We at Numbers Game would like to issue the following public service announcement regarding the 2011 PGA Championship: Don't make a bet on who will win.
Trivia questionWho holds the PGA Championship record for most career top-10 finishes without a win? (Answer below)
Picking who will win a major championship has become a close-to-impossible practice over the last three years. A few numbers to support the claim:
• Twelve majors played. Twelve different winners.
• For nine of the last 10 champions, the major victory was the first of their career.
• Darren Clarke was ranked 111th in the world the week he won the Open Championship in July. The average world ranking for the last 12 major winners? 24.0. (Note: Retief Goosen is number 24 this week.) Only two of those 12 were ranked in the top 10 the week they won, while five of the 12 were outside the top 50.
• And now, consider this: Seven of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking this week have never won a major championship. The only exceptions are Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson -- and two of those three won their first major within the last 12 months.
So it seems an appropriate time as any to bring back the "Almost Index," a formula we created a few years ago in an attempt to deduce who the best player in the world was without a major championship to his name.
A refresher on the formula: In creating this statistic, we wanted to place a high emphasis on performance in major championships without an actual win -- i.e., "almost" breaking through. We also tried to weigh successes on the PGA and European tours accordingly to gauge how viable the player's career had been up to that point in non-majors, as well.
Below is the equation, laid out for you to examine for yourself:
(2 + [PGA Tour top 10 pct.]) + (1 + [European Tour top 10 pct.]) + PGA Tour wins + (European Tour wins x 0.5) + ([Top 10 pct. in majors x 100] x 0.25) + (major points x 0.1) = Almost Index
Major points are collected like this: Players are given points in every major in which they finished in the top 10, on a scale from 1 to 9. A second-place finish is a 9, a T-2 is an 8.5, a third is an 8 and so on, with the scale ending at T-10 (.5 points).
The top 10 on this list in this week's PGA Championship field go like so, from 10 to 1:
10. Paul Casey
Almost Index score: 15.030
Casey's biggest point contribution comes from his 10 career European Tour wins, including one at the Volvo Golf Champions in January. Since the beginning of 2009, Casey has just one top-10 finish in a major -- last summer when he finished T-3 at the Open Championship. His best career finish at the PGA came last year, a tie for 12th.
9. Luke Donald
Almost Index score: 16.015
The world's No. 1 player finished tied for fourth earlier this year at Augusta, when he was in the midst of a streak of 10 straight top-10 finishes worldwide. After four rounds in the 60s last weekend in Akron (and a T-2 finish), no one would be surprised to see Donald break through with his first major title in Atlanta this week.
8. Miguel Angel Jimenez
Almost Index score: 16.201
Math can't account for everything. For example, there is no part of our equation that includes unique pre-round stretching techniques, cigar affinities or hitting a ball off a wall onto the green at St. Andrews last year. "The Mechanic" had a career year in 2010, winning three times on the European Tour and again as a member of the Ryder Cup team. His best career PGA finish: T-10 in 1999 at Medinah.
7. Dustin Johnson
Almost Index score: 17.736
We need not rehash the controversial finish at the PGA a year ago that took Johnson out of a playoff with Bubba Watson and eventual champion Martin Kaymer. We also need not bring up the Sunday front-nine meltdown at Pebble Beach last summer. Instead, let's focus on the positives of why he's so high on this (unfortunate) list -- four top-10 finishes in 12 major starts and four PGA Tour wins.
6. K.J. Choi
Almost Index score: 18.481
With three career top-8 finishes at the Masters, Choi is no stranger to being close in a major championship played in Georgia. He grabbed the biggest win of his career in May at the Players Championship, and finished second at AT&T National just a month ago. Choi was also sixth on this list when we presented it before the Masters this year.
5. Adam Scott
Almost Index score: 19.258
Fresh from his extremely impressive win in Akron, Scott will be on the short list of favorites to win this week at the AAC. Could this finally be his time? His best career finish in a major came earlier this year at Augusta (T-2), and he hit over 70 percent of his greens in regulation last week en route to victory.
4. Jason Day
Almost Index score: 19.983
If it weren't for Rory McIlroy's brilliance at Congressional this year, the golf world would likely have Day pegged as the biggest young star in the game. With runner-up finishes at each of the year's first two major championships, eight top-10 finishes in 16 PGA Tour starts this year and a T-4 at Bridgestone last weekend, put Day on that short list of favorites next to Scott this week.
3. Steve Stricker
Almost Index score: 21.494
One of the most well-liked men in the sport, Stricker's ascent has been one of the best stories in golf over the last three years. He has seven PGA Tour wins and 25 top-10 finishes since the beginning of 2009. His best major championship finish came at the 1998 PGA, when he finished runner-up to Vijay Singh.
2. Lee Westwood
Almost Index score: 28.143
A player seemingly too successful and consistent to still be on this list, Westwood has finished in the top three in five of his last eight major championship starts. Westwood missed this event last year due to injury, but finished tied for third at the 2009 PGA. Westwood's 69.5 "major points" and 21 European Tour wins give him the bulk of his Almost Index score.
1. Sergio Garcia
Almost Index score: 30.364
Question: Who holds the PGA Championship record for most career top-10 finishes without a win?
Answer: Tom Watson, 10.
Quick: Name the only player to finish in the top 10 of each of the last two majors. A T-7 at Congressional and a T-9 at the Open Championship were the 16th and 17th top-10 major finishes of Garcia's career. Three times he's been runner-up in a major, and two of those have been in the last four years. Nine times Garcia has finished in the top five in a major. In those tournaments, his first-round scoring average is 68.67. His final-round scoring average in those events is more than two shots higher -- 70.89.
Justin Ray is a senior researcher with ESPN Stats & Information. He has contributed to ESPN's golf coverage since joining the network out of college in 2008. He is based in Austin, Texas, with the new Longhorn Network. Send comments and suggestions to Justin.Ray@espn.com.