Golf Digest Publications has generously sponsored the 2012 Research Awards for the Sixth World Scientific Congress of Golf. An award of $2,500 was given to the “winning” research in each of the two areas – The Golfer and Equipment and Technology.
2012 Golf Digest Research Awards:
Are the Official World Golf Rankings Biased?
The Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) is a system for ranking male professional
golfers who play on a number of tours worldwide, including the PGA Tour, European Tour, Japanese Tour, and others. The OWGR rankings, updated and published on a weekly basis, allow golfers who play in different tournaments on different tours and continents to be ranked against each other on a single scale. The rankings affect golfers’ endorsement income, carry bragging rights, but are most important because of tournament eligibility requirements: golfers in the OWGR top 50 are automatically eligible to play in major tournaments, world golf championships and other important tournaments. These rankings are also important to tournament sponsors who seek to attract the best golfers to their events. A key issue in creating a single ranking scale is that golf scores from different tournaments are not directly comparable because of differences in course difficulty due to course length, course conditions (rough height, width of fairways, firmness of greens), weather conditions and other factors. A further complication is that pairs of golfers may never play together in the same tournaments, e.g., some Nationwide Tour golfers many never play in a European Tour event, some PGA Tour golfers may never play in a Japanese Tour event, etc. We investigate whether the OWGR system produces unbiased rankings, meaning that golfers who are similar in skill should have similar rankings independent of the tour in which they play the majority of their tournaments. (We use the term similar because skill cannot be estimated without error.) If OWGR rankings are biased, a golfer could be unfairly rewarded or penalized because of his tour affiliation.
Analyzing the PGA TOUR ShotLinkTM Database Using the ISOPAR Method
Conventional performance indicators used in golf rely on classifications of shots based on the distance to the hole. These indicators ignore the unique factors which make up the difficulty of each shot. Furthermore, these indicators do not take into account that a shot is a single event within a chain of events, the sequence of shots taken on a hole. Hence, the starting conditions of a shot are determined by the ending conditions of its previous shot. The aim of the project was to develop new performance indicators which are independent from the other shots played on the hole. For example, putting performance is partly a measure of approach shot performance since better played approaches tend to leave easier putts. Because of the analogy to isobars in meteorology, the method is called the ISOPAR method and the so called ISOPAR lines are lines of equal average number of strokes which are needed to hole out. The method allows us, not only to analyze the performance of individual shots, but also to visualize difficult areas on a hole.