Sunday, February 13, 2011
In their new book Scorecasting, authors Tobias J. Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim take a look at subjects such as:
Does defense truly win championships?
Is there really such a thing as momentum in sports?
Does icing the kicker work?
Are the Chicago Cubs cursed?
They provide relevant data while also going beyond the numbers to reveal hidden influences and biases that effect the outcome of sports.
In terms of golf, one of the chapters is titled TIGER WOODS IS HUMAN and this discusses how parts of his game are just like any other PGA golfer. Two Wharton professors did a study on the putting tendencies of 421 golfers on the PGA Tour in more than 230 tournaments. They measured the success rate of nearly identical putts for birdie, par, and bogey.
What they found is that when a player tries to make birdie, he is less successful than when he lines up the same putt for par. They found that even Tiger Woods, with his strong mental game, changes his behavior based on the situation and putts much better for par than for birdie.
The explanation is loss aversion. Professional golfers are so concerned with a loss that they are more aggressive in avoiding a bogey than in making a birdie. They also discovered that when birdie putts were missed, a large majority came up short, while par putts did not.
Woods is aware of loss aversion as he told the NY Times, "Anytime you make big par putts, I think it's more important to make those than birdie putts. You don't ever want to drop a shot. The psychological difference between dropping a shot and making a birdie, I just think it's bigger to make a par putt."
With his play over the past 15 months, it has become quite obvious that Woods is in fact human with his overall game, but this study does show that he has the same putting tendencies as the rest of the players.
Overall, this book explores a lot of different topics and provides new ways to look at sports. You will enjoy it if you're a sports geek.