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Saturday, December 15, 2018

Did Brooks Get Snubbed?

It's been THE subject in the golf world. ESPN put out their list of the Top20 Most Dominant Athletes of 2018 and, while Ariya Jutanugarn showed up at #4, Brooks Koepka was noticeably absent.

Brooks Koepka

He even sent out a tweet to show that he noticed it. (It's a little long, so click the link if you missed it.)  For someone who's certainly seemed to be, shall we say, underrated this year, does Brooks have a case?

I'm not so sure. While Brooks had a really good year -- yeah, those two majors DO count for something -- it depends on how you define dominance. Just for fun, I decided to compare the three top players on their respective tours this year:
  • LPGA: Ariya Jutanugarn
  • ET: Francesco Molinari
  • PGA TOUR: Brooks Koepka
Since all three won the Player of the Year Award on their respective tours, let's take a look and see how they compared overall. Just to be clear:
  • POY = Player of the Year
  • Yearlong Race = CME Race to the Globe (LPGA), Race to Dubai (ET), FedExCup (PGA)
  • Money Title = the Regular Season money title, which all the tours also record
  • Scoring Title = Vare Trophy (LPGA), no ET trophy given, Vardon Trophy (PGA)
  • Plus total majors and total wins for 2018 season
So let's see how each of the three did. It's pretty revealing, actually.

Award Jutanugarn Molinari Koepka
POY Y Y Y
Yearlong Race 1 1 9
Money Title 1 1 5
Scoring 1 19 9
Majors 1 1 2
Wins 3 3 3

Of course, each tour offers specific titles and awards which don't have an equivalent on the other tours. But these are the main titles and awards that players are after.

If you define dominance purely in terms of majors won -- and I know many fans do -- then Brooks was clearly dominant. That's especially true since he didn't even play the Masters because of his injury. That means he won two of the three majors he played. That's nothing to look down on!

But if we define domination as "beat everybody at everything," Ariya is clearly in a class by herself. To quote Golf Digest:
She also won every year-end LPGA award she was eligible for: the Annika Rolex Major award, the Leader's Top 10 award (for finishing in the top 10 17 times), the CME Race to the Globe and its $1 million bonus, the Vare Trophy (lowest scoring average), and the money leader title. Dominant, indeed.
You got that, didn't you? EVERY year-end LPGA award Ariya was eligible for, she won. That's dominance on a grand scale. That kind of "blanket dominance" is what the ESPN list was supposed to focus on, as they didn't limit themselves to one sport.

Again, I don't think we should minimize how impressive -- how dominant -- Brooks is when he's playing in a major. But even he has said he needs to win more regular events. Out of 17 events, Brooks had 6 Top10s, roughly 35%. He was tied for 15th in the PGA Tour stats.

Out of 28 events, Ariya had 17 Top10s, almost 61%. That's close to double Brook's average. He has never had more than 8 Top10s in a year, despite a typical schedule of 23-24 tournaments a year. He'd have to Top10 twice as often -- 14 on a full schedule -- to match Ariya's percentage.

All I'm saying is that I don't believe Brooks was snubbed. At least, not if you value dominance in anything other than majors.

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