Sunday, 14 June 2009

The Strongest Field/Tour in Golf

Following on from the the new field strength charts in Golf Predictor, we can test two common perceptions in golf:

  1. The US PGA Players Championship has the best field in golf.
  2. The US PGA Tour has stronger fields than the European PGA Tour.

The first perception is often bandied about, usually by people who believe that the Players Championship should be a major. The problem is that it just is not true! As I noted on Twitter some time ago, the Players Championship is some way off having the best field and now you can see for yourself on Golf Predictor! The screenshot above shows the US PGA Tour events in the 2009 season so far (up to the Memorial Tournament) with the lowest average world ranking*. As can be seen, the Players Championship has 'only' the fourth best field, behind the WGC events and the season opening Mercedes-Benz Championship. Granted, these events all have limited fields to some extent, but the numbers do not lie. Last year's chart (which doesn't cover the entire season, as we only started predicting around April) shows the Players Championship in sixth place, behind the FedEx Cup play-off events as well as the WGC events in field strength. So if you want to use field strength as a metric, you should be pushing for the WGC events to become majors!

The second perception is that the US PGA Tour has superior fields to the European PGA Tour. While, as a proud European myself, I have tried to defend my 'local' tour (insofar as a tour that sprawls across four continents can be local!), I'm afraid that the numbers again do not lie. Excluding events that are co-sanctioned by both tours, here are the average world rankings* of the entrants to all events since our predictions began last year:

US PGA Tour: 298.6
European PGA Tour: 461.0
Overall (including co-sanctioned events): 374.9

From this data, it is clear that the US PGA Tour events do indeed have significantly better quality fields than European PGA Tour events. While a small amount of this large gap can be attributed to the elite fields for the Mercedes-Benz Championship, FedEx Cup play-offs and even the The Players Championship, it is still a significant difference (without these events, US PGA Tour entrant average world ranking rises to just 318.7). It was hoped that the Race to Dubai would raise the standard in Europe, but that does not seem to have happened to any great degree thus far. I wonder does the European PGA Tour worry about this? If not, I would humbly suggest that perhaps they should start focussing on quality rather than quantity.

*Since Golf Predictor only tracks the world top 1000 golfers, any golfer outside this list is assigned a default world ranking of 1050.

1 comment:

Golf Predictor Guru! said...

've experimented with incorporating field sizes into the equation and the 2 WGC events still come out on top. The Players Champ moves up to third on the list, ousting the Mercedes-Benz Champ which has a very small field.

It's hard to argue with the field strength of the WGC-Accenture Match Play. Its 75 strong entry list (including alternates) this year had the top 74 golfers plus no. 78 in the world. If that's not a strong field, I don't know what it is!