by Ben Baker
WHO will win the 2016 Ryder Cup is anyone’s guess, but one thing for sure is that this year’s event will be the first where golf analytics plays a major role.
And one of the world’s leading golf analysts, Mark Broadie, insists there is no part of the game where the abundance of data now available couldn’t help Team Europe or USA pop the champagne corks at Hazeltine.
When Danny Willett won the Masters he quickly thanked the 15th Club – not an illegal manoeuvre on his behalf, but a UK-based analytics company.
And the rise of analytics in golf come about when Broadie, a professor of business at Columbia Business School, studied around four million golf shots on the PGA Tour between 2003 and 2012.
From here he developed the concept “strokes gained”, which identifies opportunities for players to gain ground over the rest of the field – and the world of golf and numbers has since gone hand in hand.
“Golf analytics doesn’t quite dramatically increase a golfer’s chance of winning, but it is more about getting small incremental advantages that could prove the difference,” said Broadie, speaking on behalf of Standard Life Investments, the first and only Worldwide Partner of the Ryder Cup.
“At the professional level the difference in a stroke a round is massive, it could mean taking home millions or not, staying on the tour or not, making the cut or not or winning a tournament or not.
“And the information we now have access to could be used for a whole host of advantages when it comes to the Ryder Cup.
“Other than the obvious, the ones I am most interested in are that it could help Darren (Clarke) and Davis (Love III) pick the pairs, and with Davis he could choose to set up the course in one way as opposed to the other to suit his players best.”
Darren Clarke turned to the 15th Club for January’s EurAsia Cup and Europe went on to secure a whopping 18½-5½ victory – and American Broadie believes repeating this tactic in four months time would pay off.
He added: “For me this course strategy and management is the really exciting aspect of the data. The numbers can tell you which shots to play, how much risk to take etc. Golf is all about risk versus reward and the numbers can help you decide.
“I would love for America to win the Ryder Cup but we will have to wait and see. What I am sure about is the role analytics will play in this Ryder Cup for the first time really, and then it will only continue to grow.”