By: Edward Egros

August 2018

Previewing the 100th PGA Championship

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(Courtesy: Gary Kellner Getty Images)

In some ways, the PGA Championship is the toughest to predict of all four majors. Previous performance is an enormous factor for the Masters, past results at links style courses help with the (British) Open (and when applicable the U.S. Open) and long hitters often perform well at the second major. But with golf's final major, the skill set required to win can vary significantly. One trend worth noting is those who win the Wanamaker Trophy do well at the other majors. It has the second-fewest number of winners whose only major victory was that major (the Masters has the fewest single-major champions). However, the last three winners of golf's final major are first-time major champions (Jason Day, Jimmy Walker and Justin Thomas).

To make matters even trickier, it's been 10 years since Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis has hosted a PGA Tour event,
and the leaderboard does not exactly uncover a trend for success. However, because rainy weather seems to have softened the course, putting may not be as big of a factor as driving and the short game. The usual suspects appear atop the Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green leaderboard: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Francesco Molinari and Henrik Stenson. The PGA Championship has also been known to produce some low scores. In fact, five of the last six winners posted double digits under par. After adjusting for the field's average score of tournaments played by each individual golfer, the lowest scores this season come from Johnson, Justin Rose, Jason Day and Thomas.

Including these statistics, the number-one Official World Golf Ranking and his considerable driving distance, Dustin Johnson is my pick to win the 100th PGA Championship. As for my Daily Fantasy lineups:

Dustin Johnson
Jason Day
Tony Finau
Luke List
Webb Simpson
Hao-Tong Li

Paul Casey
Bryson DeChambeau
Tommy Fleetwood
Ryan Moore
Louis Oosthuizen
Justin Thomas

Ohio State's Less Important Question

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Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer continues to face the possibility he will not coach the Buckeyes ever again. The school placed him on paid administrative leave as it investigates if he failed to report (or do anything about) an assistant coach allegedly committing domestic violence. This assistant may have exhibited a pattern of horrific behavior, yet remained on Meyer's coaching staff at Florida and Ohio State for years after reported incidents. The school announced it would like to end its investigation in the coming days.

What matters far less than potentially covering up violent crime is football itself. There exists the serious reality an entire football team will have to scramble to organize, practice and get through a gauntlet of a season, all because its leader exhibited incredibly poor judgment. There also exists an unfortunate reality if no reasonable explanations can be uncovered during this investigation: doing the right thing has consequences.

Other college football programs have parted ways with its head coach within a couple of months of the season's kickoff. In 2017, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze resigned
after questions were raised about phone calls made to a female escort service. One year earlier, Baylor fired head coach Art Briles after a couple of his players were convicted of sexual assault and many more women came forward alleging some within the football team committed multiple acts of violence against them. Lastly, in 2012, Arkansas fired head coach Bobby Petrino for unfairly hiring a mistress, not disclosing the nature of that relationship to his boss and not admitting to authorities she was present when Petrino suffered a motorcycle accident.

In each case, I looked at how many wins each team was projected to win prior to each scandal,
according to our prediction model. This model takes into account recruiting rankings of the sophomore and junior seasons from 247sports (the classes we found to be statistically significant), home and away schedules and if any games were played other than on Saturdays. Here are the results:

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For Ole Miss, near the end of the season the Rebels had four games decided by one possession. In each game we projected them to win; however, they went 2-2. An 8-4 possibility became a 6-6 performance. For Baylor, there was a three-game stretch near the end of the season where things seemed to fall apart (i.e. losses to Kansas State, Texas Tech and West Virginia). The Bears could have gone 10-3, but instead finished 7-6. Lastly, for Arkansas, we suspected a dip in performance after coming off an appearance in the Sugar Bowl, but the downtick turned out to be more severe. Instead of perhaps going 7-5, they went 4-8.

Several other factors could have caused an underperformance of these projections, so it cannot be definitively concluded the departure of the head coach caused the unforeseen losses. However, intuitively it might make sense that a coaching change late in the offseason could mean two or three additional losses. If, indeed, Ohio State decides to fire Urban Meyer, and if it does mean the Buckeyes narrowly miss out on championships, only Meyer is to blame.