative position of how many shots off the lead people are. No sooner said…
The British Open – Shots off the lead by round
|< 3 shots||60%||73%||80%|
|< 5 shots||93%||80%||80%|
The US Open – Shots off the lead by round
|< 3 shots||60%||93%||73%|
|< 5 shots||87%||93%||100%|
The US PGA – Shots off the lead by round
|< 3 shots||53%||67%||93%|
|< 5 shots||93%||87%||100%|
The Masters – Shots off the lead by round
|1999||Jose Maria Olazabal||1||0||0|
|< 3 shots||53%||67%||93%|
|< 5 shots||93%||87%||100%|
A very similar trend is apparent when relative positions are considered. If you are looking to find the winner rather an each way value place, you need to be expecting them to come out of the gate fast.
More than 50% of winners are within three shots of the lead after the opening round – across all four majors. Winning from more than five strokes back is pretty unusual – with only Tiger managing to win from further back at Augusta during his era.
Where is the value?
Our suggestion of the best way to maximise the value (from both a monetary and a non-monetary perspective) from your golf betting kitty this weekend would be to keep your powder dry for now.
Why not use Thursday as a “scoping day”? Sit back, enjoy the beauty of Augusta and take in the action. See who starts off well and who is still in contention after the first round. Remember, as the numbers above show, the first round leader has only gone on to win once in the last 15 years at Augusta, but the cream does usual rise to the top.
How to differentiate within the chasing pack
Once you’ve narrowed down the field of ninety to the circa ten runners and riders still in contention, where should you look to try and spot some “value”?
One tip of advice would be to look through the scorecards of your potential winners and make sure you normalise their results for any specific events that are highly luck driven – such as holing out from the fairway or an abnormally high distance of putts holed.
While we are on that subject, you can never see this too many times:
Anyway, moving on. Here is a summary of the winners underlying performance in a few key areas at Augusta:
The Masters – Winner’s rank within field
|1999||Jose Maria Olazabal||55||39||9||1||7|
|Top 5 %||40%||13%||67%||47%||33%|
Although the difficulty of the greens is the most talked about element of the Augusta course, the best way to negate them is with strong approach play. Even the world’s best putters don’t stand a chance if they fail to find the correct quadrant of the green.
Instead, keep a keen eye out for players who have hit a lot of quality Greens in Regulation, or performed well with respect to Proximity to the Hole, but maybe didn’t catch a break with the flat stick – especially if they have a strong track record on the greens.
The winner has ranked in amongst the top five in Greens in Regulation in ten of the last fifteen years – and the only winners from outside the top 20 have been the more unexpected victories of Mark O’Meara in 1998 and Mike Weir in 2003.
That’s all from us for now. We’ll be back next month with a full review of the UK football season.
And if you don’t manage to find a winner this weekend, please don’t blame us.
And if someone misses a short putt to cost you a small fortune on the 72nd hole, try to keep it together a bit better than these guys did.