Golfer Influence: Sports Stat of the Week August 10

Does a single golfer influence the statistics more than others?

Zipf’s curve is a phenomenon that demonstrates a strong pattern in nature, one that translates to human behavior and even to market behavior. The curve shows our tendancy to reward those already in first place – for example, Vanilla ice cream. Almost 30% of all ice cream sales are for Vanilla. Second place chocolate represents 8%. Tenth place Pecan Praline represents 3%.

This week I looked at the number of golfers who have won at least one Major: US Open, PGA Tour Championship, The Open, The Masters to see if there was a similar pattern.

Golfers Who Have Won Majors
Golfers Who Have Won Majors

While Tiger has 14 Majors, Jack has 18. Short of total disaster for Tiger, the new Vanilla is likely to be Tiger as he has half as many years as Jack and is already close to matching the record. This surprises no one who has seen him play. The more interesting story is how common the dominance is. Prior to Tiger, Jack was untouchable with 18 Majors. The next closest contender was Walter Hagen with 11 who played from 1914 to 1929 and now sits in 3rd. Mr. Hagen wasn’t even contested for over 50 years. Fourth place is shared by 2 gents: Gary Player and Ben Hogan who have 9 a piece. Of the 197 men who have won at least one Major, 3 have won more than 10, 18 have won 5 or more, and 121 have won exactly 1 . . . a very long tail.

Golfer Influence
Golfer Influence

While there is reward in the long tail, the disproportionate tendency for winners to keep winning is shown in sport after sport, market after market. This plays out whether we consider individuals or countries. When golf was getting off the ground the UK was a dominant force. However, over time the US has dominated beyond proportion among players.

Golf Majors Won by Country
Golf Majors Won by Country

The sum of the other countries together (154 Majors) is only 60% of the United States total. What may be less obvious is the story behind Jersey. Jersey has had 2 golfers responsible for their country’s 9 Majors . . .Harry Vardon (1896-1914) with 7 and Ted Ray (1912-1920) with 2. Jersey has not had a country member win in 90 years yet the rank in front of Spain and Argentina who also have 2 golfers responsible for their country wins.

Now hang with me for a moment…

Imagine you simply remove the most dominant countries – those who have the largest number of golfers winning. Let’s focus on those countries who have had 5 or fewer countrymen win at least one Major.What happens when you consider their golfers?

Small Country Representation by Individual Golfer
Small Country Representation by Individual Golfer

Same trend all over. It is not just that there are dominant forces, but that there are 1-2 dominant forces even as you restrict the data set. One to Two individuals dominate in successively smaller data slices. It’s almost as though Nature herself loves a winner and rewards accordingly.

For individuals, starting a winning streak may lead to more wins. What is that push that takes you from winning once or twice to winning 18?

To be continued . . .

Published bykatemckeon

You can try anything one time in Texas . . . after that we may shoot you. -Kate McKeon

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