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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.

2014 Masters Preview and Staff Predictions

Apr. 9, 2014     By     Comments (2)

Thrash TalkHello Friends, it is time for the 2014 Masters. The start to 2014 has left many of The Sand Trap staff confused about who to pick as a winner at Augusta. In a typical year, most of the staff goes with Tiger, but after the recent announcement that he will not play, many of us are left looking elsewhere for a winner. I think this makes the 2014 a complete toss up. There is no dominant player in the game now who you can point too and say they are guaranteed to be there on Sunday afternoon.

The 2013 winner Adam Scott looked very strong at Bay Hill until the final round where he let Matt Every slip past him. Rory had one slip away in 2014 at the Honda, which was positive to see him playing well again, but bad in the sense that he still hasn't found his way into the winners circle other than in Australia. This makes our job as predictors tough, because we need to dig through the stats to find that special player that will have the magic at this seasons first major.

With that lets look and see how the staff predicts this years event:

Tiger is Not Using Performance Enhancing Drugs… I Think

Mar. 13, 2014     By     Comments (11)

Thrash TalkWhile sitting in the grill room of my golf club during the final round of the WGC in Doral, the conversation sparked up again.

It has not been discussed near as much as in the past, but on occasion - especially when Tiger withdraws or plays poorly because of an injury - people start whispering about it.

This time the gentlemen said that in his opinion ever since the PGA Tour put their drug-testing policy in place Tiger has been injured more frequently than in the past. His insinuation was that Tiger was in the past taking performance enhancing drugs and now that the testing policy was in place he was beginning to show wear as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens did in the later part of their careers.

Sergio a Sportsman?

Feb. 26, 2014     By     Comments (3)

Thrash TalkI think if you asked most American golf fans for their feelings on Sergio Garcia prior to this past weekend's Match Play event, they would have given you a pretty negative opinion. Most would say he is a whiner, and that during his younger days he did a fair bit of pouting as well. It wasn't all that long ago that he even dropped as low as spitting in a cup after pulling his ball out.

Sergio recently found himself in the middle of a spat with the World's Number One after he claimed that Tiger interrupted his swing on purpose. He followed this up by making a comment about having Tiger over for dinner to eat fried chicken. Needless to say, it didn't over well and he rightly apologized for the comment. I for one was surprised about that comment because Sergio is a serious soccer fan and FIFA has made a concerted effort to attempt to curb racist comments. Sergio did himself no favors with his handling of that situation. In interviews after The Players Championship he came off sounding like a whiner and a sore loser. Then in the subsequent interview for the Ryder Cup he only dug his hole deeper.

The Declining State of Golf

Feb. 12, 2014     By     Comments (22)

Thrash TalkGolf, like any leisure activity, is very closely tied with the ups and downs of the economy. The economy in its current state appears to be making headway in the right direction; golf on the other hand has continued its decline. Mostly it is a decline of participation, more directly it is not attracting as many new golfers as it is losing. For us golfers, this is going to be a bad thing. More and more courses are going to be forced to close because they just do not get enough play to remain open.

When I think about how we got here, we must first remember that golf has gone through ups and downs in the past. This is certainly not the first decline. Likely it will not be the last and golf will grow again soon. But we should analyze why we have had this recent decline.

Is Rory McIlroy Distracted or Just Struggling?

Jan. 15, 2014     By     Comments (6)

Thrash TalkAs a golf fan we have been trained to expect prolonged greatness. Tiger Woods hit the scene in 1997 and basically dominated golf until 2010. Jack Nicklaus before him was great for even longer. Greg Norman, Arnie before him, Hogan, Nelson, and so on. But for every golfer like those I mentioned there has been a golfer who flew onto the scene and disappeared almost as quickly as they appeared. I worry that Rory may be falling into the second category.

I am sure you are thinking that I am making this prediction too early in Rory's career. You are probably right, he may again win majors, and maybe even get the number one player title once Tiger starts to lose his edge, but my theory is that he will never dominate. For me it is a combination of things that lead me to this conclusion.

Thrash Talk Predictions for 2014

Jan. 1, 2014     By     Comments (4)

Thrash TalkI can freely admit that I am pretty bad when it comes to making predictions. Still, being bad does not stop me from making new ones. Why? Because it is fun to try to predict the future. I am probably as accurate as most of the political talking heads on Fox News or MSNBC. Even though officially the 2014 season has already started, I think it is okay to post the predictions now.

But before I go into my predictions for 2014… let's see how my predictions from last season panned out. I first predicted that Tiger would win the Masters. Yes, I was wrong, but barring a flagstick on the fifteenth hole Tiger probably would have come through for me. That flagstick did not stop him from winning five times during the season, but it caused me to be wrong about my prediction. I also said that he was only going to win two times, and he easily surpassed that.

The Future of Golf Technology

Dec. 24, 2013     By     Comments (16)

Thrash TalkIn my line of work, we talk often about technology stagnation. We often find that new products hitting the market have only slight improvements from the products offered a short while ago. The market then becomes extremely competitive, prices drop, and growth becomes a thing of the past. The most recent example is the personal computer market. Many people feel today that there is little incentive to by a new computer. I feel the golf industry is very near to a similar rut.

This came to me while playing golf a few weeks ago. All three of the guys in my group had R11 drivers in their hands. R11 is almost three years old and TaylorMade has released so many new drivers since then it begins to spin your head even thinking about it. But for the most part these new drivers were not driving my golfing buddies to ditch the old driver and switch over to the new ones. I asked them why the newer drivers hadn't tickled their fancy. They mentioned the improvements just didn't justify the price tag.

2013 – The Unpredictable PGA Tour Season

Nov. 18, 2013     By     Comments (0)

Thrash TalkPrior to hydrant-gate, golf had a certain predictability to it. Tiger would dominate, a few other side players would jump in to win the occasional major, and we would likely have a young player have a big flash and a few feel-good stories to talk about. The story was almost always the same.

Yet the 2013 season had very little predictability. The FedExCup winner is not an unfamiliar face. My best memory of Henrik Stenson is at the 2009 Players Championship. He ran away with the tournament and looked destined to win a major in the very near future. From that point on we didn't hear much from Henrik. There were times when it would be easy to think that he might not recover from one of the deepest slumps. But here he is, ten million dollars richer, and will be a favorite of many going into the Masters next year, a full recovery back to where he was in 2009, maybe this time just a bit wiser.

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