Colin Montgomerie is history’s best Ryder Cup player, according to a study recently published in the Journal of Applied Statistics.
In the study, Rose D. Bakera and Ian G. McHale constructed a model to assess the strengths and rankings of Ryder Cup Competitors. It was — as you imagine — a difficult task, given the combination of singles, four ball and foursomes played in Cup competition. The statisticians also had to compensate for number of appearances, opponent strength and a large number of other variables.
The authors used a modified version of the Bradley-Terry model, allotting strength parameters to each player’s probability of winning a hole. Adjustments were made in the rankings to counteract the inflation of players who win by large margins. Data was collected for all matches, results and players over the last 40 years, comprising 924 matches and 327 players.
As a gauge of overall golfer strength, Baker and McHale assessed their results over the 4 major golfing competitions; US Masters, US Open, British Open and the US PGA Championship.
The study indicted that Colin Montgomerie, Tom Kite and Ian Poulter were the strongest Ryder Cup golfers.
The authors also used tried to determine the most “over-performing” teams — that is, those whose Ryder Cup performances exceeded that predicted by the Majors performances of their members.
Adopting this approach suggested that the most over-performing team was that of Europe in 2004 when Bernard Langer captained Europe to victory. The second most over-performing team was also Europe when Ian Woosnam led the team to victory in 2006. Indeed, these results can be thought of as attempting to identify the Ryder Cup’s greatest ever captains. In third and fourth place are the US teams from 1981 and 1979, captained by Dave Marr and Billy Casper, respectively.
The top ten players are listed below:
|1||Colin Montgomerie||Europe||1.009 (0.03)|
|2||Tom Kite||USA||1.008 (0.03)|
|3||Ian Poulter||Europe||1.006 (0.03)|
|4||Jose Maria Olazabal||Europe||1.006 (0.03)|
|5||Larry Nelson||USA||1.006 (0.03)|
|6||Tom Lehman||USA||1.005 (0.03)|
|7||Lanny Wadkins||USA||1.005 (0.03)|
|8||Bernhard Langer||Europe||1.005 (0.03)|
|9||Hale Irwin||USA||1.005 (0.03)|
|10||Justin Rose||Europe||1.004 (0.03)|
|11||Tom Watson||USA||1.004 (0.03)|
|12||Corey Pavin||USA||1.003 (0.03)|
|13||Graeme McDowell||Europe||1.003 (0.03)|
|14||Seve Ballesteros||Europe||1.003 (0.03)|
|14||Rory McIlroy||Europe||1.003 (0.03)|
|14||Phil Mickelson||USA||1.003 (0.03)|