Friday, April 17, 2015

only a masters of evil, darth

I am, as I think I've said before, not a betting man. I'm too mean, for one thing, and secondly I'm just too damn lazy to put in the legwork and do the amount of research necessary for my selections to be anything more than hopelessly blind stabs in the dark.

So even if you'd asked me for Masters tips when it would have been useful, I doubt whether I could have given you many useful ones. I mean, I think if you'd said - I'm thinking of having a punt on Jordan Spieth, what do you think? - I'd have probably nodded and said, yes, that's a pretty good pick. And so it proved - it also proved, as it happens, that my pre-tournament idea of just going straight to the PGA Tour money list and picking someone from the top five there wasn't such a crazy idea after all.
I mean, it's not exactly a ringing endorsement of either the idea generally or Spieth specifically, but you can't deny I did mention his name. Twice. Anyway, that set me to thinking - how much would just following the form book help you decide who to bet on at the Masters? The answer is: quite a bit actually.

The PGA tour has recently re-jigged its season to do away with the Fall Series and have the season start as soon as the previous season ends, i.e. after the FedEx Cup play-offs. For the purposes of this analysis I'm going to ignore this and deem each "season" to start on January 1st. A typical PGA tour season from 1970 (my arbitrary starting point) features 40-50 events (it varies slightly from year to year) of which typically 12-14 happen before the Masters, which is generally scheduled to finish on the second Sunday in April.

So my childishly simple theory says: look at the dozen or so PGA Tour tournament winners so far this year (fewer if anyone's won multiple tournaments), by all means apply a bit of further selection if you want, and then pick one of them. In the 46 Masters tournaments since 1970, the winner was someone who'd already won on tour that year on no fewer than 18 occasions (or 39.13% of the time), as follows:
  • Jordan Spieth in 2015
  • Bubba Watson in 2014
  • Phil Mickelson in 2006
  • Tiger Woods in 2005
  • Phil Mickelson in 2004
  • Mike Weir in 2003
  • Tiger Woods in 2002
  • Tiger Woods in 2001
  • Tiger Woods in 1997
  • Fred Couples in 1992
  • Ian Woosnam in 1991
  • Sandy Lyle in 1988
  • Craig Stadler in 1982
  • Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979
  • Tom Watson in 1977
  • Jack Nicklaus in 1975
  • Jack Nicklaus in 1972
  • Billy Casper in 1970
Now of course you might say, well, OK then, let's flip that around and say you'd actually be better served by a strategy of ruling out anyone who'd already won, since 28 of the 46 winners were people who hadn't yet won on tour that year. To which I'd say, yeah, well, good luck with that, losers.

Note that my two picks, Jimmy Walker and Henrik Stenson, finished tied for 19th and tied for 38th respectively.
Stenson's sore knee would have been caused by this irate club-snapping incident at the 13th during Friday's second round. I'm a big fan of Stenson, partly because he seems to be a wryly humorous interviewee when he's in a good mood, but also for the occasional flashes of equipment-abusing temper on course, something all too painfully familiar to me. Here's a couple more Stenson moments, one from the US Open in 2011 where he eventually finished in a tie for 23rd, and one from the BMW Championship in 2013, the third tournament of the four-tournament FedEx Cup series which Stenson went on to win and be showered with unimaginable riches for. Imagine how annoyed he'd get if he was playing badly! Stenson also features (twice!) in this compilation of the top 5 club-throwing incidents. I think the one at number 4 is my favourite - the casual toss of the club over the shoulder into the lake, not even looking where it's gone - textbook stuff.

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