Stenson, Tiger or Scott? Who was the best golfer on the planet in 2013?
As was clear in the PGA Tour Player Of The Year voting, winning matters. Tiger’s five wins were more than anyone in 2013.
Tiger Woods: 5
Adam Scott: 4
Henrik Stenson: 3
Having missed the cut in Abu Dhabi in January, Tiger flew to California, won the next week and went on to win 5 times in the space of 11 starts.
Tiger Woods: 27.8%
Adam Scott: 22.2%
Henrik Stenson: 10.3%
However, every win is not the same. Take Scott for example, he’s won the last two weeks in Australia against relatively weak fields. So how do the big-three’s wins rank against one another? Here’s the world ranking points from each win:
Farmers Insurance Open: 50
WGC Cadillac Championship: 74
Arnold Palmer Invitational: 66
THE PLAYERS: 80
WGC Bridgestone Invitational: 76
Average strength of win: 69.2
The Masters: 100
The Barclays: 74
Australian PGA: 22
Australian Masters: 26
Average strength of win: 56
Deutsche Bank Championship: 74
Tour Championship: 60
DP World Tour Championship: 54
Average strength of win: 63
So the “five wins” argument for Tiger does have some legs, especially when you consider the strength of the wins. For the purpose of world ranking points, Tiger’s T4th at Augusta was worth more points (27 pts) than either of Scott’s two wins in Australia (22 and 26 pts).
Winning any given event is tough. 140-plus players each week, thousands of miles covered to get to events, different courses/conditions etc. Even in his most dominant season in 2000, Tiger won less than half the events he entered (9 of 20). Top-10s appears to be a good gauge of a player’s consistency throughout a season.
Here’s a look at the percentage of top-10s vs starts for the big-three (plus total number of top-10s in 2013):
Tiger Woods: 50.0% (9)
Adam Scott: 44.4% (8)
Henrik Stenson: 37.9% (11)
Other than Steve Stricker (61.5%) Tiger is the only other player with a top-10 in at least half his starts.
Scott isn’t far behind and whilst Stenson’s percentage might not be strong, a rough start to the year cost him. In his final 13 events, Stenson had 10 top-10 finishes including 7 top-3s.
We are lucky in golf, in that each time you compete you are rated by your score. However you get there, your score represents how well you managed your game. This scoring average is taken from all Tour-sanctioned events in 2013:
Henrik Stenson 69.72
Tiger Woods 69.82
Adam Scott 69.93
Only Justin Rose and Steve Stricker had better scoring averages than the big-three this year. The margins between Stenson, Woods and Scott are so small but none the less Stenson comes out top.
It should be noted that no one shot a lower combined score in the majors than Scott this year (+2 total), an unofficial title he’s won the last two years.
Average Finish And Missed Cuts
When any of the top players play well they’ll compete for a title, but when things start going wrong, how well can a player perform? Here’s a look at the average finishes of the top-3 (along with their missed cuts):
Adam Scott: 18th (0 MCs)
Henrik Stenson: 21st (2 MCs)
Tiger Woods: 22nd (1 MCs)
Note: A missed cut was recorded as a 71st place finish for the purpose of this information.
A telling display of just how solid a year Scott had. He played the weekend every week he teed it up and is the only one of the big-three to finish on average inside the top-20.
The best method of judging a player’s performance is, of course, the world rankings. It is however based on a rolling, two-year system. So how did the players compare based on the points they picked up in 2013?
Tiger Woods: 461 points
Henrik Stenson: 448 points
Adam Scott: 341 points
Scott’s relatively limited schedule and weak-field wins in Australia hurt him in the rankings. As a result, Tiger and Stenson look equally strong.
Let’s just say, Stenson has this covered.
Amazingly, the Swede earned more money this year (including bonuses) than he has earned up until 2013, in the last 14 years as a pro. He banked $19.5m this year, winning both the Race To Dubai and Fedex Cup.
But taking bonuses out of the equation, how did he stack up?
Tiger Woods $8,942,115
Henrik Stenson $8,610,169
Adam Scott $5,279,434
Clearly, winning pays.
First place checks are typically 50% more than second place checks, so Tiger’s five wins have paid him well based on these numbers. Mind you, Stenson played 60% more events than Tiger or Scott. So how do the numbers change based on dollars-per-event?
Tiger Woods $496,784
Henrik Stenson $296,902
Adam Scott $293,302
Very similar numbers from Scott and Stenson, but Woods clearly knows how to cash in at the events he plays.
Just a little fun, I thought it would be interesting to see how much each of the big-three earned per shot this year:
Tiger Woods $1,941
Henrik Stenson $1,187
Adam Scott $1,110
Why didn’t they just hit more shots? (…yes, I’m joking)
Until this year, I have never considered this for golf. Win-Loss Record basically looks at how you did compared to everyone you played against.
For example, if you played an event with 9 other people and finish tied second with one other player, your Win-Loss Record would be 7-1-1, as you beat seven players, lost to one and tied with one.
Here’s a look at how the big-three did in 2013 (Win-Loss-Tie):
Adam Scott: 1536-236-41
Tiger Woods: 1526-346-39
Henrik Stenson: 2346-607-104
In terms of win percentage, here’s the comparison:
Adam Scott beat 83.48% of the fields he played in.
Tiger Woods beat 79.85% of the fields he played in.
Henrik Stenson beat 76.74% of the fields he played in.
Unsurprisingly this favours Scott and Woods. Their limited schedule, playing courses they like, was mirrored in their Win-Loss Record.
Stenson started the season slowly, but lit up the second half of the season. Beating 76.74% of more than 3,000 opponents you face in a season is still pretty good.
Woods, Scott and Stenson played in the same field 12 times: four majors, four PGA playoffs, two WGC events, The Players and The Memorial. Here’s how they finished in those events:
Of the 12 events, Stenson finished best in five (including three of the four majors), Scott best in 3 and Woods finished highest in 3 also. All three got knocked out of the WGC Matchplay in the first round.
Average Finishes In The Same Field:
Henrik Stenson: 17th
Adam Scott: 19th
Tiger Woods: 24th
Scoring Average In The Same Field:
Henrik Stenson: 69.84
Adam Scott: 70.23
Tiger Woods: 70.25
Interesting to see just how well Stenson played in the big events (i.e. Majors and Tour Championships) and especially when he played in the same field as Woods and Scott.
As for individually, head-to-head, it doesn’t show as much. Here’s a look at their head-to-head records with one another:
Stenson was the best golfer in the world in 2013.
Yes, Tiger got five wins.Yes, Scott won the Masters. But ultimately Stenson didn’t limit his schedule, he played a lot and he played really well. In a world of “what have you done for me lately”, has done the most.
Luke Donald may have won both money titles in 2011, but that is essentially a result of a solid year spread over a large number of events on both Tours. Winning both Tour Championships is a result of beating the best players on each Tour, in the playoffs, on the biggest stage (outside of the majors).
Here’s what Stenson’s banked since teeing it up in Scotland on July 11th (including bonuses):
$5,436 per shot
$20,780 per hole
$374,042 per round
$139,178 per day
$997,445 per week
$1.5m per event
Enjoy your cash Henrik, you earned every penny.