Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Best/Worst Fields on the European/US PGA Tours

Now that the field strength metric has been added to every predicted tournament on Golf Predictor, it is possible to gleam all sorts of interesting related information from the system. This includes the tournaments with the best/worst fields on either tour (or both tours together), the relative strength of different types of tournaments (major/WGC/FedEx Cup/regular) and the relative strength of European PGA Tour and US PGA Tour events.

Best Fields (US PGA Tour and Overall)

This has long been a contentious issue, with many commentators (mostly American!) claiming that The Players Championship has the strongest field in professional golf. Although I was personally of the opinion that some of the WGC events had stronger fields, the new field strength metric shows that I was wrong! The system shows that the tournaments with the top three strongest fields in each of the past three seasons has been:

  1. WGC - Accenture Match Play
  2. The Players Championship
  3. The Barclays
However, when the alternates* are stripped out  and only the actual participants used, The Players Championship has indeed the strongest field. Of course, if Lee Westwood (and Rory McIlroy) bothered to turn up, it would probably have the strongest field regardless! In any event, it's definitely the stroke play event with the strongest field. Most of the WGC events do have a higher concentration of top ranked players, but their restricted fields lack the necessary depth.

*Field strength is calculated using entry lists, including alternates. The WGC field usually has 8 alternates plus the 64 participants. This large percentage of alternates (12.5%) increases the field depth disproportionally, thus overtaking The Players Championship.

Worst Fields (US PGA Tour)

The system shows that the tournaments with the weakest fields on the US PGA Tour over the past three seasons have been:

  1. CIMB Asia Pacific Classic Malaysia (last 2 years)
  2. Hyundai Tournament of Champions (ironically!)
  3. Mayakoba Golf Classic at Riviera Maya-Cancun
  4. Puerto Rico Open pres. by seepuertorico.com
The first two weren't helped by a small field size, but it's no surprise to see the Mexican and Puerto Rican events on the list.

Best Fields (European PGA Tour)

Unsurprisingly, the tournaments with the top three strongest fields in each of the past three seasons are all WGC events:
  1. WGC - Accenture Match Play
  2. WGC - Bridgestone Invitational
  3. WGC - Cadillac Championship
However, discounting these events, it seems that apearance money is having an effect! The strongest European only fields tend to be in the Middle East, with Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Dubai featuring prominently. Other events with similar field strengths are the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, the Barclays Singapore Open, The Barclays Scottish Open and the flagship BMW PGA Championship.

Worst Fields (European PGA Tour)

There is more volatility in this category, but the main recurring events at the weaker end of the European PGA Tour are:
  1. Saint Omer Open pres by Neuflize OBC
  2. Austrian Golf Open pres. by Lyoness
  3. Alfred Dunhill Championship*
The Saint Omer Open pres by Neuflize OBC tends to have the worst field on either tour, but the next weakest events are divided among both tours.

*This is the South African event, as opposed to the Scottish starfest mentioned above!

Field Strength (Regular Events)

While the normally larger number of alternates in European events may account for some of the difference, regular European PGA Tournaments generally have somewhat weaker fields than their US PGA Tour counterparts. European events average 61.2% while the corresponding figure for US events is 65.0%. Obviously, The Players Championship (85.6%) on the US PGA Tour has had the strongest field since our records began in 2008. The strongest field on the European PGA Tour has a field strength of 73%, achieved by a number of different events* over the past four years. The tournament with the worst field is last week's Volvo Golf Champions (34.9%) on the European PGA Tour, due in large part to its restricted field. The weakest field on the US PGA Tour over the past four years has been the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic Malaysia (41.9%), also an event with a small field and not many star names.

*Most of these are listed in the 'Best Fields (European PGA Tour)' section above.

Field Strength (Majors)

Surprisingly (on the face of it), the majors do not have strong fields. This is largely due to the collection of former winners, amateurs and/or qualifiers that tee it up every year in the four biggest events. In addition, The Masters usually only has a field size in the mid nineties, which makes it the major with the worst field strength (late 40s-early mid 50s). I bet the green blazers will love that statistic! The majors with the strongest fields over the past four years have been the Brtitish Open and the US PGA Championship, which have near identical field strengths in the low 70s. The average field strength for majors is 63.3%.

Field Strength (WGCs)

As stated above, WGC events have the highest concentration of top ranked players competing of any tournament, but their restricted fields lack the necessary depth. The exception is the relatively new WGC - HSBC Champions event in China, which attracts much weaker fields (late 50s-early 60s). The WGC with the strongest field over the past four years has been the WGC - Accenture Match Play (86%*). The average field strength for WGCs is 75.4%. This makes them the tournaments with the strongest fields, narrowly beating the FedEx Cup events into second place.

*As stated above, the large percentage of alternates (12.5%) increases the field depth disproportionally. Using the participants only, the field strength falls below that of The Players Championship

Field Strength (FedEx Cup)

As alluded to above, FedEx Cup events also have strong fields. This is good news for the US PGA Tour (and FedEx, no doubt!). The exception, ironically enough, is The Tour Championship pres. by Coca-Cola (63.1%). This, of course, is down to the whittling down process of the FedEx Cup series which only leaves 30 players playing for the big dosh at East Lake! The FedEx Cup with the strongest field over the past four years has been The Barclays with an impressive field strength in the low 80s. This indicates that the cream does indeed rise to the top and the right players are qualifying for the play-offs. The average field strength for FedEx Cup events is 73.8%, just short of the WGC average.

Summary

  1. Using entry lists (including alternates), the WGC - Accenture Match Play pips The Players Championship for the strongest field.
  2. Using participant lists (excluding alternates), The Players Championship has the strongest field.
  3. From above, obviously The Players Championship has the strongest field of all stroke play events.
  4. The tournament with the worst field (so far!) is the 2012 Volvo Golf Champions on the European PGA Tour.
  5. The US PGA Tour tends to have somewhat better fields than the European PGA Tour.
  6. WGC events have the strongest fields on average, followed by FedEx Cup events, regular US PGA Tour events, majors and finally European PGA Tour events. 
  7. From above, majors have surprisingly relatively weak fields. However, the pressure of winning one and writing oneself into the history books more than makes up for it!


5 comments:

Joe Hyde said...

I did not find the exact formula for field strength. Is that posted somewhere??? -watchestoomuchgolf

Joe Hyde said...

One more time... have you published your exact formula for field strength??? THX

Golf Predictor Guru! said...

Thanks for the question. To answer it, no, I'm afraid the exact algorithm is secret!

Anonymous said...

How can a 64 player field(WGC Match Play) beat the a 156 player field(The Players) when the 156 player field has the essentially the same 64 players plus 36 other players ranked in the top 100 of the world ranking.

Golf Predictor Guru! said...

Thanks for your comment. It states in the post why the WGC just came out on top - the addition of the 8 (also highly ranked) alternates. It also says that if you ignore alternates, The Players has the strongest field. Now that tee-off groups are in the system, alternates will largely be a thing of the past. From next year, I expect The Players will come out on top.

Also, you have an inflated view of the field for The Players! It does not have the top 100 in the WR as you claim (no tournament probably ever will). If it did, it would have a field ranking close to 100%. For example, in 2011, it had 76 of the top 100 in the WR. Impressive, but still nowhere near 100%. It also had 1 golfer outside the top 1000 and 1 golfer ranked outside the top 500, which would have counted against it. The WGC, on the other hand, had no such spread of WRs, but its small field size did count against it.