April 07, 2006

Masterful Numbers: The first round is over and there are some data to play with - just how much of an impact did the course changes at Augusta National have on the scores yesterday?

They say the numbers never lie, but that’s just what economists want you to think. Numbers can be manipulated to say just about anything you want them to, but that’s not to say they can’t show you things if you let them.

Golf is a game that is all about the numbers. The key numbers in the build-up to this week’s US Masters at Augusta have been 155 (the number of yards the course has been lengthened by since last year), 7445 (the total yardage of the course now) and 2 (Augusta National’s new rank on the list of the longest courses to host a major championship – second only to Whistling Straits).

Lost in the fog of discussion seems to have been the fact that in 2002, there were some other interesting numbers that didn’t cause anything like as much fuss. In 2002, tees on nine of the holes had been redesigned or lengthened, several fairways and bunkers had been altered, and the course was 285 yards longer (at 7270 yards in total) than it had been the year before.

So, after weeks of accusations and denials, the scores from R1 2006 are finally in and we have some data to play with. Just how much harder was the golf course yesterday than in the first round in previous years?

Leading score after R1:

2006 – 67
2005 – 67
2004 – 67
2003 – 66
2002 – 67
2001 – 65

Scores under 70 in R1:

2006 – 3
2005 – 5
2004 – 3
2003 – 3
2002 – 6
2001 – 14

Scores of par or better in R1:

2006 – 29
2005 – 26
2004 – 21
2003 – 11
2002 – 24
2001 – 42

Average score in R1:

2006 – 74.94
2005 – 75.11
2004 – 75.18
2003 – 76.20
2002 – 74.13
2001 – 73.14

The Masters website lists average scores at each hole from 1942 to 2005. The average score for a round at the Masters over that period was 74.21; yesterday's average score was 74.94. Seven of the holes played easier than average yesterday, nine played harder and 2 played just about the same.

Of the six holes that have been changed this year, two played easier than average (the 4th was 0.03 shots easier, and the 15th was 0.15 shots easier) while four played harder (the 1st by 0.16 shots, the 7th by 0.13 shots, the 11th by 0.20 shots and the 17th by 0.06 shots).

If I didn’t have a job that required me to pour over numbers all day looking for patterns and answers, I’d spend the rest of today pouring over these numbers looking for patterns and answers. When the tournament is over and all the numbers are in, then maybe I will take a closer look to see just how much of an effect the lengthening of the course in 2006 has had.

There are still three days to go, but the early indications seem to suggest the changes have done little to change anything in terms of the scoring – or if they have, they haven’t done as much as the changes in 2002 did.

For a comprehensive list of the changes to Augusta National over the years (by hole), follow this link.

posted by JJ to commentary at 10:15 AM - 0 comments

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