ATTENTION, READERS in the 28 EUROPEAN VAT COUNTRIES: Because of the new VAT law, you probably can't order books direct from my site now. But that's okay -- just go to my Smashwords author page.
You can order PDFs (as well as all the other ebook formats) from there.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Poor System or Just Poor Play? Let's Find Out...

I'm in the mood for a rant about the Ryder Cup, just like everybody else. But let's face it -- all these opinions are nothing but opinions. Is there some way to make my rant carry a little more weight?

Ah yes, I have it. I'll run another Ryder Cup -- no, wait, TWO more Ryder Cups -- to prove my point!

I know, that sounds silly... but I think I can make it work. Okay, here are the ground rules:

We have the results of every single match that was played at Gleneagles -- in fact, you can find them right here. All you have to do is click the little "details" button under each match to see the scorecards. Of course, I doubt that most of you will take the time to click on each of those little buttons to see each individual scorecard...

But I did. And I came up with a way to use these scorecards to stage two more Ryder Cups. In the table below you'll see every match for all three days listed down the right side. Then there are three more columns, each one representing one of my Ryder Cups:
  • Actual Results are what really happened.
  • US Bogey-Free is my first test match-up. I simply replaced every US score (on every hole, on every scorecard) that was a bogey or worse with a par -- Euro scores remained the same -- and then recalculated the results to see who won.
  • Europe Birdie-Free is just for comparison to give me an extreme. I replaced every European score (again, on every hole, on every scorecard) that was a birdie or better with a par -- US scores remained the same -- and then recalculated the results to see who won.
Do you see what I've done? US Bogey-Free fields a US Team that never makes worse than a par, while Europe Birdie-Free fields a European Team that never makes better than a par.

The Other Info column simply tells you if there were holes that didn't get played. (There were a couple of matches that didn't go the full number but my recalculations showed that those holes would never have been played in any case, so I didn't note the extra holes there.)

The results should be mostly self-explanatory -- eu5&4 means Europe won 5&4 while us1up means the US won 1up. If there are extra holes listed in the Other Info column, I had to make some guesses. Out of fairness, I assumed matches that were dormie or all square (as) were halved, and other matches were awarded to the leader at the last hole that was played -- if Europe was 1 up and there were 3 holes left unplayed, Europe wins the match.

All point totals list the US first, then Europe. I'll have my conclusions after the table.

Match-ups Actual Results US
Rose / Stenson
Watson / Simpson
eu5&4 eu3up as 4 to play
Bjorn / Kaymer
Fowler / Walker
halve us1up us4&2
Gallacher / Poulter
Spieth / Reed
us5&4 us6&5 us6&5
Garcia / McIlroy
Bradley / Mickelson
us1up us3&2 us2up
Friday Morning
Fourball Totals
2.5-1.5 3-1 3.5-.5
Donaldson / Westwood
Furyk / Kuchar
eu2up halve us1up
Rose / Stenson
Mahan / Johnson
eu2&1 us1up us1up
McIlroy / Garcia
Fowler / Walker
halve us4&3 us3&2
Dubuisson / McDowell
Bradley / Mickelson
eu3&2 us1up as 2 to play
Friday Afternoon
Foursome Totals
.5-3.5 3.5-.5 3.5-.5
Rose / Stenson
Watson / Kuchar
eu3&2 eudorm as 2 to play
Donaldson / Westwood
Furyk / Mahan
us4&3 us4&3 us4&3
Bjorn / Kaymer
Spieth / Reed
us5&3 us5&3 us6&5
McIlroy / Poulter
Fowler / Walker
halve halve us5&4
Saturday Morning
Fourball Totals
2.5-1.5 3-1 3.5-.5
Donaldson / Westwood
Johnson / Kuchar
eu2&1 as us2&1 1 to play
Garcia / McIlroy
Furyk / Mahan
eu3&2 eu1up eudorm 2 to play
Kaymer / Rose
Spieth / Reed
halve us5&4 us2&1
Dubuisson / McDowell
Fowler / Walker
eu5&4 eu2up eu3up 4 to play
Saturday Afternoon
Fourball Totals
.5-3.5 1.5-2.5 2.5-1.5
eu2&1 us1up eu1up 1 to play
us1up us3up us2up
eu5&4 eu5&4 as 4 to play
halve halve us5&4
us3&1 us3&1 us4&3
eu4&2 eudorm us1up 2 to play
us4&3 us5&3 us5&3
eu1up halve us4&2
halve us3&1 us2&1
eu4&3 eu3up eu1up 3 to play
us3&2 us3&2 usdorm 2 to play
halved us2&1 us3&1
Singles Totals
5.5-6.5 8-4 9-3
Final Points Totals
11.5-16.5 19-9 22-6

This table hints at some very interesting things. Let's compare the Actual Results with those of the hypothetical Bogey-Free US Team.
  • First of all, the Fourball sessions aren't much different between the two. The BF team is slightly better but not enough to make a stink over. In fact, many of the matches turn out exactly the same. Clearly the US Team didn't struggle in fourballs.
  • But that certainly isn't the case in foursomes. In the actual matches the US won 1 out of 8 points. If they had merely eliminated the bogeys they would have won 5 of the 8 available points! You do realize that fourballs used to be a strength of the US team, don't you?
  • Here's something you may not have noticed immediately. While the US Team's scores in fourballs are nearly the same, that's not the case when you compare the Singles results. But they're playing their own balls in both cases. What gives? Simple -- more bogeys start slipping through.
There are some matches where my rigged setup didn't change the outcome. These players (on both sides) were playing well. When they couldn't make birdie, more times than not they found a way to scratch out a par. My rigged Ryder Cup indicates that most of the US Team couldn't do it. If they had -- if they had simply managed to make pars when they couldn't score birdies -- they would have easily beaten the Euro Team and taken 19 of the available 28 points.

But perhaps the most striking thing to me is the comparison between the Bogey-Free US Team and the Birdie-Free Euro Team. Do you understand what I did? I created a Euro Team that was so bad that they couldn't make a single birdie on any hole in three days! And yet my rigged scores show that the US Team wouldn't have beaten that straw team much worse with their actual scores than they would have beaten the actual Euro Team if they had just avoided making so many bogeys.

In fact, there are a few matches where the no-birdie Euro Team (vs actual US scores) actually got better results than the no-bogey US Team (vs actual Euro scores). Consider the McDowell / Spieth singles match or the Spieth / Reed / Kaymer / Rose foursome on Saturday, for instance. The reason is simple. There were too many holes where replacing a Euro birdie with a par was still good enough to beat the US players' actual score. It's ALWAYS better to make par than to depend on your opponent screwing up!

David Feherty probably said it best. "It wouldn't have mattered if you sent them out paired by height. The Europeans just played better."

I think I've made my point. You want a winning system? MAKE PARS, NOT BOGEYS! That's a system that would have an immediate effect!

I'll take a little time tomorrow to rant about what I think should be done.


  1. USGA added Mid-Ams to Walker Cup last year, but still trailed in foursomes, forcing White and Smith to win singles to clinch