Tiger Woods Win Record Tainted By Limited-Field Events

Tiger Woods has 79 wins on the PGA Tour, we are told. What we are not told is that eighteen of those wins were in limited-field events, seriously tainting the accomplishment.

In fact, the narrative has been that winning a WGC event is a greater accomplishment than winning a regular Tour event. Instead of properly saying, “Woods has 79 wins, but unfortunately eighteen of them were limited-field WGC events,” we are told, “Not only does Woods have 79 wins, but eighteen were strong WGC events!”

Such spin, as ludicrous as it is, is standard fare for the out-of-control 21st Century golf media, a group of reporters intent on turning golf a one-man reality show.

If you are confused by my point, don’t feel bad. The media intentionally deceives you, and it is unpopular these days to point out when one of the media’s kings has no clothes. Which is what I will be doing in this article.

Golf is not like tennis. In tennis, the top two or three seeded players win nearly every event. That’s not at all the case in golf. In golf, there is more far more variation in the requirements of the players, and there is a vastly greater luck factor. It’s a golf fact of life that a hot putter and a lucky bounce or two results in many victories by “unknowns.” There is a lottery aspect to a golf tournament, and the more people who hold tickets, the lesser chance of any given player winning. You could double the size of a tennis tournament, and the same guys would be playing in the quarterfinals. However, in golf, doubling the size of the field would result in many wins by “unknown” players in the bottom half of the field. It’s the nature of the game. A hot putter and a few lucky breaks equal “surprise win.”

Need an example? Look no further than Y.E. Yang at the 2009 PGA Championship. He was ranked 110th in the world, a position that would not warrant entry into any WGC tournament, and yet Yang won the tournament by three shots over… Tiger Woods. Had this been a WGC event, Woods would have “won” another event over the “best players in the world.”

From this one example, it is obvious that field size is critical to the difficulty of winning a tournament. In tennis if you cut the size of the field in half, you merely eliminate a bunch of guys who weren’t going to win anyway. Do the same in golf, and you eliminate potential winners.

There are many such examples in golf: think of the many “unknowns” who have won golf’s majors.

Now I’m going to show you a convenient way to track this yourself, on a week-to-week basis, so you will become immune to the relentless spin of the golf media. We’ll have to do this on the European Tour, as corporate involvement has made it impossible on the American Tour. (The European Tour lists the OWGR ranking for every player on the scoreboard. The American Tour uses the largely useless FedEx Cup point ranking.)

Each week on the European Tour online leaderboard includes a column for OWGR ranking. (For some reason, they don’t include that column on their archived leaderboards, so you have to make your observations while the tournament is in progress, or for a day or two after its conclusion.) This column is sortable, so we have two good ways to see just how important field size is in determining the difficulty of winning a golf tournament.

The first chart is the leaderboard from this past week’s tournament at Qatar sorted by final result; the second chart is the leaderboard sorted by OWGR ranking.  The first column is the OWGR ranking, the second column is Notice how many “doesn’t have a chance” players beat the “best players in the world.”  Notice how poorly some of the “best players in the world” did.

Notice things like OWGR #654 finishing 9th, OWGR #6 finishing T-46, and OWGR #25 finishing T-93.

This tournament was no anomaly, as you will see if you continue to follow these tournaments all year.  The critical point is that golf is not like tennis, where only a handful of players have a true chance to win.  In golf, nearly every player in the field has a legitimate chance to win.

Therefore, the larger the field, the more difficult the tournament is to win.  Tiger Woods has 18 WGC limited-field tournament wins.  They are tainted.

[By the way, I realized after having posted this piece that Woods has an additional three wins in limited fields from FedEx Cup events.  That bumps the 18 tainted events up to 21.  Fully 1/4 of Woods’s wins were in limited-field events.]

CHART 1:

golfo1

CHART 2:

golfo2

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18 Responses to Tiger Woods Win Record Tainted By Limited-Field Events

  1. Sports-realist says:

    “Limited field events” really are getting less and less entertaining……Couple reasons: 1. CONSTANT interviews, which are are ALWAYS lame….2. TOO many stories….NBC just loves their ‘stories’, about how a golfer once saved a turtle from getting hit by a car……3..OBVIOUSLY, the less people you go up against, the easier it is to win…….Just like I’ve found playing limited golf holes produce a lower score…..

    • lannyh says:

      Agree, agree, agree. I so much prefer the European Tour Productions telecasts.

      I think the American networks love the limited-fields because they are more likely to produce a “name” winner. It’s sort of a self-fulfilling validation of their “star” focus. If they could have a 2-man tourney of Woods and Mickelson every week, they’d be perfectly happy.

      The Fed Ex playoffs are another case of limited-field events. (Egads! I forgot to consider those in my article. I’ll have to write an addendum.)

  2. Sports-realist says:

    I recall you had said Nicklaus played in much fewer Limited field events, MAINLY due to the fact that there were only a few to play….Heck, remember when they did John Daly vs Woods, where the winner got $1 mill and 2nd place got Half a million? I’m surprised the PGA didn’t count that one…Heck Woods will start to have his own event where he plays against himself……Now that should definitely count..

    • lannyh says:

      You know, the Chevron/NorthwesternMutual/Hero Challenge thing is pretty close to that. 18 players. It’s almost impossible to lose OWGR points in that thing.

  3. Anonymous says:

    You forgot to subtract his 4 Master’s wins.

    • lannyh says:

      I thought about it! It’s mind-boggling to have a major with so few players. And so many older players that don’t have a chance.

      Trivia Question: Who won the strongest tournament in golf history (well, OWGR history)?
      Answer: Rory McIlroy. (The PGA Championships don’t get near they respect they deserve.)

      • Anonymous says:

        What’s to think about? You can’t discount the WGC’s and Playoff events and not discount The Masters. Just cause it’s a major doesn’t mean you can leave it out.

      • lannyh says:

        The Masters has more players than WGC events and the final two FedEx Cup events.

      • Anonymous says:

        True, but it’s still limited so by definition it has to be included as a limited field event.

      • lannyh says:

        Okay then. Include it. Knock a few more off Woods’s total. I’ve certainly labeled it thusly in the past. This is from a year ago:

        As much as I like the Masters and Augusta National, the course is just too wide open on many holes. You can hit a drive thirty yards off the fairway and get away with it. It’s a long drive contest combined with Goofy Golf putting. With its limited field, it’s the least of the majors.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Was just thinking….we must discount Jason Day’s Match Play victory last year as it too was a limited field event.

  5. Anonymous says:

    We must also discount Patrick Reed’s Playoff win at the Tournament of Champions.

    • lannyh says:

      Yours is a pattern I see often amongst the Woods apologists. Whenever they take something as a slight against their hero, they lash out at other players, and expect followers of golf to react the way they themselves would (and do). In other words, they expect people to say, “Oh, no, no. I like Reed and Day, so their wins were NOT tainted.” As if personal like or dislike of a person has an effect on a matter of logic.

      • Anonymous says:

        I have no issue with your discounting TW wins. But, to be fair, if you’re going to discount TW wins, then you have to discount the wins of everyone else too.

  6. sretsam68 says:

    Nicklaus leads Woods 64 to 55 in full-field victories.

    • Anonymous says:

      Part of the issue is that when Jack was playing there were no WGC limited field events.

      I get the idea that by having fewer players you’re making it “easier” to win but at the same time, those limited fields are limited to the highest ranked players. You’re not a highly ranked player without playing really well most of the time.

      So, while the chance of a “little guy” (low ranked player) catching fire and winning is basically eliminated, you’re still left with 75+ of the best playing golfers in the field.

      And, if you’re going to discount TW’s “limited field” wins then you also have to take away Jack’s 6 Masters and all the non TW wins in WGC’s and other limited field events.

    • lannyh says:

      Thanks for the research, sretsame68. That’s a good bit of information to know.

      In fact, I’d love to make this into a headline article. Do you still have your notes for which tourneys were counted/discarded? If you got the information from a link, I could use that. I’d love to make a screaming headline about this. Sounds like another case of the golf media trying to diminish Jack’s accomplishments to prop up more Tiger Woods nonsense.

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