Sunday, March 04, 2007

Why Match Play Doesn't Work

Here's interestng story from the NY Times, penned by a former member of the Metropolitan Golf Association, offering his theory on why match play tournaments often turn out to be snoozers, missing the best players in the finals. Makes a lot of sense to me.

Here's the "nut graf," as we say in newspapers:

First, in single elimination, the winner has to be dominant or lucky. A golfer of Woods’s superiority should make it to the finals just about every year. But a simple statistical analysis can show that even a player with an 80 percent chance of winning each match has only about a 40 percent chance of making it through five rounds to the finals. Against most golfers, Woods is that dominant. So why does he get knocked out early so often? Unlucky?

There is a deeper reason, one rooted in the nature and scoring of the two games. In golf, although the pros take 70 or so strokes a full round, they have at most 18 chances to win or lose a hole, or a point, in match play. The story is much different in tennis. In a three-set match with an average of 10 games a set and 6 points a game, there are 180 chances to win or lose a point. That is 10 times more opportunities to determine the winner.

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