August 13, 2007

T: h i r t e e n
d o w n !
Five to go...

posted by JJ to golf at 04:26 AM - 26 comments

He just keeps cranking out the wins. And I have to laugh when the media tries to hype a so-called rivalry with Tiger and Phil, Vijay, Sergio, etc. Excuse me, but when any other golfer can consistently be in the running for almost every major tourney, then we can talk rivalry. These guys don't hold a candle to Tiger, and that's backed up by the stats.

posted by whitedog65 at 07:32 AM on August 13, 2007

Well-played all through the tournament. Tough course, but he played extremely well. You had to just assume he'd win at least one of the majors this season. That being said, I really enjoyed watching Daly play. It's fun watching pros constantly hitting from the woods, from other fairways, and from all over the course, just like I tend to play.

posted by dyams at 08:11 AM on August 13, 2007

I thought Woody Austin's comments before the final round were spot-on accurate. To paraphrase, because I don't remember the quote word-for-word, "If Tiger hits a poor shot and then curses and slams his club into the ground, it's considered his competetive spirit. If I miss a shot, swear, and slam my club into the ground, I'm considered a bad person." I remember umpire Ron Luciano saying something very close to this regarding Major league baseball in one of his books. His theory was that if an umpire had consistently heard swearing and complaining from a specific coach or player, that coach or player could get away with more arguing and swearing on the field. Conversely, if a player or coach is known to keep their mouth shut and just do their job, all it took was one foul word and they were gone.

posted by hawkguy at 09:17 AM on August 13, 2007

Hey, I heard what Woody said, and I agree! I like Tiger, but he does get way too much over the top idolization from the commentators. The man is the best golfer in the world, but if he blows up on the course at least hold him accountable for his actions. What's fair for the superstar should be fair for the journeyman.

posted by whitedog65 at 09:40 AM on August 13, 2007

Tiger is just fun to watch. I also love seeing the emotion coming out of him and the other players. Do you think this is more a generation type of thing? I am Tiger's age and I do not see anything wrong with it from any player. I also think the idolization of the commentators is done for the ratings and sponsor aspect.

posted by jasonspaceman at 10:16 AM on August 13, 2007

Nice to see Ernie Els playing well and making a run on Sunday - but starting from 6 strokes back on Tiger made it almost impossible to pull off. I thought the guy who interviewed Ernie after his round was an idiot. He'd just shot a 66, so this moron asks him if he's dissapointed in missing birdie attempts on 9 and 11. What about all the shots he made? Mickelson wasn't really competitive in Majors this year - didn't he miss cut on two of them? Too bad someone can't really challenge Tiger more consistently. I think it would drive him to be even better. You could see a glimpse of that in how he responded on last three holes when his lead was threatened.

posted by BikeNut at 10:36 AM on August 13, 2007

What's fair for the superstar should be fair for the journeyman. That's crap. Tiger gets criticized for having an off-game or a bad year when all PGA players would be praised for that kind of year. He gets more criticism and more praise than anyone.

posted by bperk at 11:23 AM on August 13, 2007

Tournament, first place prize money and second placed player (i.e., in theory, the man who would have won but for Tiger - not quite the same, but humour me): 1997 Masters - $486,000 - 2nd = Tom Kite 1999 PGA - $630,000 - 2nd = Sergio Garcia 2000 US Open - $800,000 - 2nd = M. A. Jimenez 2000 Open - $759,150 - 2nd = Ernie Els 2000 PGA - $900,000 - 2nd = Bob May 2001 Masters - $1,008,000 - 2nd = David Duval 2002 Masters - $1,008,000 - 2nd = Retief Goosen 2002 US Open - $1,000,000 - 2nd = Phil Mickelson 2005 Masters - $1,260,000 - 2nd = Chris DiMarco 2005 Open - $1,261,584 - 2nd = Colin Montgomerie 2006 Open - $1,338,480 - 2nd = Chris DiMarco 2006 PGA - $1,224,000 - 2nd = Shaun Micheel 2007 PGA - 1,260,000 - 2nd = Woody Austin He's had a big impact on prize money and a big impact on other people's careers! Imagine how different the world of golf would look if all of those suckers had hauled in all of those majors. Tom Kite would have had a green jacket to go with his US Open (although, as SI put it at the time, saying that Tom Kite finished second in 1997 is a bit like saying that Germany finished second in WWII). Garcia would have won an early major that might have changed the course of his whole career. If Tom Kite's runner-up spot in '97 was akin to Germany, then Jimenez in 2000 at Pebble was Japan. Ernie would have had another Open giving him two on either side of the Atlantic. Bob May... or may not have gone on to bigger things. David Duval would have had the green jacket he so richly deserved. Retief... see Duval. Phil would have gotten his major haul started earlier and who knows what that might have precipitated? Chris DiMarco would have a green jacket and a claret jug (and deservedly so - he's one of the few left on the tour who doesn't just fold at the sight of Tiger). Shaun Micheel would have had a second PGA, and Woody would have just won his first. Monty would have won a major. And if my aunt had balls, she'd be my uncle. I'm not sure which of those last two seems more unrealistic. And on preview... what bperk said.

posted by JJ at 11:36 AM on August 13, 2007

That's crap. Tiger gets criticized for having an off-game or a bad year when all PGA players would be praised for that kind of year. He gets more criticism and more praise than anyone. I'm not saying that Tiger doesn't catch more criticism and praise than anyone else on the tour. I'm just saying that he should be held to the same rules and standards as the rest of the players on the tour. Him being able to get away with slamming the club and cursing (and it being caught in a nationally televised event) seems to me to be a little like giving MJ permission to travel or giving Barry Bonds an extra strike or two. I know it's not his fault, but to me it makes it seem like he thinks he's above the game.

posted by hawkguy at 12:19 PM on August 13, 2007

2007 PGA - 1,260,000 - 2nd = Woody Austin Ahh, JJ's revanchist tendencies come to the fore. Although with exchange rates as they are, I'm sure the players would love a 1:1 switch from dollars to pounds for tournament purses. On a more serious note, excellent FPP link action.

posted by holden at 12:24 PM on August 13, 2007

Him being able to get away with slamming the club and cursing (and it being caught in a nationally televised event) seems to me to be a little like giving MJ permission to travel or giving Barry Bonds an extra strike or two. What does showing certain emotions have to do with actual rules of the game? If they were penalizing players for showing the same emotions Tiger does, you'd have an argument but otherwise, I don't see it.

posted by jmd82 at 04:13 PM on August 13, 2007

Holy linkage, JJ! That took some work, but totally made the point of this post. Predictions: What year, what tourney when Tiger catches, and then passes Jack?

posted by worldcup2002 at 05:22 PM on August 13, 2007

Holden - ooooops - yes, I think they'd like that cool $2.5 million first prize! Major schedule + venue + JJ's pick: 2008 Masters - Augusta - Chris DiMarco US Open - Torrey Pines - Tiger Woods (14) Open - Royal Birkdale - Ernie Els PGA - Oakland Hills - Padraig Harrington 2009 Masters - Augusta - Tiger Woods (15) US Open - Bethpage Black - Tiger Woods (16) Open - Turnberry - Sergio Garcia PGA - Hazeltine - Luke Donald 2010 Masters - Augusta - Justin Rose US Open - Pebble Beach - Tiger Woods (17) Open - St Andrews - Tiger Woods (18) PGA - Whistling Straits - Chris DiMarco 2011 Masters - Augusta - Tiger Woods (19) So there you go - I'm calling Masters 2011 as the one. Having drawn level at the 150th anniversary of the Open at the home of golf the year before, Woods will then win the Masters at a stroll in 2011, breaking his own scoring record and margin of victory. The final round will be a procession the like of which sport has never seen. A 71 year-old Nicklaus will be on hand to witness and applaud Tiger drawing level with Jack's six Masters titles, and pulling past him by one (professional) major. As you can also see, Chris DiMarco will by then have won the majors his determination deserves, the Europeans will have had something of a resurgence, and Ernie will have snuck one more Open before sinking forever into the depths of contentedness. Fat Phil will win no more majors. Monty will never win one (although Justin Rose will beat him in a playoff at Augusta in 2010, giving Monty the dubious honour of a career grand slam of runner-up finishes). I reckon Andres Romero has got one in him too, but not for a few years. There's also an outside chance by then that I will have won the lotto, quit my job and gone back on tour. If that's the case, then Tiger might take a little longer to reach 19 (or perhaps I'm just getting confused about my ability to be the first to the 19th almost every time).

posted by JJ at 04:15 AM on August 14, 2007

That was awesome. I'm joining "JJ's Army." I will follow you anywhere, so long as it is in the direction of the 19th. (I had Tiger tearing off the next three, then taking #19 in 2010 at that British thing. But honestly, I have no idea what I'm talking about.)

posted by The Crafty Sousepaw at 08:28 AM on August 14, 2007

What does showing certain emotions have to do with actual rules of the game? If they were penalizing players for showing the same emotions Tiger does, you'd have an argument but otherwise, I don't see it. Just a cursory glance of the USGA etiquette guide in the rule book shows the following: "Unlike many sports, golf is played, for the most part, without the supervision of a referee or umpire. The game relies on the integrity of the individual to show consideration for other players and to abile by the Rules. All players should conduct themselves in a disciplined manner, demonstrating courtesy and sportsmanship at all times, irrespective of how competitive they may be.This is the spirit of golf." There is also a section in the same rule book regarding damage to the course. Disclaimer: I know this is the USGA not the PGA rule book. I am at work, in a hurry, and it's the first one I found. I'm willing to bet that if it is in the USGA rule book, there is something similar in the PGA rule book.

posted by hawkguy at 09:25 AM on August 14, 2007

Some more speculation about when Tiger will make it to 19 here. Talking about it has started me wondering just how many he could realistically get to in his career. He will be thirty-two when the next major season starts. Most golfers peak (in my opinion) in their late thirties, then tail off reasonably rapidly in their early forties (with the really great players tending to have a swan song victory or two a little later). At the moment, Woods has won 13 of the 44 majors that he has played in (as a professional), so let's say he wins 30% of the time. If he keeps winning at that rate until he is 40 (let's face it, he's fitter, so will probably carry on being a viable major force longer than most ever have) he will win another ten or eleven. Throw in perhaps three more as his powers dwindle (and Rory McIlroy rockets to World Number One) and we could be looking at him winning as many as 26 or 27 in his career (throw in his three US Amateurs and that's 30 to Jack's 20). Of course there are all sorts of mitigating factors (injury, personal problems, loss of form, swing rebuilding etc.), but I certainly don't think that number is beyond the realms of possibility. Who knows? With a favourable wind, maybe he could get to thirty professional majors! Then it's retirement at the peak of the professional game to concentrate on his charitable foundations and to prepare himself for becoming America's first black president in 2032.

posted by JJ at 10:15 AM on August 14, 2007

Most golfers peak (in my opinion) in their late thirties, then tail off reasonably rapidly in their early forties (with the really great players tending to have a swan song victory or two a little later). If he keeps winning at that rate until he is 40 (let's face it, he's fitter, so will probably carry on being a viable major force longer than most ever have) he will win another ten or eleven. I wonder (as a casual fan) to what degree Tiger's sheer athleticism plays into his domination of the game to date. I don't know about other games in which participants hit a ball with a stick, but in baseball the peak age for hitters is generally acknowledged to be 27. I can't say whether 27 marks an average deterioration point for coordination, for power, or just generally for getting all the parts working as they should without soreness or injury. It occurs to me, though, that Tiger would definitely be heading outside the window of peak ability in baseball, and while that might not really translate to skills like putting and short irons, it does make me wonder if he isn't showing (or about a show) a dropoff in his performance off the tee and with other longer shots, in distance and perhaps also accuracy. I'm sure there are measures of his progress in this area over the last 4-5 years, but I have no idea where to look.

posted by The Crafty Sousepaw at 10:51 AM on August 14, 2007

Distance: Accuracy (%) 2007 301.9 57.25 2006 306.4 60.71 2005 316.1 54.6 2004 301.9 56.1 2003 299.5 62.71 2002 293.3 67.5 2001 297.6 65.5 2000 298.0 71.2 1999 293.1 71.3 1998 296.3 67.6 1997 294.8 68.8 1996 302.8 69 Not much in those numbers really - if anything I suppose there's been some sort of drop off, given that the technology changes should have seen something more by way of an increase. I don't think distance is all that important anymore though (as long as you're "long enough"), and as he gets older, he gets wiser and therefore better. Experience beats physical prowess most times.

posted by JJ at 04:44 PM on August 14, 2007

I don't think distance is all that important anymore though (as long as you're "long enough") I can understand that, but I could see where both shorter AND wider might lead to a real drop-off in efficiency. He's a lot further off his peak accuracy (and he had that peak a lot younger) than I would have thought. Is that likely a result of changes in the courses or is he really that much more erratic (all things being relative)?

posted by The Crafty Sousepaw at 09:37 PM on August 14, 2007

He is much more erratic these days, which will be contributed to by the fact that organisers now try to "Tiger-proof" their courses by growing the rough in and making the fairways narrower, but also by a couple of other factors - not least his change of equipment to Nike from Titleist, which most people would view as a switch down to an inferior product. What's also a factor is that in the age of spin milled faces on irons, the premium on hitting the fairway has dropped off somewhat. Thanks to this new technology, and grooves that are just better than they used to be, and balls that are just better than they used to be, you can pretty much get all the spin you want from all but the heaviest grades of rough. The other thing to bear in mind is the way the distance averages are recorded. For most tournaments, the organisers select one hole on each side (usually a par five) at which most players will hit a driver and at which length is at a premium (i.e., in theory, they'll all be trying to bust one). The measurements are taken at those holes only. So really, that stat can be misleading, especially over short periods, as it only refers to eight shots the player hits during the tournament. This is particularly important when looking at Tiger's stats because sometimes, where the average pro is trying to send his driver down there as far as he can, Tiger might opt to hit a different shot. As an example, the last hole at the Dubai Dessert Classic is a par five at which most people hit driver off the tee and then go in with a long iron. Tiger has worked the hole out a little differently. For him, to hit driver off the tee brings some water into play (at 350 yards), so he hits a three-wood. This also leaves him a perfect three-wood distance to the back of the green (taking the water at the front of the green out of play - while, if he goes long, he gets a free drop from the grandstand). In other words, while some people bust a driver (risking water off the tee) and then bust an iron (risking water with their second) Tiger hits two three-woods, taking all the water out of play, and leaving himself always likely to make birdie, and sometimes chipping in for eagle. To sum up - it's sometimes more important to know exactly how far you hit every club than it is to be able to hit every club further than everyone else.

posted by JJ at 03:16 AM on August 15, 2007

Do you have those numbers averaged for everyone? I would be interested to see how Tiger's decrease in accuracy compares to the rest of the tour. I hear the talk of Tiger-proofing from time to time (although I don't really know what it means), but it would seem that measures to make a course more difficult would more adversely affect less talented golfers. How is it that changes can be made to just go after him?

posted by bender at 08:04 AM on August 15, 2007

JJ, you will learn me something yet. Thanks a bunch. How is it that changes can be made to just go after him? I would guess, for starters, putting a whole bunch of hazards 350 yards from the tee to shorten up his drives.

posted by The Crafty Sousepaw at 09:36 AM on August 15, 2007

From pgatour.com: The average number of yards per measured drive. These drives are measured on two holes per round. Care is taken to select two holes which face in opposite directions to counteract the effect of wind. Drives are measured to the point at which they come to rest regardless of whether they are in the fairway or not. Below we have Tiger, then the tour average, then the difference: 2007 301.9 289.0 12.9 2006 306.4 289.5 16.9 2005 316.1 288.6 27.5 2004 301.9 287.2 14.7 2003 299.5 286.6 12.9 2002 293.3 279.8 13.5 2001 297.6 279.4 18.2 2000 298.0 273.2 24.8 1999 293.1 272.5 20.6 1998 296.3 270.5 25.8 1997 294.8 267.6 27.2 1996 302.8 266.4 36.4 I guess, looking at that, the average is approaching Tiger (or... unthinkable really... Tiger is approaching average). For accuracy: The percentage of time a tee shot comes to rest in the fairway (regardless of club). 2007 57% 62% -5% 2006 61% 63% -3% 2005 55% 63% -8% 2004 56% 64% -8% 2003 63% 66% -3% 2002 68% 68% 0% 2001 66% 68% -3% 2000 71% 68% 3% 1999 71% 68% 3% 1998 68% 70% -2% 1997 69% 69% 0% 1996 69% 68% 1% Also quite interesting - he's nearly always below average in this department. Sadly there's no explicit stat for "kicking everyone else's ass" on there, unless you take a look at the money list. He's quite far above the average on that one.

posted by JJ at 09:49 AM on August 15, 2007

bender, looking at your other question about changes being made specifically for Tiger, at first, it was all about length. Tiger was seen not as an individual, but as the way golf was going to be played in the future, so a lot of courses went into panic mode and added 500 yards to their layouts. This was foolish as the only people it would penalise were the shorter hitters. For example, Correy Pavin's career may already have been on the way down at that point, but the lengthening of courses (before the technological distance revolution for clubs and - more importantly - balls really kicked in) put it to bed much earlier. Seve was one of the first people to realise that the best way to limit the influence of Tiger's prodigous distance was to make the course narrower, not longer, especially out at 300 to 350 yards where he was hitting his driver. So, as captain of the European Ryder Cup team at Valderrama, he got the organisers to do just that. I was an ironic twist on Seve's famous quote in his heyday when he was asked about how few fairways he had managed to hit one day: Seve - "I wish they would make the fairways 20 yards narrower." Interviwer - "Don't you mean wider?" Seve - "No, I mean narrower. Then everyone would have to play from the rough and not just me." In a way, the example I mentioned before about Tiger in Dubai is an example of the course being Tiger-proofed (although I'm not sure it was deliberate). The final hole presented him with a problem unique to him. He was probably the only player who would risk reaching the water off the tee if he hit driver. It's not on the US Open rota again until (I think) 2012, but Merion will be a good example of how a course doesn't have to be long to be tough. Another thing to bear in mind is that Tiger very seldom hits the ball as far as he possibly can anymore. In 1999, I got fitted by Titleist for a driver. They put me in front of their machines with my old club and recorded the ball's launch angle, spin rate, and speed. I was using a 9.5 degree Taylor Made driver with a stiff shaft, which was launching the ball at about 190mph at about 6 degrees (because I was getting so far ahead of it), with about 11,000 rpm of spin (causing the ball to fly very low, then balloon up into the air when the spin caught, and then land like stone down a well). They gave me a 6.5 degree Titleist with an extra stiff shaft and told me to stay behind it - suddenly the ball was going out at 200mph, at about 10 degrees, with just 5,000 rmp of spin (causing the ball to fly like a Federer top-spin passing shot). I was suddenly hitting the ball 35 yards further in an afternoon. Apparently Tiger was using something similar, but with a steel shaft because they couldn't make a graphite one stiff enough for him. The guy told me (in 1999 remember) "We could make one that would be perfectly legal that he could hit 350, 360 yards every time, and probably close to 400 if he went after it, but when we gave him that one, he said he didn't like the ball flight (which was really high) and that really he hit the ball about as far as he needed to already." Proof again, if any were needed, that distance is far from everything in golf.

posted by JJ at 10:12 AM on August 15, 2007

Sadly there's no explicit stat for "kicking everyone else's ass" on there I'm willing to take 13 majors as sufficient evidence. Proof again, if any were needed, that distance is far from everything in golf. Indeed. I've dropped the woods out of my game altogether. Hitting 300 yard drives was costing me a small fortune in balls. It's a lot easier to find them when you only hit them 100 feet.* Which leads me to my next question: are there statistics for drives that land in a particularly problematic area -- in the gallery, behind a tree or other obstacle, in a cart path, in a hazard, on the beak of a bird (which I understand is good luck in Haiti)? As you said, JJ, the club and ball technologies have made a simple drive into the rough a lot less problematic. Is there any measurement given to percentage of drives (or even, really, shots in general) that create real trouble for the player, wherein the location of their landing either forced additional or somewhat miraculous shots to escape? If it's that easy to escape the rough, a simple calculation of drives in the fairway doesn't seem to sufficiently calculate the frequency with which a player gets himself in real trouble. Or maybe I am giving the technology more credit than you intended. *Bearing in mind that I hit the fairway roughly 1% of the time. Less if you only count the fairway of the hole I'm playing.

posted by The Crafty Sousepaw at 10:55 AM on August 15, 2007

The technology is better, but you'd still rather be hitting it from the fairway. The difference lies in the value judgement of when to hit driver and when to go for position. I can't imagine a lot of players these days would rather be hitting a mid to long iron from the fairway instead of a short iron or wedge from the rough. By and large for the pros though, it's more about taking trouble out of play rather than increasing the likelihood of making birdie. From the fairway, you can pretty much control how much spin you put on the ball if you've got intelligent hands. From the rough, you get less feel for that and have to work more on percentages and make allowances for what the ball may or may not do when it lands. It's still punishing to be in the rough, but not as punishing as it used to be. There are no stats I know of for what you mean, csp - that would be a bit too much of a judgement call on the part of the recorder. TV viewing would tend to suggest that Tiger gets in more trouble than most because we see him in trouble more than most, but that could also be because we just see him more than most full stop.

posted by JJ at 11:18 AM on August 15, 2007

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