Not being satisfied with my shorthand way of calculating the scoring differential between this year and last, I broke out my trusty calculator and spent a few days crunching numbers. After tallying up the averages for every event since the beginning of 2006, I discovered a few interesting things.
I’ll start with 2006. The overall scoring average per round last year (10854 rounds total) was 72.961. When I did my first scoring estimate back in May, the 2007 average was 73.361 – exactly 0.4 strokes higher than 2006, not 0.6. Through the Canadian Open, the 2007 average is now 73.433 – 0.472 higher. If you compare the current 2007 average to the average at this point in 2006, 2007 is only 0.347 higher. That is still a significant difference, despite my previous overestimations.
At the SeoulSisters.com message board, we recently had a spirited discussion concerning the dominance of a small group of players several years ago (Annika, Pak, Webb and Inkster) and the apparent lack of dominant players today aside from Ochoa. I’ll tackle that topic here another time, but a tangent of that discussion was “WHY are the average scores higher this year?” The Constructivist and I opined that weather could be a factor, but a couple of others believed that the afore-mentioned dominant players are having downturns this year and nobody else has picked up the slack aside from Ochoa.
Would you believe that the scores are higher purely because of the schedule changes? Maybe not, but here’s how I hope to prove it to you. The Canadian Open was the 20th event on the LPGA schedule this year, whereas it was the 23rd in 2006 even though it was played one weekend earlier last year. The Ginn Tribute was an inaugural event this year and the four events that were played last year and omitted so far in 2007 were Takefuji, Atlanta, ShopRite and Nashville. If I eliminate the Ginn Tribute from this year’s average, it drops to 73.388. By eliminating those four 2006 events, the 2006 overall average rises to 73.195 and the average through the Canadian Open rises to 73.416. So by merely eliminating the uncommon events from the two seasons, scoring has been nearly the same! Don't get me wrong - merely changing the schedule didn't make the scores go up, but something about those five events made all the difference between the two years.
Now that I’ve (hopefully) cleared that up…why wouldn’t weather influence the scoring? Every week Andy North or Charlie Rymer or somebody talks about the greens being receptive or the rough being really thick or the ball not traveling well in the cold or the wind making club selection difficult. Some of that is the groundskeeper’s choice but even he has to tailor his choices around the weather leading up to the event and then adjust on the fly during the event to changing weather conditions. Not to mention the adjustments the players have to make when the winds are gusting or rain is falling. I would think the opposing argument would be ridiculed. As for the notion that a group of four players having an off-season could account for the difference – to put it nicely, that’s just impossible. Even if all four of them had played 70 rounds this year (Angela Park’s current Tour-leading total) and their averages had risen FIVE strokes apiece that wouldn’t be enough to move the overall average up 0.2, much less 0.347.
There are a few more uses to keeping my scoring chart updated, so I’ll add that to my weekly chores. You can expect to see more references to this topic in the near future.