August 12, 2010

Skill and luck on the links

Differentiating skill and luck has been a hot topic of late -- here's an article at Slate by Michael Agger titled "Dead Solid Lucky" looking at the topic in the context of golf.

The article draws heavily on an analysis by Robert A. Connolly and Richard J. Rendleman Jr., both from the Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina. (Their article, from the Journal of the American Statistical Association, can be found in PDF format here.)

A tidy summary, quoted directly from Agger's article: "How big a deal is luck on the golf course? On average, tournament winners are the beneficiaries of 9.6 strokes of good luck. Tiger Woods' superior putting, you'll recall, gives him a three-stroke advantage per tournament. Good luck is potentially three times more important. When Connolly and Rendleman looked at the tournament results, they found that (with extremely few exceptions) the top 20 finishers benefitted from some degree of luck. They played better than predicted. So, in order for a golfer to win, he has to both play well and get lucky."

Sounds like real life. And baseball.

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