Using Analytics to Handicap The Masters Golf Tournament
When Bubba Watson made par on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff to defeat Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa at The Masters Golf Tournament on Sunday, he wasn’t the odds-on-favorite to win
When Bubba Watson made par on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff to defeat Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa at The Masters Golf Tournament on Sunday, he wasn’t the odds-on-favorite to win.
However, he was among the top seven golfers in the event picked by Las Vegas oddsmakers to win the tournament at 30-to-1. Tiger Woods was the odds-on favorite among Las Vegas bookmakers to win this year’s Masters at 4-to-1. Irish phenom Rory McIlroy was next at 5-to-1 odds, followed by Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood at 10-to-1 and 18-to-1, respectively. Oosthuizen, the runner-up, was given 100-to-1 odds to win.
Even though Watson walked off with the green jacket (traditionally awarded to the Masters’ winner each year), Oosthuizen (pronounced OOST-Hazen) was the analytics sweetheart. With his double-eagle 2 on the par-5 second hole to pass Phil Mickelson and Peter Hanson and take the lead at 10 under par, Oosthuizen made not just Masters but golf history. In the history of the tournament, just three golfers have nailed “albatrosses” – Gene Sarazen in 1935, Bruce Devlin in 1967 and Jeff Maggert in 1994.
How rare is it for any golfer to make a double-eagle – or albatross as the shot is called – much less capture it in one of the sport’s biggest events? Consider this: the odds of making a double-eagle are estimated to be 1 in 1 million for professional golfers and 1 in 2.5 million for amateur golfers. In fact, a double-eagle is such a rare feat that the odds of a pro golfer making a hole-in-one are much easier to achieve from a statistical standpoint at 1 in 2,500. The odds increase to 1 in 12,500 for an amateur golfer. Incredibly, in 1964 amateur golf legend Norman Manley once scored double-eagles on two consecutive holes in the same round of golf.
While an achievement such as a double-eagle is extremely rare, it demonstrates how business leaders and other practitioners can use analytics to find that needle in the haystack to gain an upper hand on the competition. From a business standpoint, this can include how a company’s decision makers use analytics to identify a particular product their customers want ahead of the competition.
Going into the final round of play on Sunday, other golfers arguably had statistical edges over Watson. For instance, Peter Hanson, the leader going into play Sunday, had made more birdies in the tournament (18) than any golfer.
Meanwhile, the recent resurgence of Tiger Woods suggested that he might be in the hunt for his 15th major golf tournament victory (Jack Nicklaus holds the record with 18 majors). For starters, Woods has had five Top 10 finishes in his last eight tournaments. And coming into The Masters, Woods was leading the PGA Tour in total driving – the combination of accuracy and distance off the tee. Yet by the end of the tournament, Woods had hit just 57.14% of fairways with his drives, leading him to finish tied for 40th, 15 shots behind Watson.
Of course, Watson’s chances of winning on the second hole of the playoff certainly didn’t look good after he pushed his tee shot into a cluster of trees. Hitting from pine straw – even though he was unable to see the green from where he was standing – Watson somehow managed to place his shot within 10 feet of the hole. Watson two-putted for even par on the hole while Oosthuizen bogeyed the hole, giving Watson the win by one stroke.
Crunching the numbers, Watson has demonstrated that he’s capable of beating the odds. Going into the final round on Sunday, 19 of the last 21 Masters winners have come from the final group. But that wasn’t the case this year.
Next steps: To learn more about effective ways to uncover relevant data, check out our complimentary “5-Minute Guide to Business Analytics.”
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