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How deep is the competition?

August 17th, 2012 · 3 Comments

Conventional wisdom has it that golf is now so competitive that anyone who makes the field has a chance to win.

Well, we know that is not exactly true. The older champions at the Masters, all amateur qualifiers in the first three majors, and the club pros in the PGA all have no chance. Lowly rated pros also have little chance of winning though one occasionally rises up from the field. My research shows that this happens about once in every eight majors.

Still, if golf is so competitive, we should be seeing more unknowns on the leaderboard even if they are not winning.  However, such does not appear to be the case.

In the four majors in 2012, 26 players finished in the top five (because of ties). Twenty two of those 26 were in the top 50 in the WGR going into those majors. Three of the other four were in the top 100. So, only one player in 26 that made it into the top five at the end of the four majors was out of the top 100.

The table below shows the top five, with ties, in the majors. The number after their name shows their WGR going into that major.

Masters
1   Bubba Watson  16
2   Louis Oosthuizen  27
3   Peter Hanson  25
3   Matt Kuchar  18
3   Phil Mickelson  14
3   Lee Westwood  3

U.S. Open
1   Webb Simpson  10
2   Graeme McDowell  15
2   Michael Thomson  92
4   Jim Furyk  50
4   Jason Dufner  31
4   Padraig Harrington  96
4   John Peterson  NR
4   David Toms  34

British Open
1   Ernie Els  40
2   Adam Scott  13
3   Tiger Woods  4
3   Brandt Snedeker  29
5   Luke Donald  1
5   Graeme McDowell  12

PGA
1   Rory McIlroy  3
2   David Lynn  98
3   Keegan Bradley 15
3   Carl Pettersson  38
3   Ian Poulter  30
3   Justin Rose  10
A

Tags: The Game · The Majors

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3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jordan J. Caron // Aug 18, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Interesting thoughts Phil.

    Its seems that they best players keep getting better. The fact that golf is 4 rounds also weeds out a lot of guys.

    So yeah, the competition to win is not overly deep. Look at the leaderboard this weekend. Dufner, Clark, Garcia, Simpson, Petterson. All solid players.

    Cauley and Jimmy Walker are also up there. Depending on how golf you watch, you might not know of them. But they’re solid players.

  • 2 BD // Aug 19, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Not to complicate things, but in order to see whether golf is more competitive now compared to the past, wouldn’t we need to look at how many different players finished in the top 5 forty or fifty years ago?

  • 3 Phil // Aug 20, 2012 at 5:39 am

    Hi Jordan, I agree. So many of today’s “greats” are nowhere to be found by Sunday.

    BD – You are suggesting another study, which I have done – it’s somewhere in my archives. As for this post, it is not meant to be a historical comparison, just a statement about how today’s players who are part of this great depth of competition are not nearly as good as they are touted to be – at least as measured my the final leaderboard at the majors.

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