Tiger Destroyed His Playing Partners

Tiger has just announced he will not be returning to competitive golf in the 2015/16 season. Unfortunately for us, it is just another indicator that he is slowly fading off into the sunset of his career. However, we cannot forget how damn good this guy was. I hope to show you yet another dimension of his mind-boggling dominance in this post.

If you can, think back to the 2007 WGC Bridgestone Championship. Tiger was one back of Rory Sabbatini going into Sunday and there was only one known truth in the world before that round started; Sabbatini would fold like a cheap tent, Tiger would play flawlessly, and we would all move on. Of course, Tiger shot 65 (9 better than Sabbs) to win the tournament by 8.

The amazing thing is that this happened all the time! When Tiger was in the final group, he simply did not get beat by the other guy. It seemed like no matter who it was, the moment proved to be too much and Tiger would swat his opponent away like a fly by the time the back nine rolled around. But these are just memories, we need to see how much this perceived dominance is reflected in the data. Did Tiger really destroy his playing partner in the final group on Sunday as much as we remember?

Short answer…YES.

Below is a bar graph, with each bar representing a tournament in which Tiger played in the final group on Sunday. The bars are in chronological order spanning tournaments from 2003 – 2016. The height of the bar corresponds to the stroke differential between Tiger and his playing partner (not the field) on that day. If the bar is green, it means Tiger went on to win the tournament, if it is red, Tiger lost. For your own sake, please click this link if you want to explore the graph in a more interactive and insightful way.


Green indicates he won the tournament, red is a loss.
Green indicates he won the tournament, red is a loss.

The first thing we notice is all the green bars. He only lost (the tournament) 7 times when he was in the final group between 2003 and 2016. And yes, it does appear that he absolutely dismantled his playing partners. In fact, he only lost to his opponent (on that day) 3 times. Appreciate this greatness!! On average (the black dashed line), Tiger beat his fellow final-grouper by 3.7 shots!

Even though Tiger may be vulnerable now, please remember just what a beast this guy was on Sunday. In the span of 52 final rounds, he was only beaten by his playing partner 3 times, and in only one of those did he actually lose the tournament (Y.E. Yang). In these same 52 tournaments, he only lost 7 of them total, which means he is almost guaranteed to win as long as he is in the final group.

Just be happy we were alive to witness this historic run, because there is NO WAY anyone is going to be able to reproduce that figure above.