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By V. Laxmanan, Sc. D.

Table 1: Jordan Spieths rounds at the 2014 Players Championship
Hole No. Par Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4
1 4 3 4 4 4
2 5 4 4 5 4
3 3 3 3 3 3
4 4 4 3 4 3
5 4 4 4 4 5
6 4 3 4 4 4
7 4 3 3 4 4
8 3 3 3 3 4
9 5 5 5 5 5
10 4 4 4 4 5
11 5 4 4 4 5
12 4 4 4 4 4
13 3 3 2 3 3
14 4 4 3 4 5
15 4 4 4 4 5
16 5 5 5 5 4
17 3 3 3 3 3
18 4 4 4 4 4
Front nine 36 32 33 36 36
Back nine 36 35 33 35 38
Total for round 72 67 66 71 74
End of rounds 67 133 204 278
Data source:
valuable-experience-players-championship-golf Spieth gaining valuable experience, by
Jordan Spieth, May 11, 2014. See also, The 2014 Players Championship leaderboard at
The best advice for Jordan Spieth is still the same. Give it
your best. The wins will come. Do not be motivated by winning.
Instead, be motivated by the desire to excel. That is what the
Bhagavad Gita the greatest self-help book of all times - teaches us.

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Table 2: Spieth versus Kaymer at the 2014 Players Championship

Hole No.

round 4
round 4
Spieth total
Four rounds
Kaymer total
Four rounds
Spieth vs
204 204
1 4 4 4 208 208
2 5 4 4 212 212
3 3 3 3 215 215
4 4 3 4 218 219
5 4 5 4 223 223
6 4 4 4 227 227
7 4 4 4 231 231 0
8 3 4 3 235 234 1
9 5 5 4 240 238 2
10 4 5 4 245 242 3
11 5 5 4 250 246 4
12 4 4 4 254 250 4
13 3 3 3 257 253 4
14 4 5 4 262 257 5
15 4 5 6 267 263 4
16 5 4 5 271 268 3
17 3 3 3 274 271 3
18 4 4 4 278 275 3
Front Nine 36 36 34
Back Nine 36 38 37
Imagine birdie-eagle-birdie on holes 10 to 12 for Spieth instead of bogey-par-par!
The comparison of the Spieth and Kaymer rounds here shows that Speith, who was leading
Kaymer after hole 4 (birdie by Spieth, par by Kaymer), lost his momentary lead with the
bogey on hole 5 and then again with the bogy on hole 8. After hole 8, the tournament
turned in Kaymers favor as seen by the increasing difference in the strokes given in the last
column. Spieth was trailing Kaymer by 5 strokes at hole 14 and improved his chances by
hole 16 but the deficit of three strokes was too much to overcome, especially under the
high pressure conditions of a Sunday at any championship, and especially The Players; see
also the earlier analyses presented after the 2014 Masters.
Published April 18, 2014.
Masters , Published April 22, 2014.

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Jordan Spieth has a lot of fans now, has been called the next Tiger, and any
attempts to say anything remotely negative about him riles up his of fans. I
have accused of trolling by one of the posters in the golf forums. He is only
20-year-old is the mantra of his fans. True. Too many golf writers have
anointed him as the next Tiger and keep talking about his age. I call this
egging him along. Such uncritical praise does NOT help Spieth. For Spieth to
succeed and have a non-Garcia-like golfing career, it is important that he
realizes what his weaknesses are even more than what his strengths are.

Courtesy: Property of the bell curve from Math is Fun,

Why did he fall short when he has shown an amazing consistency thus far and
has been in contention at the BIG EVENTS, especially the 2014 Masters and
now the 2014 Players?

The reason quite simply, without getting into emotionally charged arguments,
is what statisticians call the normal distribution, or the bell-curve, see Math is
and Figure 1 here.
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The normal distribution seems to provide a good description of many natural
phenomena, . For example,
the height of a person, or the intelligence (as measured in the IQ tests), are
normally distributed; see also
and for
examples discussing heights of adult men and women.

Figure 1: Gaussian probability density distribution (y or p) with a mean or
average value a = 70.81 and a standard deviation = 4.578. The (a, ) values
are those observed for Spieths rounds in the current 2014 season (through the
RBC Heritage). The average a = 70.71 after the Players Championship, Figure 2.
The mathematical equation of the Gaussian (also called the normal) probability density
distribution curve is y = k exp [ -(x a)
] where k = 1/(2
. The probability density,
y, can be calculated for each value of x (which is taken here as the score S per round, varying
from 63 to 79). The same equation can also be written as y = k exp(-z
/2) where z = (x a)/.
The numerator (x a) is the deviation of the individual x value from the average a while the
denominator is the standard deviation making z a dimensionless quantity (see below for more
discussion of standard deviation). The area under the curve, covered by the small (grey) strip
centered between any two values of x gives the probability of occurrence of that event - in this
case the probability of observing a certain score in a round of golf. For example, if we take the
55 60 65 70 75 80 85
Score for round, S



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strip centered between 67.5 and 68.5, we get the probability of observing a score of 68 for the
round and so on. (Here the rectangle extends slightly above the curve due to the limitations of
graphics program I am using.) The curve is normalized so that the total area equals 1
(hence the 2 in the factor k, see ), the
probability of all events taken together. If the number of events is large, the Gaussian
distribution becomes a good description of the actual observations (see ).

Note that (x- a), deviation of an individual score (the x value), from the average a will be
either positive or negative. The sum of all such deviations is ALWAYS equal to zero. For
example, in the first three rounds of the Players, 67, 66, 71, the average a = 68 and the
deviations from the mean are -1, -2, and +3. The sum of all the deviations is zero. However, the
square of the deviation (x a)
is always positive. The average of all these squares of the
deviations equals
. Hence, we can calculate the standard deviation which is related to the
spread in the values of x. Hence, dividing (x a) by makes z a dimensionless number, i.e., a
quantity lacking physical units, or a pure number. For example is x is height in inches, the
average a and the deviation x-a also have units of inches. The standard deviation also has
units of inches but z = (x a)/ is a pure number.

It is of interest to review Why heights are normally distributed? by John
normally-distributed/ . Cook notes that many complex genetic factors
contribute to the height of a person. The height of an individual is NOT a
random occurrence, like the number appearing when a cube-shaped dice with
six faces is rolled. Any number from 1 to 6 can appear, with equal probability.
(This is called uniform probability density distribution.) Now, think about golf
scores instead of heights in the same way. There are many complex factors in
play that determine the final score for a round of golf.

It appears that golf scores are also normally distributed (I have studied other
golfers as well), as discussed in the first two articles, Refs. 1 and 2, on this
topic. Two properties that characterize the normal distribution, the mean, or
average, value (symbol or a) and the standard deviation (symbol ). The
mean a is simply the average value of the scores from many golf rounds. In
the Players, for example, the average for the first three rounds (67, 66, 71)
was 68, see Table 1. But, this average is much less than the average that
has been observed over 48 rounds that Spieth had played through RBC
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Heritage (WGC-Accenture, was match play). That average was 70.81, a total of
3399 strokes over 48 rounds. So, the situation we observed at the Players was
unsustainable, unless Spieth had fundamentally improved his golf game.

Note for the non-golfer: A professional golfer is expected to get the ball into
the hole in a certain number of strokes. This varies from hole to hole and is
called the par. This is given in Table 1. If the player takes one extra stroke, it
is called a bogey. Jordan Spieth did NOT make a single bogey in the first
three rounds. The opposite, taking one stroke less than the par for a hole, is
good and is called a birdie. Spieth made a bride on hole 11 in the first three
rounds but made bogey on the same hole in the final round.

What golf fans (or rather the HYPERSENSITIVE Spieth fans, like the old Phil
Mickelson and Tiger fans), have to realize that this bogey-free condition is
NOT sustainable, according to the laws of statistics, especially under the high
pressure conditions on a Sunday at an elite tournament like The Players. So, I
fully expected Spieth to be making a bunch of bogeys on Sunday, not because
of any distaste for this young man but because that is what the laws of
statistics teach us.

Why must Spieth make bogeys in round 4 when he was bogey-free for three
rounds? The laws of statistics say that the average will converge to the higher
value that has been observed over many more rounds. Hence bogeys were
bound to appear in the final round of the Players. And, sadly, they did.

As someone interested in these mathematical/scientific aspects of the game of
golf, I did not find it surprising at all that Spieths final round had several
bogeys. The two birdies on the front nine (the first nine holes) were
neutralized by two bogeys and he finished the front nine with 36 holes or
the par value. On the back nine he made three more bogeys with one bride.

As mentioned in the earlier article, where I had analyzed all the rounds in the
2014 season, through the Masters, Spieth must IMPROVE his game to reduce
his overall average to 68 or 69 (from the current 70.71 through 52
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rounds, including the Players) and also reduce the standard deviation.
Reducing the average will produce more WINS.

So, the hyperfans of Jordan Spieth must back off and accept such discussions
about why Spieth has been falling short. It has happened twice at the biggest
golf events and on both occasions over the last ten holes. Hence, there must be
a reason and statistical theory seems to offer some insights. The hyperfans do
not do Spieth any service. I wish Jordan Spieth all the best and lots of success
in future tournaments. However, he must understand the weaknesses noted
here. Some comments have started appearing about his not-so-pleasant
demeanor when the tournament is slipping away. This is natural but it also
affects the mental or emotional aspect of the game that this young man must
learn to overcome in order to have a more Tiger-like and not a Garcia-like
golfing career.

WITH ALL MY BEST WISHES and I hope the hyperfans pay attention and learn
some basic statistics instead of just mouthing off and calling names. When I
post, it is always after studying the scores carefully, not as an emotional
reaction to what is happening on the golf course.

Finally, the untold story is Jim Furyks runner-up finish with a bogey-free 66
in the final round of the Players Championship. However, in the first three
rounds the scores were 70, 68 and 72 for an average of 70, instead of 68 for
Spieth (67, 66, 71) and Kaymer (63, 69, 72). Furyk needed two strokes to win
The Players Championship; exactly the difference between his average and the
average of the winner, for the first three rounds.

In general, it is the lowering of the average score (shifting of the peak of the
normal distribution curve to lower values) that will produce a victory.
Lowering the standard deviation (reducing the spread in the scores, making
the curve less spread out) will ensure sustained victories over many events
and hence a great golfing career. The interested reader should also note the
difference between accuracy and precision as discussed in the earlier articles.
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Frequency Diagram for Jordan Spieths Scores in 2014
Season through the 2014 Players Championship

Figure 2: The frequency diagram for Jordan Spieths scores (for each golf round) in the 2014
season, through the 2014 TPC (Players Championship). The frequency of appearance of
various scores is given in the table below. The average score a = 70.71 and the standard
deviation = 3.27. The total golf rounds, the sum of all the F values in the table, equals 52.
(The WGC-Accenture tournament is not included since it was a match play event.)

x 63 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 77 78 79
F 1 3 6 2 5 9 10 4 2 2 4 2 1 1
The data was obtained by clicking on Jordan Spieth from the TPC leaderboard (see link with
Table 1) and then on full player profile which gives the scores for all the events.

Also, superimposed on to the frequency diagram is the mathematical Gaussian distribution
curve with (a, ) having the values observed for Jordan Spieth. The Gaussian probability
density y = k exp [-(x a)
] is computed for each x and the value of y for the score x = 71 is
taken as being equal to a frequency F = 10. The other values of y are thus converted to F
values to plot the Gaussian curve in Figure 2 which envelops the observed values quite well.
Thus, golf scores seem to show a normal distribution. (The same applies for many other
golfers as well. Other statistical tests can be conducted but I leave that out of this discussion.)
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Score for the round, x