Science and Golf II: Proceedings of the 1994 World Scientific Congress of Golf

By A. J. Cochran; M. R. Farrally | Go to book overview

33

The ageing of a great player; Tom Watson's play in the US Open from 1980-1993

L.J. Riccio

Golf Analyzer, New York, USA

Abstract

A statistical, longitudinal analysis of an expert golfer is presented to determine which parts of play most significantly affect a golfer's decline in competitiveness due to age. Detailed stroke-by-stroke data were collected for Tom Watson's play in the US Open for 14 consecutive years. Findings indicate that a decline in tee-to-green play has been far more instrumental to his weakened competitiveness than a decline in putting.

Keywords: Statistics, Tom Watson, Greens-in-Regulation, Putting


1 Introduction

Athletes in all sports reach a peak and then go through a period of decline. Golfers are no exception. A few are blessed with a long peak (Nicklaus), others retire at their peak (Bobby Jones), and others peak, decline and then have a come back (Johnny Miller). But as they age, all face a decline in their skills.

What happens to the play of a great golfer as he ages? Which skills most affect that decline? Is it putting that goes first and affects the decline most as the experts have long claimed for such greats as Palmer and Watson?

In an effort to find an answer to these questions one would need a detailed record of the play of a great golfer covering a long period of time in events which were important to the golfer. The PGA Tour statistics program provides good but not detailed data (e.g. no real measure of iron play, chipping, pitching or true putting skills). [PGA Tour] Their statistics program is too simplistic when compared to other major league sports and is not capable of supporting the kind of analysis needed to discern key and subtle differences in golfer's play whose good rounds are 69 and bad ones are 72. No other formal data set exists for great golfers.


2 The Data Set

In 1980, the author began collecting stroke by stroke data on the play of Tom Watson and others at the US Open. [Riccio, 1981] As a result of 14 years of observation, using a specially designed scorecard, [Riccio, 1987] the data set now contains detailed information on every one of Tom Watson's 3719 strokes in the US Open from 1980

Science and Golf II: Proceedings of the World Scientific Congress of Golf. Edited by A.J. Cochran and M.R. Farrally. Published in 1994 by E & FN Spon, London. ISBN 0 419 18790 1

-210-

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