US remain victims of the numbers racket - Golf - Sport - The Independent

Ryder Cup afterglow

US remain victims of the numbers racket

At every Ryder Cup there is a feeling that the Americans just don't get it, and even a week on it is hard to believe quite how badly they are struck down with misconceptions. But then the country has an obsession with sporting statistics and this only leads to further misunderstandings.

At every Ryder Cup there is a feeling that the Americans just don't get it, and even a week on it is hard to believe quite how badly they are struck down with misconceptions. But then the country has an obsession with sporting statistics and this only leads to further misunderstandings.

Take the opening and closing ceremonies. While the world watched on with incredulity, the Americans were lined up in the order they qualified, with the wild cards at the end. The same was true of the profiles in the programme and even Hal Sutton's singles order. Yet as soon as the teams are finalised they are precisely that, a team, and while the Europeans were introduced alphabetically, their officials had to resist heavy pressure not to follow the home example. "I was made to feel part of the team," said Colin Montgomerie, "but how did it make their wild cards feel?" There has been a suggestion that Tiger Woods, at the head of the line this time, was irritated at past Ryder Cups at being introduced last.

Moneyball is the extraordinary tale of the Oakland Athletics, the poorest team in baseball who found that most of the traditional statistics relating to players' performances did not correlate with winning games. Instead, they went for players they could afford whose qualities were undervalued by the market but led to more victories.

Likewise, most of the statistics latched on to by the US media, whose ignorance of golf outside their country is one of the reasons Europe always want to win so badly, do not correlate with Ryder Cup victories. Major victories? America had many more but their only reigning major champion, Phil Mickelson, played like a drain. Money earned? Probably more of an inverse relationship, although it's relative, millionaires defeating multi-millionaires. World rankings? America had one player outside the top 40, Europe six. And yet the two leading administrators of the ranking bet on Europe winning by at least four points.

What does compute is the number of players with victories in recent months. Since May, five Europeans had won, but only Stewart Cink of the US team. While the European qualifying only lasts for a year, the American system drifted back to 2002. The ranking system also emphasises players who regularly finish in the top 10 rather than those who might not be as consistent but have a good record of winning when in contention. Of course, the world ranking consists of performances in 72-hole strokeplay events and as such is an unreliable guide for matchplay.

As it happens, there is a board meeting of the world ranking this week, which will consider a minor tweaking suggested by the technical committee. There have always been revisions and the ranking has gone through phases - when the best players were European in the early days it was dismissed as another marketing tool of the late Mark McCormack.

It is now under the control of the tours and the majors but there is a basic premise that the more top players in an event, the more points on offer. Europe gets around two-thirds of the points in the States. Winning, wherever it is achieved, is perhaps slightly undervalued, however.

The World Golf Championships, Europe's leading players competing more in the States and the Americans travelling less overseas have widened the disparity. But the major factor is the major championships and unless Bernhard Langer's charges fulfil his optimism at that level, the ranking will continue to have a lopsided look.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there