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Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Tiger Woods Made Other Golfers Worse

Golf fans always suspected it: before his infamous improprieties, the mere presence of Tiger Woods could panic other pros. Now, economist Jennifer Brown has figured out how strong that “Tiger factor” was.

She analyzed a decade's worth of PGA events, controlling for variables like weather, course difficulty, prize money—even the distracting crowds and media at a Tiger tournament. And she found that when Tiger was in the hunt, other golfers scored 0.8 strokes higher—that is, almost one stroke worse—than they otherwise would have over a four-round tournament. And one stroke can be the difference between congratulations and condolences.

The effect was strongest for top-ranked players—the ones competing directly with Tiger for the big money. In fact, Brown calculates that Woods has raked in an extra $6 million dollars in winnings through this fear factor alone. Her analysis appears in the Journal of Political Economy. [Jennifer Brown, "Quitters Never Win: The (Adverse) Incentive Effects of Competing with Superstars"]

Tiger's halo of intimidation DOES wane in years when his performance slumps. But with a big tournament victory last week—his first in two years—it might not be long before his competitors are once again in the rough.

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