Ryder Cup: Golf's "godfather of analytics" says America can catch up with Europe through data

Joe Hall
Follow Joe
Ryder Cup Team USA Captain's Picks Press Conference
Davis Love III has said his use of data will be "way more sophisticated" this year (Source: Getty)

Never mind world No2 Dustin Johnson or world No4 Jordan Spieth, one of the biggest threats to Europe at the Ryder Cup could be America’s new-found willingness to dig into the data.

According to Mark Broadie, the professor of business and vice-dean at the Columbia Business School in New York City who has been dubbed "the godfather of golf analytics", Europe’s three consecutive wins have been in part due to their early adoption of advanced statistical analysis.

This time America captain Davis Love III is employing the services of statisticians at the Scouts Consulting Group which he said provides him with “way more sophisticated” analysis than that on which he relied in 2014.

For Broadie, who has worked with the coaches of Spieth, Tiger Woods, Jason Day, Luke Donald and many others, that could be crucial if America can clinch just their second Ryder Cup victory since 1999 this week.

Read more: Danny Willett thanked his analytics team following his Masters triumph - but what are the key stats used in golf?

“The European side has been a little bit ahead of the curve compared to the US,” Broadie told City A.M. “They’ve definitely had analytics help in the last couple of years.

“But I’m hoping that we will catch up or overtake them [at the Ryder Cup]. Darren Clarke has a group on the other side of the pond doing their golf analytics, based on some of my ideas like strokes gained and other analytics like course set-up and thinking about which pairings make the most sense.”

Broadie is the mind behind the “strokes gained” method of judging performance: the measure of how well a golfer is playing a hole compared to the Tour average, and which part of a player’s game is driving that relative performance.

Now ubiquitous on the PGA Tour, both captains’ number-crunchers will refer to that statistic rather than more rudimentary traditional measurements such as putts-per-round or greens in regulation.

For Broadie, the crucial calculation at Hazeltine will be using the data to pick the perfect pairings — a skill he believes will be familiar to many in the City.

“I think of coming up with pairings as like a portfolio problem when picking stocks,” says Broadie.

“You can go with a very volatile stock that has a chance of going bigger or a chance of crashing miserably. The analogous thing in the golf side would be players that make a lot of birdies but also a lot of bogeys.

"In the pairings you’re trying to come up with a portfolio of golfers that when you put them together will get the lowest score in the match play format.

“Are they steady and making a lot of pars? Or more bogeys and birdies? Figuring out which of those combinations will lead to lower scores is key.”

Mark Broadie was speaking on behalf of Standard Life Investments, the first and only Worldwide Partner of the Ryder Cup. To celebrate this partnership, the Standard Life Investments campaign, ‘World Class as Standard’, will take a detailed view at what it takes to deliver world class performance. To view the series go to www.standardlifeinvestments.com/WCA