Golf By The Numbers: Is Tiger Woods’ Tour Championship win predictive of big 2019?

PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 30: Tiger Woods of the United States reacts during singles matches of the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National on September 30, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images) Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Golf By The Numbers: Is Tiger Woods’ Tour Championship win predictive of big 2019?

Digital Edition

Golf By The Numbers: Is Tiger Woods’ Tour Championship win predictive of big 2019?

A few weeks ago, I texted my colleague Geoff Shackelford and said that while I had not seen an over/under line for Tiger Woods wins in 2019, if it was 1.5, would he take the over or the under. Selecting the over would mean Geoff thought Woods would win more than 1.5 times (in reality, two or more times) next season while taking the under would mean he thought Tiger would win one or zero times.

“Over for sure,” Geoff replied.

I was not surprised by his answer because Woods finished the season playing his best golf of the year and won the 2018 Tour Championship, his first PGA Tour title in five years. If I had been asked the same question, I probably would have taken the over as well.

That got me thinking about whether success at the Tour Championship, a 30-man, no-cut event at the end of the season, boded well for a player’s success the following season. How often have players who won the Tour Championship gone up on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) the next season and how often did they win PGA Tour events the year after their triumph?

The Tour Championship has moved several times over the years, but since 2004 it has been played exclusively at East Lake Golf Club outside Atlanta. The table below lists all the Tour Championship winners since 2004. The table also shows where on the OWGR each winner was immediately after winning at East Lake and where he ranked at the end of the next season.

Ten of the 14 players who won the Tour Championship before this year’s event were ranked in the top 10 in the OWGR, which makes sense because to qualify for the tournament you need to have had an outstanding season. However, a year after winning at East Lake, the average change among the players was a drop in world ranking of about nine positions. Nine of the 14 players ranked lower on the OWGR, and in the case of Jim Furyk (-45), Bart Bryant (-29) and Billy Horschel (-27), significantly lower.

Just two golfers who won the Tour Championship since 2004 were ranked higher on the OWGR at the end of the next season, Henrik Stenson (from No. 4 to No. 2) and Xander Schauffele (from 32 to 12).

Shifting to wins and top-10 finishes, the table below lists the same players, how many wins they had in the season they won their Tour Championship and how many wins and top 10s they had the next season.

Every golfer who has won the Tour Championship since 2004 has won fewer PGA Tour events the following season, although it is worth noting that after Woods won in 2007, his 2008 season was cut short after he had knee surgery. Up to that point, he had played six PGA Tour events, won four of them, including the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, and finished in the top 10 in all of them.

While wins decreased, as a group the Tour Championship winners averaged more than five top-10 finishes the following season, led by Brandt Snedeker with nine and Retief Goosen and Jordan Spieth with eight.

At Thanksgiving last year, we all would have been grateful if Woods could compete pain-free in a 72-hole PGA Tour event. He’s now proven that he cannot only play, he can contend and win. But the numbers show that success at the Tour Championship is not predictive. Since 2004, not only have players who won the Tour Championship typically seen a drop in their ranking, they’ve won less the next season.

If the over/under on Tiger Woods wins in 2019 is 1.5, maybe taking the under is the smarter bet. Gwk

Latest

More Digital Edition
Home