Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Olympic eliminates all but Scott
By Matt Willis
ESPN Stats & Info
At the very least, the U.S. Open is one of the toughest tests of the golf season.
It gives a duffer night terrors, visions of a golf ball tangled in shin-high rough or watching an approach shot roll off the green like it was hit onto a sheet of ice.
It's not easy work for those of us making predictions either, but last year, the stars aligned, and Rory McIlroy made me look like a soothsayer, running away from the field at Congressional.
For those of you new to my method of madness, let me break down how I do this thing. There will be 156 golfers teeing off Thursday at the Olympic Club, but come four days later, only one will be giving the 155 others a bad case of trophy envy.
Many predictors will pick a winner based on who has been playing well. Others will follow a hunch or go with their gut. Many people will just pick Tiger Woods.
I don't do things like that. I've analyzed statistics and U.S. Open history to come up with a different method. Instead of just picking a winner, I'll find reasons why all but one golfer cannot win. I call it The Eliminator.
First off, recently it's taken some experience to win the U.S. Open. Seventeen straight winners have made at least two previous U.S. Open starts. I'll take out everyone who has made fewer than two, which takes out 72 golfers right off the start.
Experience is a good thing, but too much of it isn't. We haven't had an U.S. Open winner over the age of 40 since the turn of the millennium, with Payne Stewart in 1999 being the last to win after his 40th birthday. That takes out another 26 golfers, including Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Steve Stricker.
Next up, look for players with some previous major success, most notably, last year's British Open. The last eight U.S. Open winners made the cut in the previous year's British Open. I'll eliminate 35 remaining golfers who didn't pull that off. So you can cross Tiger, Luke Donald and the red-hot Jason Dufner off the list.
I'm looking for previous major success but no previous major winners. The last 14 majors have been won by 14 different players, and the last eight have been won by players who had never previously won a major. Let's take off everyone with a major on their résumé, nine total, which leaves us with a mere 14.
Let's go back to looking at past major success. Of the last six U.S. Open winners, four of them had a top-10 finish in the last PGA Championship. Looking at the first page of last year's PGA Championship leaderboard is enough to take out 13 more names -- sorry to Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia and others -- and leaving just one man.
He finished in the top 10 in three of the last five majors, and Sunday, I look for him to put the icing on the cake. Mark me down for Adam Scott at the United States Open, because the numbers don't lie.
The Eliminator: Step-by-Step
1. The last 17 U.S. Open winners have made at least two prior U.S. Open starts.
72 eliminated, 84 remaining
2. No player over the age of 40 has won the U.S. Open since Payne Stewart in 1999.
26 eliminated, 58 remaining
Miguel Angel Jimenez
Davis Love III
3. The last eight U.S. Open winners made the cut at the last year's British Open.
35 eliminated, 23 remaining
4. The last eight major winners each had never previously won a major.
9 eliminated, 14 remaining
5. Four of the last six U.S. Open winners had a top-10 finish in the last year's PGA Championship.
13 eliminated, 1 remaining
Charles Howell III
Bo Van Pelt
Your winner: Adam Scott
Matt Willis has been a researcher with the ESPN Stats & Information Group since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows.