Do A Pair of 59s Indicate That Tour Scores Are Falling

In the wake of two recent 59s, media outlets from golf blogs to the New York Times are wringing their hands over the supposed low scores on the PGA Tour this year. Some are crediting the new grooves (which is ironic, since if you believed the media last winter, the new grooves were supposed to inflate the scores). Others have suggested that the Tour is softening up the courses to generate excitement in the absence of Tiger Woods.

But there’s a big problem with these speculations: Their basic premise is wrong, because scoring this year is relatively unchanged from the last three.

Tour Scoring Average
2010: 70.972
2009: 70.998
2008: 71.428
2007: 71.626

To get these numbers, I calculated the mean for the average scoring for the first 32 tournaments of the year. I excluded the Masters, US Open and British Open because the Tour is not connected to these.

As you can see from the results, the difference in scoring average between 2007 and 2010 is .625—less than a shot—and certainly not enough to state that the twin 59s represent some sort of trend. Further, the drop from 2009 to 2010 is .026—much less than the drop that occurred from 2008 to 2009 (.465). If there’s something going on in 2010, then the hand-wringers need an explanation for 2008-2009, when nothing had changed.

The medians for these years show similar results:

2010: 70.95
2009: 70.82
2008: 70.89

Here, it appears that the 2010 scoring actually is higher than the previous two years, and the same as 2007. As far as I’m concerned, both of these sets of numbers put to rest the notion that scores are abnormally low, and that the PGA Tour is engaged in some sort of course setup conspiracy.

I think its time for the golf media to stop shooting off their keyboards and start doing some actual research.





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