Time to refresh the "Almost Index"

July, 14, 2010

Trivia question

St. Andrews has hosted the most Open Championships with 28. Who has hosted it the second-most times? (Answer below.)

Seven majors, seven different winners.

Since Padraig Harrington won his second major of 2008 at the PGA, the next six major championships have been won by six different golfers from around the globe: Angel Cabrera, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink, Y.E. Yang, Phil Mickelson and Graeme McDowell.

That also means that 7 different men have won a major championship since a certain man in Sunday red (and in that case, Monday) won the 14th of his career.

So, it seems fitting that we re-visit an old staple here at Numbers Game: the Almost Index. Last year before the PGA Championship, we sought to create a statistical way to deduce who was the best golfer on the planet to have never won a major championship.

Though this topic is always up for debate (and we welcome such discourse about both our formula and its outputs), this at least generates some kind of solidarity about who the best player in the world sans-a-big-one really is. At the very least, it provides fodder for such conversation.

A refresher on the formula: To come up with this statistic, we wanted to place a high emphasis on performance in major championships without winning -- 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 formula, mapped out for you to examine for yourself:

(2 + (PGA Tour top 10 pct.)) + (1 + (European Tour top 10 pct.)) + PGA Tour wins + (Euro Tour wins x .5) + (Top 10 pct. in majors x 100) x .25) + (major points x .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).

Below is a list of every player in the 2010 Open Championship field who has never won a major championship, yet has claimed at least one victory on the PGA Tour.

A few special exemptions have been made for this list: longtime European Tour stalwarts Miguel Angel Jimenez and Colin Montgomerie, as well as highly-ranked international players Robert Karlsson and Martin Kaymer. They have been added to the fray due to either their successes overseas or repeated contention in major championships -- which makes them a significant presence on this less than prestigious leaderboard.

Those are a lot of numbers to digest, for sure. Let's parse the data a few different ways to show you who the real contenders are for this dubious title.

All told, here are the top-5 in the field in Almost Index points: Sergio Garcia tops the list, followed closely by Colin Montgomerie. This is where the fiery discourse typically begins in the comments section below.

Could Montgomerie really have had a career less grand than Sergio has in his 10+ years as a professional? The numbers dictate yes -- with our formula giving twice as much credence to a PGA Tour win as we do a European Tour victory.

It will be hard for many to stomach Garcia as the career most luminous with no major, but, as stated previously, debate and discussion of both the formula and its outputs are highly encouraged. We are by no means the end-all to the topic -- just one way of looking at it, statistically.

With Montgomerie and Roberts well past their primes, let's look at this information another way. When you merely have the top 50 players on the planet on the list, Westwood comes in second, followed by Kenny Perry. Perry is aided greatly by his PGA Tour success, while Westwood may fit this criterion better than anybody -- he's been 'Almost' there in major championships without winning as much as anyone.

Garcia was your leader last August, and he remains the reluctant king of the AI today. This is always a key storyline heading into major championships, and with four of the last five major winners being first-time major champions, this topic will be bandied about in taverns and at tables across Europe and the world as the 2010 Open Championship unfolds.

It's yet to be seen if Steve Stricker's Playstation 3 scores from last weekend will have any correlation whatsoever to his Open chances. Ladbrokes has posted the now 9-time Tour winner at 33-to-1 at press time. Among this list of "almost's," though, consider him the favorite at Numbers Game.

Trivia answer

Question: St. Andrews has hosted the most Open Championships with 28. Who has hosted it the second-most times?

Answer: Prestwick, with 24. However, no Open has been held there since 1925.

Justin Ray has been a studio researcher for ESPN since June 2008 and is the lead researcher for "The Scott Van Pelt Show." He is a 2007 graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, where he studied convergence media. Send comments and suggestions to Justin.Ray@espn.com.





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