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Nissan Open 2003: Even Tiger Cannot Escape Impact of GPS Column

A strange thing happened at the Nissan Open. Tiger Woods came in #1 in Gross
Negative Score (GNS) (-21) and did not win the tournament. Why not? The reason,
as you can see from the table below is that Tiger had a Gross Positive Score
(GPS) of +15. In his first 3 rounds, Tiger had 10 bogeys and two double bogeys.
Very un-Tiger-like. Fred Funk was also very un-Fred-like. He was second to Tiger
in GNS (-19) but had a GPS of +12. But, as is discussed below, we cannot consider
either Tiger or Fred losers, not by a long shot.

And what two players tied for first after 72 holes? Mike Weir and Charles Howell
III who also tied for first with the lowest GPS with +7’s. So, once again, the
GPS column determined the winner.

The table below reveals some other interesting facts. The "winner"
in the long driving contest was Chris Smith who tied for 51st overall and cashed
a check for $10,732. Anyone think he might like to trade places with Fred Funk
who came in 65th in driving distance but cashed a check for $261,000. Note also
that Chris didn’t fare badly in the GNS column (-18) but had a killer +23 in
the GPS column.

Another major lesson we weekend golfers can take from the play of Woods and
Funk relates to putting bad shots, bad holes, and bad scores behind us and playing
the next shot, hole, round. After three rounds Tiger was tied for 28th and Fred
for 10th. Both could easily have just gone through the motions in the fourth
round or even worse dwelt on the number of bogeys and worse they had in the
previous three rounds and as a result do the same on Sunday. Instead, both returned
to their normal steady, smart play and moved up the leader board significantly.

I don’t want to finish on a negative note but feel compelled to point out that
the real "losers" at the Nissan are not mentioned above because they
did not make the cut. At the end of two rounds the GNSs for the final top ten
ranged from -5 (Campbell) to -10 (Howell, Funk and Mattice). So how would you
feel if at the end of two rounds you had a GNS of -9 (Tom Pernice), -8 (Carl
Paulson and Tom Levet), or -7 (Eduardo Romero, Carlos Franco, and Matt Gogel),
and you didn’t even get to play on the weekend. I won’t tell you what the GPS
was for these players but you can pretty well guess since the cut was at +3.
Looks like there are a lot of strong, long ball hitting, young players on the
PGA Tour who need to learn the value of a par.

Any player who is good enough to make it onto the PGA Tour can have reasonable
success on the tour by playing for safe pars and keeping themselves in position
to capitalize on birdie and eagle opportunities. By capitalize I mean they should
take full advantage of whatever negative number they shoot, rather than just
using it to offset a bogey or double bogey. But most will shoot for birdies
and eagles no matter how high the risk and then toil away on many holes trying
to save par or bogey.

If your goals are not more lofty than breaking 100 (or even 90), then shoot
for bogey and accept the occassional double bogey. Keep yourself in position
so that when a par or birdie opportunity presents itself you will be there to
take advantage of it. Then as soon as you have your par (ocassional birdie),
bogey, or double bogey, walk to the next tee with a strategy to get a bogey.

Winnings $$$
Net Score
(After 2nd Round)
Howell III


GNS (Gross Negative Score) – this statistic looks only at holes where
the player scored below par. This number is the total number of strokes
below par from all of the sub-par holes for the tournament.

GPS (Gross Positive Score) – this statistic looks only at the holes
where the player scored above par. This number is the total number of
strokes above par from all of the over par holes for the tournament.

DD (Driving Distance) – this statistic ranks the players by average
driving distance. In all situations, other than longest drive contests,
this statistic is the least relevant in predicting the outcome of golf

Oh Those Exciting Birdies and Eagles

The first two days of the Sony Open in Hawaii must have been very exciting for
Ty Tryon, Geoff Ogilvy, and Jay Don Blake. Tryon and Don Blake each had 11 birdies
in their first two rounds and Tryon had an eagle to go with his birdies. Ogilvy
only had 9 birdies but he had 2 eagles to go with them.

Things started a bit slower for Stuart Appleby, Dan Forsman, and Rory Sabbatin
in their first two rounds. Appleby had only 6 birdies, Forsman 7, and Sabbitani
5, and none of them had an eagle.

But at the end of the tournament that Thursday/Friday birdie/eagle excitement
was all Tryon, Ogilvy, and Don Blake had to show for their week. None of them
took home a dollar because none of them made the cut.

While Appleby, Forsman, and Sabbitani may have had a lot less excitement in
their first two rounds, they had a lot more to show for their week’s effort.
Appleby took home $162,000, Forsman $94,500, and Sabbatani $31,275.

While birdies and eagles can be a very exciting addition to a round of golf
their real value is always judged, as many things in life, by the return they
produce for the round. You won’t be impressed by a stock broker whose investments
increased by 3,000% in one day, as a result of some shrewd decision making by
him, if at the end of the year he was fired for having lost his company millions.
Likewise you would not be impressed by the real estate investor who puts $100,000
into remodeling the kitchen of a one-bedroom bungalow that she purchased for
$150,000 if the two and three bedroom bungalows on the same street are selling
for $175,000 to $200,000.

While the stock broker might have had a brilliant day and the real estate
investor might have created a beautiful room, neither of them are going to get
the praise they desire if in the end there was no payoff from their efforts.
The broker’s clients want to know how he has performed over the long term and
the real estate investor’s clients want to know how the building investments
have increased the value of the entire house.

Golf is much the same way, whether you are a professional or a weekend golfer.
While the weekend golfer might get excited about an eagle regardless of the
rest of the days scores they generally spend too much time getting excited about
the prospective birdies and pars, when their excitement should come from not
getting double bogeys and triple bogeys.

Tryon, Ogilvy, and Don Blake ended up being losers at the Sony Open simply
because the excitement of birdies and eagles can never compete with the tremendous
dulling effect of excessive bogeys and double bogeys. The key to impressing
your friends on your weekend round is the same as the key to winning on the
pro tour. Try to have a brilliant round by pursuing a lot of good holes of golf,
rather than investing everything in pursuit of a few brilliant holes and producing
a dull round.

Mickelson Watch

November, 2002: The story up to now. (to be continued at least until Phil wins
a Major.)

Fact: Phil Mickelson has never won a Major.

Opinion: Phil Mickelson may never win a Major unless….

Would you like to know what follows the “unless”? Well of course
you do. After all the devil is in the details.

Would you like to know how knowing what follows the “unless” can
help you enjoy every round of golf you play for the rest of your life and take
5-20 strokes off your current average score?

The Mickelson Watch is going to follow Phil’s progress as he tries to
achieve the elusive Major victory and in doing so illustrate through Phil’s
good or bad example the Colonel Bogey Way to play golf.

Phil Mickelson will probably never win a Major golf tournament unless he truly
develops and understands patience.

Colonel Bogey would like to see Phil win a Major. The young man certainly loves
the game of golf and he is without a doubt a phenomenal talent. But the reason
it is easy to feel bad for Phil is that he does not seem to understand that
when it comes to winning a Major he is his own most fierce opponent.

There may be some hope for Mickelson fans. While Phil came in third, four shots
back in the 2002 Masters, and while he played typical Mickelson golf (in last
round he birdied his first two holes and bogeyed the next two) his post-round
interview showed that he may actually be starting to change his thinking on
the course. In the interview he actually used the word “patience.”
At least this is a start.

For a short time it appeared that Mickelson fans could once again take some
hope from Phil’s play in the 2002 U.S. Open. It appeared that just possibly
Phil was starting to learn what it takes to win a major championship. But, based
on interviews given soon after the Open, it appears that Phil may have learned
just the opposite of what he must learn before he will win a Major. When interviewed
at the Greater Hartford Open, Phil said in response to a question on what it
would take to beat Tiger, “I’ve got to play a more attacking style
in Thursday’s and Friday’s rounds. I’m not in a position and
neither is anyone else, to spot him a big lead.” Taking a “more attacking
style” is exactly the wrong way for Phil to win a major. It is his attacking
style that has kept him from winning a major to this date. In winning 8 Majors
to date, only once before the 2002 U.S. Open, did Tiger lead after the first
or second round.

The week that Tiger played like Phil: The Tour Championship-2002.

In the 2002 Tour Championship Tiger Woods did some very stupid things (after
the tournament we found out that Tiger was having trouble with a knee and we
still do not know whether that affected his play). Tiger came in first in driving
distance (which may be why he hit less than 50% of the fairways), and tied for
first in number of birdies and number of double bogeys. Tiger finished tied
for 7th, 8 strokes behind the winner Vijay Singh. Notwithstanding his lack of
driving accuracy, Tiger’s 18 birdies placed him first in gross negative
score (GNS). Singh’s GNS was -17, while second place finisher Howell’s
was -15 and third place finisher Tom’s was -16. How did Tiger finish 8
strokes behind Singh. Well, in addition to his two double bogeys, Tiger had
10 (count them, 10) bogeys in 72 holes.

And guess what? Phil may actually be learning something about playing smart,
about the value of a par (as I think Johnny Miller put it). Phil actually tied
for first for the most pars, 53 in 72 holes and he actually got through 72 holes
without a double bogey and only 7 bogeys. Maybe 2003 will be the year Phil wins
a Major. It also could be the year you shed the Duffer label (5-20 strokes less
will do it) and learn to enjoy every round you play for the rest of your golfing

The SONY Open in Hawaii

If you have not yet started following the PGA Tour by watching the Gross Positive
Score (GPS) it is time you do. Of course you will either have to let Colonel
Bogey calculate it for you or do it yourself. You won’t find it in your local
newspaper or even in the numerous statistics kept by the PGA Tour. Remember
the GPS is the total number of strokes over par that a player has in a tournament.
Put together with the Gross Negative Score (GNS) gives you the number you see
in your newspaper, namely how the player finished against par for the tournament.

Every week produces many dramatic examples and the Sony Open in Hawaii was
no exception.

Ernie Els had a GNS of -23 and a GPS of +7 and Aaron Baddeley had a GNS of
-21 and a GPS of +5. As you know, they tied for 1st at the end of 72 holes at
-16 and Els won the playoff. What you probably didn’t notice was that seven
other players had GNS’s of -20 or better and they finished from tied for fourth
place (Jerrry Kelly) to tied for 50th place (Brian Gay). Believe it or not,
on their under par holes Els was 23 under and took home $810,000, while Gay
was 20 under and took home only $10,770. Clearly, what Brian Gay needs is fewer
bogeys, or worse, (his GPS was +17) not more birdies or eagles. For example,
Robert Allenby had 17 birdies and no eagles (GNS -17) but he also had only 5
bogeys (GPS +5) and took home $198,000.

Here are a few more examples listed in order of GPS. We have included driving
distance (DD) which also gets a lot more attention than it deserves:

$ Winnings

Study the above list for a few minutes and you will quickly see that the most
important column in determining finish and thus dollars is the GPS score, not
driving distance or birdies/eagles. Steve Lowery tied Ernie Els for the most
number of birdies in the tournament, namely 21. Ernie also had one eagle. But
clearly that one eagle does not explain the almost $800,000 difference in their

You are not playing on the PGA Tour but chances are you will find that it is
your scores over bogey that are keeping you from scoring in the range you would
like to be. If you watched the Sony tournament you could easily get the impression
that Ernie won because of his prodigious drives. But from the above statistics
you can see that Ernie won because he played smart and avoided bogeys and worse.
Young Aaron Baddley did the same so do not be surprised if you see him competeting
for wins in a lot of tournaments in 2003.