Statistics are useful but it may be better to stick to the old horses-for-courses theory
These analytical numbers are invaluable to club manufacturers and television announcers who have so much time to fill that they welcome any points of discussion however irrelevant
Phil Mickelson keeps an eye on Tiger Woods as he drives off in last weekend’s US PGA Championship. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
I had a chance meeting with a Harvard professor when I was in New York a few years ago. The coincidence of meeting the mathematics guru was twofold. Firstly, he happened to be a friend of a friend and secondly, a statistician who had a huge influence on the player for whom I was working at the time.
I was beginning to get the feeling that the player had an unhealthy obsession with numbers and it was ultimately detrimental to his game and particularly his practice. Statistics can point you directly to your weak points. Who likes practising their weaknesses?
Statistics are useful but must be handled with care. These analytical numbers are invaluable to club manufacturers and television announcers who have so much time to fill that they welcome any points of discussion however irrelevant.
The professor is a keen golfer and came up with a statistic for putts gained per hole. I am going to give myself away here and confess to not really having a grasp at how the number was produced but the winning player each week was pretty high up on this latest order of merit. No kidding. Ask any player what he did when he won and if I can use a statistic here to prove my point, 100 per cent of the players I asked said they putted well.
I suppose what I am leading to here is that there are two stark schools of thought in the modern game of golf. The ever increasing school is a scientific one where there is a number to explain your every step of your day from hotel to golf course and back again; don’t think, just look at the stats.
The more traditional school of thought would of course have more facile modes of analysis; slept well, got to the course in a relaxed fashion, hit the ball great, kept calm, and holed plenty of putts. This all happened because I am a talented golfer who can win when all of my abilities combine and compliment each other. That’s why most players throw in a win or serious challenge every year or two.
What the statisticians of course are tracking are the rare ones who are multiple winners who are in our psyches as being winners and thus our expectations are extremely high for them. Both the general golfing public and particularly the player himself have high expectations of all his skills combining more frequently than the average player on tour.