January 28, 2008

The Ricky Roma of Golf:: In which Joel Waldfogel provides statistical (and literary) proof that when Tiger Woods is in the field, he makes everyone else play worse, whether he's on his game or not.

"It's generally agreed that people work harder when they are paid for performance. Anyone who has ever languished in a Paris cafe—where service compris translates roughly as "the Republic of France mandates a minimum 15 percent tip regardless of service quality"—can appreciate the power of incentives. But the effects of incentives appear to be muted when the incentives are based on relative performance and the competition is tough."

posted by chicobangs to golf at 10:12 AM - 17 comments

It is common knowledge that no one can just go out and beat Tiger. Usually when he gets beat, he has one bad round and gets so far behind he can't catch up. Of course, there are those rare occations when Tiger just doesn't play well. When Tiger is on, it turns into trying the be "The best of the rest." See Sunday's Buick Open results for an example. When Tiger is on, he has everyone beat before the tournament starts. Can you imagine what the other golfers think and feel when they see Tiger's name soaring up the leaderboard during a second or third round? It's like, "I think I can, I think I can". That is, until Tiger goes zooming by. Then its, I'll try and beat everyone else. Congrats to Tiger for tying Arnold Palmer for 4th place on the All-Time wins list with 62.

posted by dbt302 at 01:25 PM on January 28, 2008

Very interesting read, Chico. Thanks for posting it. It's a debate that has raged since Tiger started handing people their asses week-in, week-out: is Tiger playing better than everyone else, or is he making everyone else play worse? I suspect the sad answer for those trying to catch him up is "both". As Trevino put it once when asked who he thought would win a tournament Tiger was playing in: "He's better than everyone else, smarter than everyone else and he works harder than everyone else - who do you think is going to win the tournament?!"

posted by JJ at 06:06 PM on January 28, 2008

Interesting comments, guys. I'd like to throw in one other aspect: the psychological one. Tiger's mere presence has to work into everyone else's minds and likely takes them off their game, whether they all realize it or not. Like Barry Bonds, the whole game changes when he's there.

posted by NerfballPro at 09:34 PM on January 28, 2008

I enjoyed these two quotes from last weekend: Said Justin Leonard: "There's two tournaments going on. I'm going to try to win the tournament that Tiger's not playing." Said Boo Weekley: "I think he ought to just play with a two-iron."

posted by bobfoot at 09:54 PM on January 28, 2008

It makes me want to rant and rave sometimes when people say things like Justin Leonard said in that regard. Even if you're weak-willed enough to feel that way, you don't say so, and you certainly don't say so in such a way as your opponents get to hear about it. What happens the next time Leonard finds himself in contention with Tiger (if that day ever comes again)? Tiger knows he owns him. I love watching Tiger play. I love watching Tiger win. I'm a fan of perfection and excellence and I like nothing better than someone dominating a sport, but that becomes dull if they're dominating chumps who have resigned themselves to defeat. What golf needs is someone with the natural golfing ability and bagfuls of nerve required to challenge Tiger. So far, we've had plenty of talent (Mickelson, Els, Duval at one point, Goosen, Vijay) and the occasional flash of nerve (Chris DiMarco, twice... can't think of anyone else!), but never someone with the combination of both. It's still hard to see who's next. Sergio is still young, but in golfing terms, I worry he might be too old and jaded from too many near(ish) misses. Adam Scott won at the weekend in the Middle East with a stunning final round of 61, but he's another one that was talked up so much at the beginning of his career that although still young, seems old in golfing terms and like he hasn't achieved what he should have. As a Northern Irishman, obviously I'm pulling for Rory McIlroy (who also had a good week in Qatar last week, although he fell away with a 74 on Sunday), but he might turn into just another in a longish line of young pros who are talked up by the media (partly because they're so tired of writing the same story every week about Tiger winning again and everyone else playing for second) only to fail to live up to the ridiculous expectations that generates. The long and the short of it is that a mental coach needs to get in there and remind everyone that, in golf, what the other guy is doing need not affect you. Perhaps if they started playing golf tournaments as winner-takes-all affairs, we'd see a lot fewer sumgly content millionaires who are more than happy to finish second every week.

posted by JJ at 04:27 AM on January 29, 2008

Said Boo Weekley: "I think he ought to just play with a two-iron." My money is still on Tiger.

posted by dbt302 at 01:08 PM on January 29, 2008

Tiger Woods has entered 216 PGA Tour events and won "only" 62 of them.... or said another way, he has lost some 72% of the times he has entered.... So yeah, he can be beaten on the golf course.... It is just that no one has done it consistently or predictably. Another statistic, Tiger played the PGA minimum of 15 events last year... the year of the family. Hope that doesn't become the norm. About $$$$ being an incentive... sometimes... but I think Tiger works for Tiger's vision and goals and not "for money". Others who are barely on the list (near the 125 card cut line) likely keep a sharp eye on the $$$. I would guess that most others play to win and improve week over week... and do not have an eye on the $$.. after the first few millions, money can't be that big a main motivator... has to be something else.

posted by Fly_Piscator at 03:34 PM on January 29, 2008

I think money motivates in a different way after the first few millions. It becomes a barometer of success in its own right. It's used to describe how good players have been in a way that doesn't happen outside the realm of sport - or if it does, seems crass. As for the lower ranking guys keeping a sharp eye on it - that's probably why they're the lower ranking guys. Less time staring at the money and more time getting the ball round the course in as few shots as possible and suddenly the money starts taking care of itself. It's a game of numbers, no question about that, but the numbers you care about when you're down at the bottom are things like what the cut will be and where you're going to find the birdies to make it. Other useful numbers include the phone number of the airline reservations desk so you can call and see if you can get an earlier flight to the next tournament because you just missed the cut again.

posted by JJ at 04:21 PM on January 29, 2008

What golf needs is someone with the natural golfing ability and bagfuls of nerve required to challenge Tiger. How about this guy? "Don't get me wrong, I really respect every professional golfer, but I know I haven't played to my full potential and when that happens, it will be just me and Tiger."

posted by tselson at 02:10 PM on January 30, 2008

How about no? It's not like me, I know, but I actually find myself without sufficiently nasty vocabulary to even begin to express my distaste for that ludicrously-trousered pillock.

posted by JJ at 02:57 PM on January 30, 2008

Ah, ludicrously-trousered pillock is perfectly sufficient. At least he has bollocks! So, he's been around for awhile can I assume you and Mr. Poulter crossed paths? Or do you really just hate his pants?

posted by tselson at 05:47 PM on January 30, 2008

I've never met him - I just really hate his pants. Actually, I don't even care about his pants, I just don't like how he swanks around dressed like a clown and then complains that the media talk too much about his trousers and not enough about his golf. Win something and they'll stop talking about your trousers, Ian. As for his bollocks, which I hope and presume you're using as a proxy for nerve, I'm not sure he has. He mistakes arrogance for confidence. He mistakes bluntness for honesty. And he's so busy "speaking his mind" that he's taking no time to think with it first. I think he does a lot to try and convince himself that he has bollocks, but really he's a secret bottler. He got close to contention in the Masters and then shanked (I think four times) in the final round. Collapsing doesn't get much more dramatic than hitting it literally sideways. In fairness, I saw him interviewed after a bad round once and his response was refreshingly human. He didn't moan about the course or the conditions, and he didn't try to put a positive spin on it all, he just told the truth: "Well... that was a bit crap, wasn't it? What an idiot." The BBC covered the story too: But his comments are sure to see him ridiculed by some of his counterparts on the golf circuit. Poulter and Woods will both be competing at the Dubai Desert Classic, which starts on Thursday. And reports suggest the Briton's fellow professionals may all give each other a prearranged signal on the driving range and disappear, leaving just Poulter and Woods practising.

posted by JJ at 06:13 PM on January 30, 2008

Well, it appears perhaps his brain is a little bigger than his balls(bollocks?) Nice first round for Tiger, it appeared he was closer to shooting a 61-62 than a 67-68, his 65 seemed pretty effortless.

posted by tselson at 01:28 PM on January 31, 2008

And that's no pushover of a course. OK, it's my birthday, tooo drunk to type xxxxxxxxxxxxx JJ

posted by JJ at 08:29 PM on January 31, 2008

Here's to hoping you don't have a 7:00 a.m. tee time, unless you otherwise would be at work at 8:00. Sounds like you had a good one. Happy b-day. Cheers.

posted by tselson at 10:42 PM on January 31, 2008

Oh shit - I did drunk internetting. Now I'll have to check the whole internet to see what else I muddied up. Sorry!

posted by JJ at 08:48 AM on February 01, 2008

Now I'll have to check the whole internet to see what else I muddied up. Sorry! According to the news this morning, you put out most of the connections to the Middle East and India. Nice work! PS: Happy Birthday

posted by Howard_T at 11:25 AM on February 01, 2008

You're not logged in. Please log in or register.