Friday, August 19, 2011

birdie num num

A couple of sporting updates and corrections: firstly my list of Test hat-trick takers who have also been hat-trick victims (which went: Darren Gough, Shane Warne, Stuart Broad) should also have included Sri Lanka's Nuwan Zoysa, who in addition to doing the hat-trick against Zimbabwe in 1999 was Mohammad Sami's second victim when he took a hat-trick for Pakistan against Sri Lanka in the final of the Asian Test Championship in 2002.

Secondly, the recently completed PGA Championship in Atlanta provides a further data point for my list of golfers who have shot a round of 63 in a major championship. Steve Stricker's first round was the 25th such round in major history, and he missed a very makeable putt of ten feet or so on the last green which would have given him a 62 and sole possession of the record, and incidentally rendered all my statistical analysis obsolete and pointless, so in a way I'm quite glad. I'll reproduce the whole table here so you haven't got to go and look it up.

Johnny MillerUS Open1973finalWONJohnny Miller
Bruce CramptonUSPGA1975second2ndJack Nicklaus
Mark HayesOpen1977secondtied 9thTom Watson
Jack NicklausUS Open1980firstWONJack Nicklaus
Tom WeiskopfUS Open1980first37thJack Nicklaus
Isao AokiOpen1980thirdtied 12thTom Watson
Raymond FloydUSPGA1982firstWONRaymond Floyd
Gary PlayerUSPGA1984secondtied 2ndLee Trevino
Nick PriceMasters1986third5thJack Nicklaus
Greg NormanOpen1986secondWONGreg Norman
Paul BroadhurstOpen1990thirdtied 12thNick Faldo
Jodie MuddOpen1991finaltied 5thIan Baker-Finch
Nick FaldoOpen1993second2ndGreg Norman
Payne StewartOpen1993final12thGreg Norman
Vijay SinghUSPGA1993second4thPaul Azinger
Michael BradleyUSPGA1995firsttied 54thSteve Elkington
Brad FaxonUSPGA1995final5thSteve Elkington
Greg NormanMasters1996first2ndNick Faldo
Jose Maria OlazabalUSPGA2000thirdtied 4thTiger Woods
Mark O’MearaUSPGA2001secondtied 22ndDavid Toms
Vijay SinghUS Open2003secondtied 20thJim Furyk
Thomas BjornUSPGA2005thirdtied 2ndPhil Mickelson
Tiger WoodsUSPGA2007secondWONTiger Woods
Rory McIlroyOpen2010firsttied 3rdLouis Oosthuizen
Steve Stricker
USPGA2011firsttied 12thKeegan Bradley

So we continue the slightly surprising trend of a round of 63 only giving you a one in five chance of winning (5 out of 25). It's getting more difficult, too: while four of the first ten 63s resulted in wins (up to and including Greg Norman at the Open in 1986), only one of the subsequent 15 (Tiger Woods at the USPGA in 2007) has resulted in a win.

Here's the distribution of 63s by the major they were made in:
  • 2 at the Masters
  • 4 at the US Open
  • 8 at the Open
  • 11 at the USPGA
What this tells you about the relative difficulty of the tournaments I'm not sure; the US Open is generally regarded as the toughest major in terms of scoring relative to par, and yet there have been twice as many 63s as at the Masters. Odd when you consider that the US Open has been won with a score of ten under par or better just twice (Tiger Woods in 2000 and Rory McIlroy in 2011), while the Masters has been on no less than 25 occasions. Maybe it just tells you that professional golfers gradually get their eye in during the year and come the last major they're in the zone.

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