The Masters: In the words of the great Jim Nantz, it truly is “A Tradition Unlike Any Other!” Golf’s most prestigious event began yesterday morning at Augusta National Golf Club, and the first players teed around 8:00AM.
The Masters is home to some of the greatest moments in all of sports. Who can forget Tiger’s famous chip shot on 16 in 2005? Or Bubba’s unbelievable hooking punch shot from the pine straw on the Par 4 10th in 2012? However, for all the heroics we see in the 4-day stretch, this tournament is also home to some of the biggest collapses. Jordan Spieth’s disaster on the Par 3 12th cost him a chance at back-to-back green jackets. Then, there was Greg Norman’s catastrophic round of 78 on the final day in 1996. These two are also among the more unforgettable Masters moments.
So, what will this year’s Masters bring?
Time will tell, but a few things are certain. The course will be in near perfect condition. There will be limited commercial interruptions. And, only one person will put on that elusive green jacket! Is this Rickie’s year? Can Dustin Johnson continue the hot play? Or will Rory McIlroy complete the Career Grand Slam that only 5 other golfers in history have done?
Like many others around the world, I always pick who I think will win the tournament. Of course I then cheer for them throughout the long weekend. However, also like many others, my prediction is often wrong. So, this year I took a different approach.
Fore! Visualizing the data
The PGA Tour does an excellent job of providing statistics for every player that dates back to the 1980s. To begin my new path to predicting a winner, I compiled 2017 data on the top 67 players in the world, based on the Official World Golf Rankings. I focused on the top 67 players because no golfer out of the top 70 has ever won the Masters.
History has shown that Major Golf Championships tend to reward players who hit the long ball, have a high Greens in Regulation % (GIR) and make putts on the toughest greens in the world. I combined these general skill statistics with each player’s Adjusted Scoring Average (compares a player’s per-round score with the field averages for the given tournament), Top 10 Finishes and a few other statistical categories for 2017.
The datasheet in raw form was difficult to gain insights from. So, I uploaded the spreadsheet into IBM’s business intelligence platform, Cognos Analytics. Within minutes, I was able to quickly build out visualizations, making the data much easier to understand.
This dashboard shows the average Adjusted Scoring Average, Driving Distance and GIR Percentage for the top 67 players in the world, as well as their home countries:
In this visualization, you can see how each player stacks up based on four important statistical categories: Average Driving Distance, Greens in Regulation %, Total Putts Per Round and Adjusted Scoring Average:
Making my pick
The visualizations in Cognos Analytics allowed me to see how the Top 67 ranked players on the PGA Tour compare in important statistical categories. Many of the numbers for various players are extremely close. But, slight differences mean the world when it comes to golf.
While much of the media attention will surround the top players like Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, keep an eye out for players like Brendan Steele, Gary Woodland, Russell Henley, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas. They consistently show up high in the rankings for Driving Distance, GIR, Adjusted Scoring Average and Putts Per Round!
My pick to win the 2017 Masters is Rickie Fowler, who sits at 24th in Average Driving Distance (301.5 yards), 1st in Adjusted Scoring Average (68.801), 20th in GIR (72.01) and 43rd in Putts Per Round (28.62)! Fowler has finished in the Top 10 in 4 or the 7 events he has participated in for 2017 and currently ranks as the 8th best player in the world.
My “sleeper” pick this year is Ross Fisher, who currently ranks 45th in the World Golf Rankings.
No hole in one, but predicting is fun
Predicting who will win The Masters tournament is nearly impossible, as there are hundreds of variables that come into play. The top 10 golfers in the world are beaten quite often by the field, especially at such a difficult venue like Augusta National (7 of the last 10 Masters champions were ranked outside of the Top 10). Perhaps Sir Nick Faldo said it best, “The course is perfection, and it asks perfection,” as the grueling four-day tournament requires golfers to play at their best for 72 holes.
However, by visualizing various statistics in Cognos Analytics, I believe I have made a more informed decision on who will come away with the green jacket late Sunday afternoon!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally posted on LinkedIn.