Sunday 31 August 2008

European Ryder Cup Wildcards Announced

Well, after all the hoopla of the last week or so, the wildcards for the Ryder Cup have just been announced. It seems that Ian Poulter had a hotline to Nick Faldo after all, having being named as a wildcard along with Paul Casey. While the latter was more or less expected by all commentators, many thought Darren Clarke deserved the nod for the captain's second pick. When Poulter almost unbelievably seemed to put avarice before duty by staying in the US rather than try to play his way onto the team at the last qualifying event in Europe, most thought the flamboyant English man had shot himself in the foot (again!).

However, despite not playing well since his second place finish in the British Open, Faldo decided to pick Poulter over Clarke, who didn't exactly set the course on fire at Gleneagles. Even the brave Monty managed to finish higher than Clarke, but past Ryder Cup hero Colin wasn't really ever seriously in the running this year.

Anyway, the team is now final and now let's hope the boys to the business next month at Valhalla!

European Ryder Cup Team Update

Following on from the previous article about the battle for Nick Faldo's wildcards, none of the front runners did themselves any favours yesterday. While the TPC Boston course seems to be a bit of a duck shoot with most players shooting well into the 60s (Tim Clark even had a great chance for a 59 yesterday), both Poulter and Casey lumbered to rounds in the 70s and both missed the cut. Poulter lashed out at the media for the unwelcome pressure they heaped upon him, but one wonders why he read the articles and took questions on the matter if it had such a negative effect on him.

On the other side of the pond, a similarly tetchy Monty had a hardly encouraging 76 to topple down the leaderboard while Darren Clarke continued to thread water with another even par 73. All of this does not make the decision any easier for poor old Nick!

Saturday 30 August 2008

2008 - Top 5 Easiest Courses/Tournaments on the European PGA Tour

Based on the average score in relation to par in the tournaments hosted on them, these were the 5 easiest courses on the European PGA Tour in the 2008 season:
  1. Club de Campo del Mediterr√°neo (Castello Masters)
  2. Castello Di Tolcinasco (Italian Open)
  3. Kota Permai GC (Malaysian Open)
  4. Doral Golf Resort (WGC - CA Championship)
  5. Oitavos Dunes (Open de Portugal)
Interestingly, the US PGA Tour seems to have the easier tournaments by far. Of course, this may be down to the purported superior condition of US courses. You can get more detailed information by looking at the 'Lowest Average Round vs Par' chart on the 'View Options/Tourn. Stats' page (Euro Tour, 2008 Season) in the member section of Golf Predictor. Click on the "Lists" category opposite to see more such lists.

2008 - Top 5 Easiest Courses/Tournaments on the US PGA Tour

Based on the average score in relation to par in the tournaments hosted on them, these were the 5 easiest courses on the US PGA Tour in the 2008 season:
  1. TPC Summerlin (Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open)
  2. PGA West and sister courses (Bob Hope Chrysler Classic)
  3. Walt Disney Word Resort, Magnolia GC (Children's Miracle Network Classic)
  4. The Plantation Course (Mercedes Benz Championship)
  5. Bellerive Country Club (BMW Championship)
The Bob Hope was played over 4 courses and 5 days with the Classic Course also hosted the final round. You can get more detailed information by looking at the 'Lowest Average Round vs Par' chart on the 'View Options/Tourn. Stats' page (US Tour, 2008 Season) in the member section of Golf Predictor. Click on the "Lists" category opposite to see more such lists.

2008 - Top 5 Hardest Courses/Tournaments on the European PGA Tour

Based on the average score in relation to par in the tournaments hosted on them, these were the 5 toughest courses on the European PGA Tour in the 2008 season:
  1. Royal Birkdale (British Open)
  2. Oakland Hills (US PGA)
  3. Pearl Valley (South African Airways Open)
  4. Beijing CBD International (Volvo China Open)
  5. Saint Omer GC (Saint Omer Open)
Granted, the weather played a part in some tournaments (e.g. British Open), but hopefully a useful list all the same. Unsurprisingly, it is top heavy with major tournaments. Interestingly, the 5 hardest courses span 4 continents. European tournaments appear to be slightly harder than their US counterparts, but this could be related to the weather or the purported inferior condition of the courses.

You can get more detailed information by looking at the 'Highest Average Round vs Par' chart on the 'View Options/Tourn. Stats' page (Euro Tour, 2008 Season) in the member section of Golf Predictor. Click on the "Lists" category opposite to see more such lists.

2008 - Top 5 Hardest Courses/Tournaments on the US PGA Tour

Based on the average score in relation to par in the tournaments hosted on them, these were the toughest courses on the US PGA Tour:
  1. Royal Birkdale (British Open)
  2. Oakland Hills (US PGA)
  3. Torrey Pines (US Open)
  4. TPC Southwind (Standford St. Jude)
  5. Muirfield Village (Memorial)
Granted, the weather played a part in some tournaments (e.g. British Open), but hopefully a useful list all the same. Unsurprisingly, it is top heavy with major tournaments. You can get more detailed information by looking at the 'Highest Average Round vs Par' chart on the 'View Options/Tourn. Stats' page (US Tour, 2008 season) in the member section of Golf Predictor. Click on the "Lists" category opposite to see more such lists.

European Ryder Cup Rumour Mill

The race for Nick Faldo's wildcard picks for the European Ryder Cup team sure is getting entertaining. With allegations of guaranteed places to both Ian Poulter and Paul Casey and transatlantic sniping between Poulter and Monty, it's turning into a mini soap opera!

I can't imagine someone like Faldo would have assured anyone of their place before the last ball had been struck in Gleneagles, but stranger things have happened. He'll have to announce his picks while the 3rd round of the Deutsche Bank Championship is under way in Boston, so it will be interesting to see how Casey and Poulter are shaping up at that point in time.

It's just as well that it's unlikely that both Monty and Poulter will be picked for the team as that would lead to a pretty frosty atmosphere in the locker room! Following the war of words between the two (conducted via the press), I don't think they would do much for the famed European team spirit.

If Nick Faldo used Golf Predictor (free honorary subscription, if you're reading this, Nick!), he would know exactly which two from Poulter, Casey, Monty and Darren Clarke have been playing the best golf this season and in their last 5 events. Using the 'Compare Golfers' page on the 'Stats Analysis' menu, it is clear that Poulter and Casey are streets ahead on performance, with Casey on a rich streak of form. However, Clarke and Monty in particular have impressive Ryder Cup records, so I don't envy your decision, Nick, old chap!!

Thursday 28 August 2008

About the Overall GP Score

The overall GP (Golf Predictor) score for each golfer in a tournament is the normalised chance that s/he (the occasional woman also plays!) has of winning/playing well in the tournament. The GP score is based on the statistics available for that golfer and is computed as an easy to digest percentage. The higher this percentage, the greater the chance of that golfer winning the event.

In simple terms, a GP score of 100% would represent the top world ranked golfer in the field with perfect statistics in all the metrics used, e.g. season, last five events, in the past on the same course, in the same tournament, at similar events etc. Of course, no golfer ever wins all the relevant historical events, but a golfer who hits a rich vein of form leading up to a tournament on a course he has a great record on can certainly achieve a very high GP Score. Such golfers would obviously be very likely to perform well again in the current week. Conversely, golfers with low GP scores generally are amateurs, debutants or sponsor invites with little or no history on either major tour.

The GP score is not a pure mathematical probability. Tiger Woods playing his best could have a GP score of 90%, but even he would never have a pure 90% chance of winning in a field of 156 golfers. If all the golfers were of equal ability, the pure probability would be 1/156=0.641% for any golfer to win. In a real life tournament of 156 golfers of varying abilities, the true odds for most of the field would be difficult to digest decimals slightly bigger or smaller than 0.641%. That is the main reason the GP Score has been normalised to an easy to understand percentage. It is a valid measure of likely success and, like bookie odds, the relative difference between two GP scores is a measure of how much more likely one golfer is to perform well than the other.

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Change in Historical Statistics

We have decided here at Golf Predictor to tweak the way historical tournaments (events held on the same course/at the same tournament) affect future tournament predictions. Henceforth, there will be a sliding 5 year window of historical data used (i.e. the previous five years) rather than the complete historical data in the database. This was done for 2 main reasons:
  1. The further back you go, the less relevant results are. To give an extreme example, 3 time champion, the 72 year old Gary Player still plays at the Masters, but he hasn't a prayer of winning again! We reckon 5 years is a good cut off point.
  2. Leading on from above, as the years go by, the processing demands will increase and Golf Predictor would possibly have to buy a Cray supercomputer to sift through the ever less relevant data!
The changes will have no effect on this year's predictions as our records begin in 2003. From next year though, the 5 year historical window will begin in 2004 and so on for future years.

2008 - Week 41 Euro Tour Prediction Re-run

We here at Golf Predictor have re-run the European prediction as it has only come to light today that a fairly highly ranked player, Ian Poulter (12), has withdrawn from the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles. He has decided to focus on the Fedex Cup and retaining his PGA Tour card. He is now at the mercy of Nick Faldo for a wildcard Ryder Cup spot. Probably not the wisest move, especially when you consider the effort Justin Rose is putting in to qualify and how well Darren Clarke is playing. He better pray Rose makes the team automatically!

Poulter was entered in to both events, so the Deutsche Bank Championship prediction is fine as is.

Monday 25 August 2008

Major Prediction/Stats Enhancements

We here at Golf Predictor have been toiling hard lately to further improve the site. To that end, we are delighted to announce a great new feature: similar tournament information.

We already track recent form and historical form on the same course and at the same tournament. However, up to now, we have not tracked how golfers performed in similar type events. For example, it's well known that some golfers play well at regular events, but tank under the added pressure of a major. Conversely, there are other players who raise their game when the big tournaments come around. Well, from this week onward (week 41, 2008) on Golf Predictor, you can track those players too. We differentiate between the following types of tournaments:
  1. Regular events
  2. Majors
  3. WGC events
  4. Fedex Cup play-offs
So, come next April, if you want to see who has the best track record in recent majors, you'll be able to find out on Golf Predictor! We track the last 12 events, which corresponds to 3 years of majors and Fedex Cup events, 4 years of WGC events and several months of regular events. All new statistics and 5 new charts (analogous to those available for historical results at the same tournament or on the same course) for these similar events have been added to the system. The new charts are:
  1. Average finishing position of golfer in past 12 similar events
  2. Scoring average of golfer in past 12 similar events
  3. Average round 1 score of golfer in past 12 similar events
  4. Top performers in past 12 similar events
  5. Top first round performers in past 12 similar events
This new golfer performance in similar events has been added to our prediction algorithm. There is also a new page on the Stats Analysis menu called "Sim. Tourn. History" which only lists the tournaments for which these new stats are available.

Older tournaments (those held before this week) will show "n/a" for the similar tournament elements on certain pages. We hope you find these new stats and charts useful and it will be interesting to see how they affect the prediction success.

2008 - Week 41 Predictions Now Online

We have published the predictions for week 41, the Deutsche Bank Championship (US) and the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles (Europe). This week marks the last qualifying event for the European Ryder Cup team, so there should be some excitement over who manages to secure the last few automatic places on the team.

The Deutsche Bank Championship (US) started in 2003 (Golf Predictor includes results from the previous 5 years) and there are no pre-2003 champions competing in the Johnnie Walker Championship.

Site Issues Resolved

Golf Predictor seems to be back to its brilliant best!

We're not sure what the issue was, but we suspect our initial feeling was correct!

Possible Intermittent Connection Problems

Apologies users, if you have been affected, but the site appears to be experiencing intermittent connection difficulties today. We were guaranteed 99.9% uptime, but it looks like the 0.1% is happening today!

I'm 99.9% sure the fault lies with our hosting company, not with your ever reliable Golf Predictor! Rest assured, we are applying the pressure to get this sorted as soon as possible.

Sunday 24 August 2008

2008 - Week 40 Winners

Ireland's unbelievable golfing year continues with Darren Clarke's second victory of the season in the KLM Open (Europe). Clarke (ranked 38th by Golf Predictor) continued his roller coaster form to bag the 8th Irish win of the season and give a very timely nudge to Nick Faldo for a wildcard Ryder cup spot. For good measure, Ireland's Paul McGinley (ranked 5th) finished runner up with a storming 64 in his final round. We may have to give extra weighting to Irish golfers for the remainder of the season! Our top pick, Henrik Stenson, bogeyed the last to fall down to 3rd place and altogether we had ten out of the top 20.

Across the pond on the PGA Tour, another man with recent up and down recent form, Vijay Singh (ranked 10 by Golf Predictor), won for the second time in four outings in an exciting "play-off play-off" at The Barclays. Poor old Sergio Garcia (ranked 3) once again failed to seal the deal in the first of the Fedex Cup play-offs, succumbing on the second extra hole despite help from a gopher! Both golfers hit long range birdies on the first extra hole, knocking Kevin Sutherland out. Singh's 2 putt, tap in birdie sealed it on the next hole after an errant drive forced Garcia to eventually settle for par. Our top pick, Phil Mickelson, finished well to end up in a tie for 19th and we had nine out of the top 20.

The Top 10 Simple Golf Tips to Improve your Golf Game

The Golf Predictor Guru has spent thousands of Euro on lessons, books, videos, gadgets, clubs and trips to Lourdes in the quest to be able to play golf to a decent level. Unfortunately it hasn't worked, but that's down to my incompetence rather than the material!

Along the way I have picked up a few simple tips which should be useful to the beginner or seasoned hacker! In roughly descending order of usefulness, these tips may save you some cash and/or frustration:
  1. Get the basics right first. Learn how to hold the club correctly, how to set yourself up and where to position the ball from the get-go. Otherwise, you'll struggle to ever hit the ball well. There's nothing more difficult in golf than getting used to a new grip, so avoid that by doing it right from the start.
  2. Swing slowly. I believe this is Bob Torrance's number one tip and since he's one of the best golf coaches (Padraig Harrington is his most famous pupil) in the world, that's good enough for me. Swinging like a maniac, especially on the takeaway, will only end up in an disaster and/or injury!
  3. Do not move up and down during the swing. That means no extra bending of the knees or upward movement of the torso or the club will simply not be able to return to the same spot i.e. behind the ball. You will either dig turf or top the ball, depending on whether you go up or down during your swing.
  4. Don't grip the club too tightly. This will introduce tension to your swing and blisters/rubber to your hand from the grip. The old chestnut about holding a bird on your hands so as to keep it there and not choke the crap out of it is a good one! If you're wearing the grips off your clubs and/or have sore hands after a few swings, it's a sign that you should lighten up on the grip pressure.
  5. You should try to relax before swinging as tension is very bad for your game. If there is tension in your arms, you won't be able to hit a good golf shot. Try a few Sergio waggles beforehand or a big outward breath at address. It's impossible to be tense when breathing out (although I think I managed it a few times!).
  6. Think positively (in life as well as golf!). They say the most important distance in golf is the 6 inches between your ears and they are right. If you convince yourself before your shot that you're going to scutter (duff) the ball, chances are that you will. Instead, visualise a great shot! Similarly, don't wilt if you have an audience. Instead, tell yourself that you're going to show them how it's done.
  7. Your golf shot doesn't stop at the ball. Similar to pool/snooker, you must follow through to the finish position for consistently straight shots.
  8. Similar to above for putting. Don't jab at the ball, but employ a pendulum swing instead, with the ball in the middle. Half back and half through will result in much truer putting than a huge backswing and no follow through.
  9. Warm up before playing. You should at least stretch and, if possible, hit some balls to shake the cobwebs off. Did you ever see a pro golfer consciously head straight out on to the course? Enough said.
  10. You must practice to get better or even stay at your current level. Playing once a month and expecting your A game to magically reappear or improve is just plain foolish. If even Tiger Woods has to practice hard, what makes you think you don't have to?
Although, I could not implement most of these tips myself, I hope that you, dear reader, meet with more success! My particular specialities were to violate tips 2 & 3, usually at the same time!

Click on the "Lists" category opposite to see more lists.

Saturday 23 August 2008

Tin Cup

I watched the film "Tin Cup" on TV again the other night. I didn't realise that there were so many pros in it (including several major winners), although most were just set decoration. Craig Stadler and Peter Jacobson got a few lines but I think they were wise to stick to the golf! A youthful and slimline Phil Mickelson also featured as did a number of well known US golf commentators, most noticeably Gary McCord.

The lake in front of the 18th green that the hot headed eponymous anti-hero kept hitting into had to built on the course for the movie. Wisely, they didn't show too many of Costner's swings as it's pretty difficult for a 12 odd handicapper to swing like a pro. Don Johnson, his nemesis in the film, plays off single figures so it was obviously easier for him to fake it. Apparently, Costner got intensive coaching from McCord and Peter Kostis and admirably took all the shots himself. Even so, I can't see him featuring on Golf Predictor any time soon!!

Monday 18 August 2008

2008 - Week 40 Predictions Now Online

We have published the predictions for week 40, The Barclays (US) and the KLM Open (Europe). The Barclays marks the start of the play-offs for the Fedex Cup on the PGA Tour. Hopefully people will start getting excited about it this year!!

Competitors who were winners in the The Barclays before 2003 (when Golf Predictor records commence) include Sergio Garcia (2001), Ernie Els (1996 & 1997) and Lee Janzen (1994). The corresponding list for the KLM Open is Tobias Dier (2002) and Sven Struver (1997).

2008 - Week 39 Winners

Greensboro's Swede, Carl Pettersson (ranked 9* by Golf Predictor), won his "local" tournament, the Wyndham Championship, by 2 strokes. Despite a wobbly patch just after the turn, Pettersson put the hammer down with 3 birdies in four holes to secure his third US PGA Tour victory. It was a bit of a duck shoot after the rigours of the PGA Championship last week, but that didn't stop a few of the favourites from tanking. The two highly ranked Singhs, Vijay (1) and Jeev Milkha (5*), were both out of tune and missed the cut. On a brighter note, Tim Clark and Briny Baird finished in the top 10 as expected.

Rounding off a great week for Swedish golf, Peter Hanson (ranked 3 by Golf Predictor), won his home event, the SAS Masters in Stockholm. Robert Karlsson, the pre-tournament home town favourite, had an uncharacteristically bad week, missing the cut and finishing in a lowly 73rd place. However, Nick Dougherty, Soren Kjeldsen and Paul McGinley all finished high as expected.

*Two of the predicted top 10, Angel Cabrera (3) and Rocco Mediate(6), were late withdrawals from the tournament.

Thursday 14 August 2008

Harrington's Status in Irish Sport

I was disappointed to read that some of the Harrington family do not think Padraig gets the recognition he deserves in Ireland for his magnificent achievements on the golf course. We here at Golf Predictor think that Padraig has always been a fantastic ambassador for his country, even long before the last 13 months, which have catapulted him up to superstar status. As a person, he has always been a credit to his family and his country and his work ethic is a shining example to youngsters everywhere.

However, Ireland has traditionally been a nation of begrudgers, where successful people tend to be knocked rather than admired. This is an unsavoury part of the Irish psyche, but I have to say that I have not personally detected this in relation to Padraig. Everyone I have come into contact with is absolutely delighted and extremely proud that one of our own has really put us on the map. In addition, all the media and the top public figures have been effusive in their praise and I'm sure Harrington will be a runaway winner of all the major sports awards come the end of the year.

While he is the undoubtedly our most successful golfer ever (Only Fred Daly at the 1947 British Open ever won a major before), there has been a lot of discussion in the Irish media in the last few weeks (especially this week!) about where Padraig stands in the pantheon of Irish sports stars. In individual sport, Padraig must be our best ever in my opinion. To win 3 majors in a global sport against the cream of world golf and in such style (the last 2 anyway!) puts him on a different level altogether. I know, I know, Tiger wasn't there for the last 2, but I'm not sure it would have made much difference, particularly in the British Open. After all, Woods loses more majors than he wins and Padraig is the only man to have played with him at least 5 times and outscore him.

Other candidates for the mantle of greatest Irish sports star ever include Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche (cycling), Michelle De Brun (swimming) and Sonia O'Sullivan (athletics). No one was a bigger fan of Kelly (an absolute savage on 2 wheels!) during the golden age of Irish cycling than me. A formidable sprinter (who spoke multiple languages with the same Waterford accent!), he was world number one for 6 years, won classics for fun, a Tour of Spain, many tour stages and four Tour de France green jerseys. In total he won 193 professional races, second only to the legendary Eddy Merckx. Unfortunately, unlike Merckx, he never won the ultimate prize, the Tour de France. Roche had one of the finest years an Irish sportsman ever had in 1987 winning the triple crown (Tour de France, World Championship and Giro d'Italia), but because of injury, he never really featured after that. Two other factors against these sporting heroes are that cycling is only really popular on the (European) continent and it has been mired in doping controversies for years.

Speaking of doping controversies, that rules out our greatest ever Olympian, Michelle De Brun, who defied age, body type and a mediocre record at the top level to win 3 golds and a bronze in Atlanta. That was one of the best ever weeks in Irish sport and the sight of the Irish flag raised highest will live long in the memory (not to mention almost causing the Irish commentator to have a heart attack!). Well, it would have had she not been discovered 2 years later to have an ability to pee whiskey during a drugs test. That's impossible (even for an Irish person!), so we have to go with the more likely explanation that it was a masking agent for illegal substances.

All in all, I think the closest competitor to Padraig for the mantle of Ireland's greatest sports person has to be Sonia O'Sullivan. Sonia slogged for many a long year in the green shirt and had tremendous success at international level, including a world championship gold, 3 European championship golds and 2 world cross-country championship gold medals. Only bad luck with illnesses prevented her from performing to her potential at the Olympics in 1996 and, more poignantly, in 2004 where she was deservedly applauded by the crowd for a bravely finishing a lap down of the field. She almost did it for us in Sydney in 2000, but unfortunately she was narrowly pipped for the 5000m title.

Sonia's unfortunate Olympic failures just hand it to Padraig in my opinion. He has proved himself at the very highest level of his sport and he isn't finished yet! Irish bookies can expect to lose a lot more money on Harrington at the big events. It's amazing that he was slated for finishing second so often just a few years ago. The great Bobby Jones also finished second a lot before he got into the winning habit and he didn't do too bad now, did he? Roll on the "Paddy Slam"!

World Rankings - Inner Workings

I posted recently on the anomalies of the world ranking system. However, there was an excellent article in the Irish Times yesterday by Paul Gallagher which really demystified the whole system.

Granted, the article understandably has an Irish (read Harrington!) bent, but it really helps to understand how the rankings work and when Tiger is likely to slip out of the number one slot.

Monday 11 August 2008

2008 - Week 39 Predictions Now Online

We have published the predictions for week 39, the Wyndham Championship (US) and the SAS Masters (Europe). My championing of Robert Karlsson is beginning to pay off - he has motored up to number 21 in the world now after a top 20 in the US PGA Championship! However, even that massive rise of one place was due to Luke Donald being out through injury!

Competitors who were winners in the Wyndham Championship before 2003 (when Golf Predictor records commence) include Rocco Mediate (1993 & 2002), Trevor Dodds (1998), Davis Love III (1992) and Mark Brooks (1991). The corresponding list for the SAS Masters is Jesper Parnevik (1998) and Peter Baker (1993).

2008 - Week 38 Winners

Ireland's golfing annus mirabilis continues with Padraig Harrington (ranked 4th* by Golf Predictor) bagging "our" 7th win and second major of the season. Harrington, whose play down the stretch in a major now resembles that of Tiger Woods, scrambled and putted magnificently on the back nine to take his second consecutive major. He becomes the first European winner of the US PGA Championship since Tommy Armour in 1930 and the first ever to win back to back majors. Considering the famous names of European golf, that's some achievement. Harrington won by 2 shots from Ben Curtis (ranked 64th*) and, yes, poor old Sergio Garcia (ranked 6th*).

Garcia played bogey free for the first 15 holes but his flaky putting stroke ultimately came back to haunt him late on. His slightly unfortunate roll back into the drink on 16 didn't help either (but he really should never have been anywhere near the water). Still, it was an enthralling head to head battle between Harrington and Garcia (again) with Ben Curtis gamely plugging away out of the limelight. Despite being Irish, I wouldn't have minded Sergio winning and I hope he can bounce back to claim his first major next year.

Harrington finished his two rounds Sunday with 66, 66, appropriately shooting the number of the beast on a course known as "The Monster"! Thankfully, his mother didn't name him Damian or the locals may have attacked him with pitchforks! Seriously though, it was a super display by Padraig on the weekend, shooting 8 under on that brutish course to surge to victory. And there he was, berating his own sluggish performance in the first two rounds! Our top pick, Phil Mickelson, finished in a credible tie for 7th.

*excluding the second ranked Kenny Perry, who withdrew.

Sunday 10 August 2008

US PGA Championship Round 3 Part Deux

The third round finally finished a little while ago. "The Monster" is playing easier today, apparently playing 2 shots easier than earlier in the tournament.

British Open champion, Padraig Harrington, was the story of the third round restart. Resuming at level par for the round after 8 holes, Harrington signed for a superb 66, propelling himself up the leaderboard (I'd like to say I told you so!!). He now lies joint fourth with the impressively steady Charlie Wi and the lurking Sergio Garcia.

All three are just 3 shots adrift of the new leader, Ben Curtis, who hit a solid 68 to take over from J.B. Holmes. Curtis, the 2003 British Open champion, will be anxious to shake off the "one hit wonder" tag. He has led tournaments after 54 holes three times before and won twice, and as Meatloaf might say, that ain't bad! However, he backed into the British Open win in 2003, so it will be interesting to see how he copes from the front in this major.

US PGA Championship Round 3 Part 1

"The Monster" was given a bit of a soaking yesterday, bringing the play to a premature end in the third round of the US PGA Championship. Hopefully that will at least soften up the greens for the beleaguered players as the debate about course set up in the majors rumbles on.

One exceedingly happy player must be Andres Romero who got back to the clubhouse with a brilliant course record equalling 65. That great round propelled him back up the leaderboard to lie only 3 shots behind J.B. Holmes, who did not even get out of the traps yesterday. Romero must have a huge advantage going into a marathon Sunday where all but 25 out of the 73 remaining competitors must start or complete their third rounds before tackling the beast again for their final rounds.

Colombia's Camilo Villegas and Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell are also on a charge but it remains to be seen if the interruption will put a stop to their gallop. It could be an exciting day's play today!

Saturday 9 August 2008

US PGA Championship Round 2

"The Monster" is bearing its teeth as the world's best players struggle with the penal rough and rock hard greens at Oakland Hills. Only the big hitting J.B. Holmes is under par and that took some prodigious hitting of the tee, with some drives going the guts of 400 yards by his own reckoning in the blustery conditions. Unbelievably, he also kept it straight and only poor putting kept him from putting daylight between him and the chasing pack, led by Charlie Wie, Ben Curtis and Justin Rose.

Curtis and Rose both hit 3 under par 67s, the rounds of the day, while some big names struggled and missed the cut. Vijay Singh, coming off a great win last week in the WGC - Bridgestone Invitational, bowed out as did the hitherto now in-form Lee Westwood. However, Westwood didn't go out without having a good whinge at the course set up, although to be fair, he had some valid points.

Poor old Colin Montgomerie and Hunter "Kunta Kinte" Mahon both ended up on 20 over, which does neither of their Ryder Cup hopes any good at all. The cause celebre of Golf Predictor, Robert Karlsson, unfortunately plummeted down the leaderboard after a bad start, but the big guns Mickleson and Garcia are still in the hunt. Even Harrington and Els are not completely out of it, although they will have to get their act together to feature on Sunday.

Friday 8 August 2008

US PGA Championship Round 1

Well, inclement weather forced play to stop for the day but not before 2 European tour members rose to the challenge of Oakland Hills. India's Jeev Milkha Singh and Sweden's Robert Karlsson both shot 68 to top the incomplete leaderboard. Another European tour member, Andres Romero of Argentina is also on 2 under but he has yet to complete his round. That's people from 3 different continents leading the way and with 3 North Americans among the fourth place ties, which is great for the game of golf.

I've been harping on about Karlsson's splendid form this season (he is the only golfer who has finished in the top 10 in all previous majors this year) and how he seems to be somehow stuck around 22nd-23rd in the world rankings (see here and here). Maybe if he keeps up the good work here, he'll finally make it to....21!!!

Meanwhile, Kenny Perry (ranked 2 by Golf Predictor) has unfortunately had to pull out due to an eye problem related to the removal of a contact lens. I can sure empathise with that, but it is a shame that someone playing as well as Perry only competed properly in 2 majors this year.

Thursday 7 August 2008

Golf Predictor Facebook Page

Golf Predictor has bit the bullet and set up a page on Facebook. While this has been done mainly for promotional purposes, it also may prove useful for other purposes.

I have uploaded all the pictures used in this blog to the page where they can be viewed together in albums. In additon, you can use the wall or discussion board a another means to comment on Golf Predictor or to ask us a question. Finally, I've added a crazy golf game to the page to prove we can be fun here too!

Monday 4 August 2008

2008 - Week 38 Predictions Now Online

We have published the predictions for week 38, the US PGA Championship at Oakland Hills. This is the final major of the season and probably the last Tigerless one for a while, so the guys better may hay this time! As you would expect, there is a very strong field with 48 of the world's top 50 and 94 of the top 100 ranked golfers competing (as shown on the Field Strength chart on the main prediction page).

Competitors who were champions before 2003 (when Golf Predictor records commence) include Rich Beem (2002), David Toms (2001), Vijay Singh (1998), Davis Love III (1997), Mark Brooks (1996), Steve Elkington (1995), Paul Azinger (1993), John Daly (1991) and Bob Tway (1986).

2008 - Week 37 Winners

Vijay Singh (ranked 13 by Golf Predictor), who hasn't had the best of seasons, ended his long victory drought by winning his first WGC title at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Well done to Vijay as this makes him the most successful international golfer of all time on the US PGA Tour. He finally eclipses Harry "Lighthorse" Cooper of England, who played in the 1920s and 1930s and according to Wikipedia (so it must be true!) only died in 2000 at the ripe old age of 96! I'm sure Vijay would like to emulate Tiger (who wouldn't?!) last year by going on and claiming the US PGA this week. He might want to work on his putting though! Our top pick, Phil Mickelson, was looking good until he imploded down the stretch with 3 bogies in his final 4 holes to finish tied 4th. The only other top ranked player to produce the goods was Lee Westwood (ranked 7th) who finished tied second.

Meanwhile, the official entry list for the Legends Reno-Tahoe Open last Monday turned out to be unusually inaccurate as 5 of our top ten ranked players didn't even tee it up. Those players are Briny Baird (1), Ken Duke (2), Dean Wilson (4), Jeff Quinney (6) and Brian Gay (7). This is pretty much beyond our control, as unless we hear about a significant withdrawl, for consistency reasons we do not re-run the prediction algorithm. Since they were low profile golfers in an effectively second tier event, it was unlikely to come to our attention.

In any event, Parker McLachlin (effectively ranked 25 by Golf Predictor, given the late withdrawls and the non-finisher, Chris Riley) claimed his maiden PGA Tour victory. Having built up an impressive lead after 54 holes, thanks in no small part to his course record equalling 62 on Friday, McLachlin wasn't seriously troubled on the final day. Despite not played well and shooting 74, he still managed to increase his margin of victory to 7 strokes. Interestingly, this win makes it the 5th golf tour that McLachlin has won on and if he hadn't thrown away a lead last year on the Nationwide Tour, it would have the 6th! Allowing for the late withdrawls, we had John Rollins, John Merrick, Brian Davis, Mark Wilson and Nicholas Thompson in the top 10.

Michelle Wie, as predicted, didn't do very well and missed the cut. In fairness, she had a good opening round and most of the damage on day 2 was done by a quintuple bogey on one hole, a score I'm well familiar with!

Sunday 3 August 2008

€200,000 US PGA Competition

Similar to their British Open competition, The Sunday Tribune newspaper in Ireland is offering a €200,000 prize to the person who can predict the top four places at this year's US PGA Championship (Oakland Hills, Aug 07-10). As before, this is a perfect competition for Golf Predictor subscription holders, who can see our full ranking list and analyse the statistics for all the golfers in the field. This is definitely a huge advantage in this type of competition, so sign up today - it could be the best investment you ever make!

The same situation applies - unfortunately, the competition is only open to residents of the island of Ireland (north and south of the border) and our predictions will be available on Monday, well ahead of the competition deadline on Wednesday.

Friday 1 August 2008

Hunter off the Reservation!!

Well, well, well. Hunter Mahan has opened up a can of worms with his comments about the Ryder Cup.

The poor little spoilt rich sports star has equated having to endure a week of slap up meals and planned engagements to the horrors of slavery. Now, I don't know about you, but I'd choose the all expenses paid Ryder Cup junket ahead of 12+ hours a day of unpaid back breaking enforced manual labour any day!

While Hunter would be wise to get some perspective on life, something is obviously amiss in the US preparations for such ludicrous comments to be made in the first place. I hope he makes the team as it would be interesting to see if he turns it down or not. If he does play, I'd sure like to be a fly on the wall when he walks into the team room for the first time!