I wanted to post this before today's CA World Golf Championship and I promise to get back to more technical topics. But part of this post relates to statistical thinking and data-driven decision making.
I don't think Tiger Wood's has many bigger fans than me. I want him to win golf's grand slam (The Masters, US Open, British Open, and PGA)....it has never been done in one year. Jim McCabe of the Boston Globe even suggested that Tiger might win every tournament he plays this year.
I would be thrilled to see this happen, it is great to see the best ever in golf and perhaps all sports make his unique mark.
However, I'm a doubter. Why? Statistics. As good as he is, he has statistical variation in his play, as do his opponents. In the statistics class I teach at Dartmouth I have the students do a Monte Carlo simulation of Tiger and the next 5 or 10 best golfers. In the past Tiger was, on average, about 1 stroke better per round than the others. In this type of simulation he wins about 40% (with 5 next best golfers, probably more reasonable than 10) of the time…..about his long term percentage
Today his 66.3 strokes per round is almost two strokes better than the next lowest, Luke Donald's 68.22. So such a simulation would favor him more, however I will be surprised if he maintains the 66.3.
We also need to remember that he was almost eliminated twice in the recent match play championship and that he sunk an amazing 25 foot putt on the last hole to win last week. If these situations happen a few more times, statistics will eventually favor one of his opponents.
I hope I'm wrong!