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Strength of Field: Tiger vs. Phil, Part Two

Jan. 25, 2007     By     Comments (3)

In my last article comparing field strength between Tiger and Phil, I found that the Official World Golf Rankings archive only showed the top 200 players in the world. Because of this simple fact, as Erik pointed out, the numbers in the previous article are skewed.

The Numbers GameLast week's Numbers Game on Tiger and Phil was titled "Part One," so you knew more was coming. If you read the comments, you may have guessed what else was on its way. Erik suggested that averaging the entire field may show that Tiger plays the tougher fields, but that the numbers get a lot closer simply due to the fact that a PGA Tour field has 144 players, many of whom are ranked 300th or worse. Erik suggested that we look at the average rank of the top players in the field and the number of players ranked a certain rank or better.

I chose the number 30, so this week we'll look at the average rank of the top 30 players and the number of players ranked 30th or higher in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Let's first take a look at the numbers involved for each player for the past year. Tournaments with an asterisk (*) are tournaments in which both Tiger and Phil played.

Tiger's Events

The first column (Average) in the tables below represents the average ranking of the top thirty ranked golfers in each event. The second column (Count) represents the number of players ranked 30th or higher in the field.

Tournament                         Average   Count   Finish
----------
Buick Invitational*                 38.77      10       1
Nissan Open                         26.23      17      WD
WGC - Accenture Match Play*         16.93      28      T9
Ford Championship at Doral*         28.20      18       1
Bay Hill Invitational               26.53      16     T20
THE PLAYERS Championship*           16.73      28     T22
Masters Tournament*                 15.97      29      T3
U.S. Open Championship*             17.27      27     CUT
Cialis Western Open*                31.70      14      T2
British Open Championship*          16.70      28       1
Buick Open                          44.93       7       1
PGA Championship*                   15.87      29       1
WGC - Bridgestone Invitational*     16.03      29       1
Deutsche Bank Championship          64.87       4       1
WGC - American Express Champ.       17.50      27       1
-----------------------------       -----      --
Averages                            26.28    20.73
No Phil Events                      36.01    14.20

Phil's Events

Tournament                         Average   Count   Finish
----------
Bob Hope Chrysler Classic           50.53       6      T5
Buick Invitational*                 38.77      10      T8
FBR Open                            36.53      10      T7
AT&T Pebble Beach National          53.73       9     T38
WGC - Accenture Match Play*         16.93      28      T9
Ford Championship at Doral*         28.20      18     T12
THE PLAYERS Championship*           16.73      28     T14
BellSouth Classic                   42.67      13       1
Masters Tournament*                 15.97      29       1
Zurich Classic of New Orleans       56.13       7     T15
Wachovia Championship               26.07      17     T35
the Memorial Tournament             23.97      19      T4
Barclays Classic                    26.67      18     T18
U.S. Open Championship*             17.27      27      T2
Cialis Western Open*                31.70      14     T65
British Open Championship*          16.70      28     T22
The INTERNATIONAL                   42.53      11     CUT
PGA Championship*                   15.87      29     T16
WGC - Bridgestone Invitational*     16.03      29     T54
-----------------------------       -----      --
Averages                            30.16    18.42
No Tiger Events                     39.87    12.22

Before we dive into the facts these numbers illustrate, let's first discuss their meaning. The first column averages the world ranking of the 30 highest ranked players in the field. The lower this number is, the stronger the presence of the top 30 players. The lowest possible average is 15.5, representing an event in which each of the top 30 ranked players compete.

The second column lists the number of top-30 ranked golfers in the field. The higher the number, the more top thirty players are in the field. Obviously, the highest rank you can get here is thirty.

So what can they tell us? The thing which sticks out most when I look at the numbers is the difference between the "no-Phil/Tiger" events. When Phil isn't playing and Tiger is, an average of 14.20 players from the top 30 entered into the event. If Phil is playing without Tiger - only 12.22 players from the top 30 tee it up.

The weakest field events that Tiger played in last year were the Deutsche Bank Championship (37.77 average, 10 players, Tiger won), the Buick Open (44.93 average, 7 players, Tiger won) and the Buick Invitational (average 64.87, 4 players [one of which was Phil], Tiger won).

Phil's weakest events were the Zurich Classic of New Orleans (average 56.13, 7 players, T15), the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (average 56.73, 9 players, T38) and the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic (average 50.53, 6 players, T5).

Now wait a minute. I thought it was supposed to be easier when there weren't as many top thirty players in the field? Why would Phil's best finish in his weakest events be a tie for fifth?

Tiger and Phil will naturally play in many of the same strong-field events. Of the top three in both players' lists, Tiger won two of them (PGA Championship and the WGC - Bridgestone Invitational) and finished third in the other (The Masters). Phil won one and finished T16 and T54 in the others. Not quite as impressive as two wins and a third.

Taking into account all events played in 2006 for Tiger we find that he was getting an average of 20.73 players from the top thirty in the same events as him while Phil is only getting 18.42. This is a huge difference and shows that Tiger really is the better player playing the stronger field events… which in turn shows us how much stronger of a player over Phil he really is.

This article was written by guest author Harry Solomon, an active member of our forum.

Discussion

  1. Interesting. I disagree with the conclusion: I think Phil compares reasonably well here. I'm surprised, though: more top-ranked golfers must play the "lame-o" events than I thought.

    I find it interesting that Tiger's "non-Phil" events are the Nissan Open (a classic course), Bay Hill (Arnie's tournament), Buick Open (a sponsor), Deutsche Banke (he says he likes the course), and the WGC-AmEx (a strong field that rotates locations, and one of his sponsors).

    Phil played in nine "non-Tiger" events, but only three - the AT&T (the course), The Memorial (Jack Nicklaus), and the FBR (as an ASU grad, he's a fan favorite) can be accounted for in similar terms. Still, I guess not as few top-ranked golfers as I thought skip events like The International, the Barclays, and the Bellsouth.

    There's no doubt that Tiger plays better in stronger-field events. He simply plays better overall, on average.

  2. The Hacker says:

    I think an interesting comparison with these numbers would be Tiger and Phil: Before U.S. Open and then Tiger and Phil: After U.S. Open.

    Mickelson was playing lights-out before the infamous implosion at Winged Foot. Phil Mickelson is known to basically mail-it-in in the later half of the season anyways - basically only putting in top effort at the PGA Champs after the British - it would be interesting to compare. For obvious reasons, Woods had a bumpy personal life-ride through the spring and early summer. I am pretty sure he deeply regrets having his putting game getting thrown under the bus at the Masters, I think he wanted to win that one for his dad pretty bad.

    But then Phil I think mentally assumed the fetal position - thumbsucking and all - after the US Open and that was it for him, maybe for a long time. He just had the choke-monkey off his back after all those years, and now the monkey has moved back in, lives on the couch, won't move out. I don't care what Mickelson says, given his history of mental breakdowns, everyone I think is pretty sure that guy will be having 'Nam-style flashbacks about that when he's 70.

    So both their fortunes were spectacular and disastrous, but at different times, crossing each other, TIger's going up, and Phil's going down, during the week of the U.S. Open.

  3. I2 says:

    nice job, I love it. I'm giving you my thoughts from France where i live and where i'm from. so don't blame my english...
    I think yours numbers are good but...even if Tiger is a lot better than Phil, 2006 was one on the 2 career best season for mr Woods and Mickelson disappear from any golf stat since june so even if I love the way you turn numbers around i think we need to analyse 2 or 3 seasons stats...

    your podcasts are greats Erik.

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