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The Analytics Revolution is Coming

Apr. 10, 2014     By     Comments (1)

Thrash TalkIn February, nerds, statisticians, sports fans, and nerd-statistician-sports fans gathered in Boston, Massachusetts for the MIT Sloan Sports Analystics Conference. Since its establishment in 2006 by Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey, the conference has grown to feature athletes, media members, and statisticians from across the sports landscape.

Sean Foley, swing instructor to Tiger Woods, has been a vocal leader when it comes to the marriage of science and golf. He spoke at the conference alongside golf statistician Mark Broadie. One of the most outspoken adopters of TrackMan, an advanced launch monitor that uses Doppler radar to track ball flight and impact characteristics, Foley also coaches Justin Rose and Hunter Mahan, and is so busy that he recently had to turn away Luke Donald.

Analytics have revolutionized the way fans watch, talk about, and consume baseball and basketball, and now that's finally coming to golf. Let's dive in.

TaylorMade Tour Preferred CB Irons Review

Apr. 8, 2014     By     Comments (0)

TaylorMade TP Irons 2014 CB HeroThe Tour Preferred CB irons are, I suppose, the spiritual successors to the RocketBladez Tour irons that I reviewed a year ago. They're another cast set of irons with TaylorMade's Speed Pocket technology (a polymer-filled slot cut out of the sole) that TM is hoping will appeal to a mass audience as well as the occasional better player. Ideally, these are a spectrum-spanning set of irons.

You might not expect it, but these have already made it into the bags of PGA Tour players and weekend hackers alike. Let's see if they should earn a spot in your bag.

Posted in: Clubs, Review Comments (0)

Nine Holes With Jimmy Walker

Mar. 12, 2014     By     Comments (0)

ProfilesThanks to the PGA Tour's new "wraparound" schedule that starts in the Fall, and some timely great play of course, Jimmy Walker is the PGA Tour's hottest golfer. After spending years making his way up through the mini-tour and Web.com Tour ranks, Walker spent a handful of years as a winless journeyman PGA Tour player before breaking through last October.

Wins at the Frys.com Open, Sony Open, and AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am rocketed Walker to the top of both the FedExCup points standings and the money list. Let's find out where he came from.

Posted in: ProFiles Comments (0)

TaylorMade JetSpeed Fairway Wood Review

Mar. 2, 2014     By     Comments (1)

TaylorMade JetSpeed Fairway SoleAfter several years of the RocketBallz woods occupying TaylorMade's consumer-oriented lineup, TM released the JetSpeed line late in 2013. Eschewing much of the look behind the RBZ woods (white crown on black face, bold graphics) and building upon the recent hype of their own SpeedPocket technology, the JetSpeed is somewhat of a tuned-down design.

There's no promise of a dozen extra yards here, despite what you might expect from TaylorMade. The JetSpeed isn't adjustable in any way, and there's no tour-level option. You won't find #JetSpeed trending any time soon.

And yet, it's earned a spot in my bag. Keep reading to find out why.

Volume Three Hundred Seventy-Five

Feb. 24, 2014     By     Comments (0)

Hittin the LinksHello fans of golf, and welcome to this week's Hittin' the Links. We take a look at the PGA Tour's first great finish at 2014 at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, then meander our way from Michael Sam to Miguel Angel.

During a week when the northeastern United States experienced it's first snow melt of the year, the PGA Tour heated up just as fast, thanks to a few unbelievable shots from Frenchman Victor Dubuisson. Let's hit the links.

Five Predictions for 2014

Jan. 30, 2014     By     Comments (2)

Trap Five Logo2014 is going to be an interesting year. We've got Rory McIlroy trying to recapture his pre-2013 form; Phil Mickelson giving the career grand slam another go at Pinehurst; Jordan Spieth and a number a young players looking to make the leap; and of course Tiger Woods six years removed from his last major championship win.

Let's get to it.

Measuring Time Since Tiger’s Last Major Win

Dec. 20, 2013     By     Comments (2)

Trap Five LogoDuring the PGA Championship coverage, as it became clear that 2013 would be another winless major championship season for Tiger Woods, CBS aired a graphic that included the exact date of Tiger Woods' last major win.

June 16, 2008.

What were you doing on June 16th, 2008, besides watching a wounded Tiger limp around Torrey Pines, while Rocco Mediate slowly let his only real shot at a U.S. Open slip through his grasp? I was finishing my sophomore year - of high school. I couldn't so much as drive a car.

It's been over 5 years since that date. For comparison, Tiger won seven majors in the five-year span from 1999 to 2003. He won six over five years from 2005 to 2009. And he hasn't won a single one since.

Here's what the world has been up to.

Posted in: Trap Five Comments (2)

How EA Sports Can Revive the PGA Tour Video Games Sans Tiger

Dec. 3, 2013     By     Comments (7)

Trap Five LogoAccording to a statement released by EA Sports recently, the video game giant and golfer Tiger Woods have severed ties.

According to who you believe, the Tiger Woods PGA Tour video games already appeared to be on the rocks, and the '15 edition (to be released in 2014) will be either delayed until at least April or not sent to market at all.

Neither option would be all that unheard-of; EA has monkeyed with the release dates for the Tiger Woods games before. The games were released in the fall every year between 2003 and 2007, until moving towards the late summer for the 2008 version and earlier in the summer for 2010. In 2012 EA cut a deal to include Augusta National in the game, and worked hard to push it out before The Masters.

EA is also no stranger to cutting off a game entirely. They dropped the MVP Baseball series after 2007 (mostly because rival 2K Sports signed an exclusivity deal with MLB in response to EA's similar deal with the NFL), and have yet to pick the series back up even after the 2K/MLB deal expired. After their NBA Live 10 game received (justifiably) terrible reviews, they cancelled its follow-up, NBA Elite 11, at the last minute, and haven't released a basketball game since despite relatively weak releases from 2K (though NBA Live 14 is set to come back later this year).

It remains to be seen what exactly the ramifications of the Tiger/EA separation are. I suppose it's possible that Tiger remains in the game as a playable character, though his days on the cover are surely gone.

The games remain different year-over-year, but the yearly releases have become frustrating. Excess players, expensive extra courses, and rotating single player modes have made the games stale, and while the extra space of Blu-Rays and larger on-board stock hard drives should help them, EA needs to make some deep changes. Here are a few things I think could get the PGA Tour video game series off and running again.

Why Tiger Should Win the 2013 PGA Tour Player of the Year Award

Sep. 26, 2013     By     Comments (5)

Thrash TalkTiger Woods has had a spectacular year by all accounts. Five PGA Tour wins and not a single missed cut, but no major victories. And that hurts, sure, but how much? Well, that's what I am here to identify.

There's a relatively simply stat that goes a bit beyond Old Man Par, called "z-score." Z-score is simply a way of comparing how someone scores to how the rest of the field scored. For instance, during Jim Furyk's 59 at the BMW Championship, the average score for all players that made the cut that week was 71.086. Z-score compares the player's score to that average, and uses the standard deviation of the round's scores to measure just how tough the course was playing on a given day. The number that the relatively simple formula spits out is a representation of how many standard deviations a player's score was from the course average. Only the scores from players that made the cut are used, otherwise you would not be able to compare Thursday and Friday rounds to weekend rounds. (Players who missed the cut are, by definition, playing worse, and not having their scores in the weekend course averages would made it look like the course was playing much easier.)

A simple explanation about the ramifications of z-score is that despite shooting a 69 on Saturday and a 67 on Sunday at the TOUR Championship, Tiger's Saturday z-score was actually better because the course played two shots easier on Sunday, and because the field's standard deviation that day was a bit higher.

Using the tournament leaderboards from Yahoo! Sports (the PGATour.com ones were a bit tougher to import into a spreadsheet), I plotted an entire season's worth of z-scores. (You can email or PM me for the full spreadsheet if you'd like.) I calculated the z-score for every player for every round, and then picked out the records of the PGA Tour Player of the Year finalists: Tiger Woods, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar, and Phil Mickelson.

How did they fare statistically? Read on the find out.

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