On March 20, 2013, Tom Watson reduced the number of captain's picks for the U.S. Ryder Cup team from 4 to 3. Watson felt this was more "fair" to the younger players. In fact, the statistics over the past 20 years show that this is not a good idea.
Captain's picks by U.S. team captains have outperformed players who automatically make the team. The numbers show that the intuition of the captain has done better than the players who make the team using the relatively arbitrary measurement of prize money over a period of time. TheTeeSheet had to create a new statistic called the Return on Investment Per Match (ROIPM) to measure a player's value. The typical method of looking at a player's simple Ryder Cup record did not take into account the increased value of a singles match win compared to the shared value of a paired format win in four-ball and alternate shot. The analysis also showed that U.S. captain's picks excel at a dramatically higher percentage than players that qualify automatically.
The WGC Match Play event over the past decade has shown some pretty impressive winners - perhaps a list that matches or exceeds each of the Majors. However, looking a bit deeper shows that the top players themselves do not necessarily get that far. Is it the case that a top seed playing well is left to face relatively weaker competition by the time he gets to the weekend? Even that explanation does not seem likely. It seems Tiger maybe skewing the numbers. Consider the following.
Over the past decade (2003-2012), only 14 of the 80 top 8 seeds (10 years multiplied by 8 top seeds each year) have made it to the final four on the weekend, i.e. if you pick a 1 or 2 seed in each of the four brackets, that player has only made it to the final four 17.5% of the time. That only translates to 5.7/1 odds of even making it to the final four. It is also notable that 3 of those 14 times included Tiger when he was at his peak (2003, 2004 and 2008). Those times for Tiger were also back in California at La Costa (2003 & 2004) and the Gallery Golf Club (2008) in Arizona. He has not played well at the newer location at the Ritz-Carlton Club in Arizona since 2009. In other words, the numbers over the past decade are probably even a bit weaker than 17.5% for a top 2 seeds to get to the final four. As noted in the longer article, the WGC Match Play ain't exactly March Madness.
It is also notable that aside from Tiger, once in the final four, only Geoff Ogilvy as a top 8 seed (2009) has ever actually gone on to win the event (1 out of 7 times minus the Tiger wins). Not surprisingly, Tiger has been able to close out the weekend as a top seed in this event. So it it probably fair to say a top seed (other than Tiger at his peak) has not shown any great advantage once getting to the weekend. Clearly, it is too small a sample size to say top seeds other than Tiger have worse than even odds one they get to teh final four. However, it is reasonable to say that it seems any player is a fair bet to win the event once they get to the final four (i.e. all four players are all playing well).
So, at a generous 1 in 5.7 chance of making the final four and then an even 1 in 4 of winning it, that puts one of the top 8 players at slightly better than 1/23 to win. Any longer odds than that would not seem to be a great deal. Of the pre-tournament Vegas odds, that puts Adam Scott and Justin Rose as moderate values at 25-1 and Lee Westwood and Bubba Watson decent picks at 30-1. Maybe Bubba is a good pick because he doesn't really care and can play loose. Rose has been an excellent Ryder Cup player in his two appearances (2008 and 2012). Next to Ian Poulter, he was Europe's second most productive player in those years (after a white-hot Ian Poulter).
Of course 25-1 and 30-1 are still long odds, but at least reasonable.
[as of posting, Westwood and Scott have lost and Rose and Watson are still alive ]
Phil Mickelson is often considered a streaky golfer. That may be true in a particular round but is he a player that gets hot for more than one tournament in a row? TheTeeSheet looked at Mickelson's record in this regard over the past 5 years and past 10 years. The results are interesting. Mickelson shows a trend ... but it is not what you might think.
This coming season, TheTeeSheet is going to take a look at the golf betting lines each week. The odds to win lines available online and in Vegas likely don't present a great deal of value. More interestingly, we'll be taking a look at the head-to-head bets available from week to week.
Please come back soon!