Going For The Green: Who Is The Most Likely To Win The Masters
BY ADAM GROSSMAN
One of the first things that strikes golf fans when seeing Augusta National is the color. The azaleas that permeate the golf course provide a chromatic backdrop unparalleled in golf. Yet, green is the color that matters most to golfers, sponsors and fans of The Masters. More specifically, everyone wants to see who will put on the Masters Green Jacket at the end of the first major tournament of the golfing season.
Is there a way to predict who is most likely to be wearing golf’s most famous apparel? While the term Moneyball was first coined for baseball analytics, golf is the sport that best fits the moniker. The golf ball is at the center of how players make money from their tournaments and how much partners gain exposure for their brands. Perhaps nothing better symbolizes the importance of Moneyball in golf then Tiger Woods’ famous chip on the 16th hole that dropped into the hole only after “pausing” for the Nike logo to get its closeup on screen at the 2005 Masters.
So who would Moneyball-style analytics predict is the most likely to win the 2019 Masters and how much value would be generated for that win? The Block Six Analytics (B6A) Revenue Above Replacement (RAR) model can help answer this question. The RAR is designed to look at the economic impact of both on-course and off-course performance by leveraging B6A’s proprietary machine learning technology and analytics.
For on-course performance, B6A examined several different factors using a multiple regression analysis to determine which best determine which golfers perform the best over the course of a season based on distance, accuracy, risk, and number of strokes on driving, approach, rough, sand, and putting strokes. The factors we found to best determine winning were:
Putting strokes – how many putts per round does the golfer take as compared to other golfers
Strokes gained – how many fewer strokes a golfer takes as compared to other golfers on every shot (see this explainer by the PGA Tour for more details)
Driving distance – how far does the golfer hit the ball as compared to other golfers
Performing well (or poorly) on these factors strongly correlated with the weighted average winnings a player earned per tournament per season. We used a weighted average to control for the fact that players participate in different numbers of tournaments per year.
The Masters slightly deviated from the formula used to calculate full-season earnings in that driving distance did not have a statistically significant impact on performance. To determine who is most likely to win The Masters, we examined the full season results versus how players finished for the 2015-2018 Masters. The results from B6A’s Partnership Scoreboard below show whom we would expect to perform the best at the 2019 Masters and their win probabilities given their performance in the 2018-19 season.
Does our analysis mean that Justin Thomas should get his measurements ready for his first Green Jacket? That is probably premature. Win Probability (WinProb) is calculated by comparing Justin Thomas’ Total to the total of the entire field. While Thomas is expected to perform the best, his WinProb is 5.35% both only 0.27% greater than Xander Schauffele and 1.78% greater than the 10th ranked Tony Finau.
If Thomas does win The Masters, however, his sponsors will be the biggest beneficiaries. While Thomas would earn at least $1.98 million for winning The Masters, his apparel sponsors would generate more overall value.
We focused on apparel sponsors as they are the most visible brands associated with players during golf tournaments. We used B6A’s Media Analysis Platform (MAP) to programmatically identify which logo activations generated the most value for the top three players in the 2018 Masters and applied those values to our 2019 projected results. Value is determined by how long the logos appear on screen, how much of the screen the logo takes up, how close the logos are to the center of the screen, and how clear the logos are on screen.
The last part of the MAP calculation is based on how many people are watching the tournament. For this analysis, we are focused solely on linear television viewers. Winning disproportionately impacts viewership numbers in golf. Not only do broadcasts focus on the leaders of the tournament in later rounds of the tournament but viewership spikes for later rounds. For example, the second round of the 2018 masters had 4.96 million viewers while the final round had 17.63 million viewers. This means that the winners will gain the most exposure when the most people are watching the broadcast.
Going for the green has a slightly different meaning when it comes to The Masters as compared to other tournaments. While the players are going for the Green Jacket, sponsors are going for the players that can generate the most value. The B6A RAR model can help predict both outcomes.