Golf fans generally consider the Masters, which begins Thursday, the most prestigious event on the calendar. But, according to one study, the classiest tournament of the year is also the easiest major to win.
Richard Rendleman, a professor of finance at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, and Robert Connolly, an associate professor of finance at the University of North Carolina, recently conducted a study that ranked professional golf events by how difficult they are to win.
They determined that the PGA Championship is the toughest major, followed by the US Open, the British Open and the Masters. The hardest overall tournament to win was actually the Players Championship, and the easiest — among the tournaments still in existence — was the Puerto Rico Open.
To draw their conclusions, the researchers gathered the round-by-round results for each player at every tournament from 2003-09. They plugged this data into a statistical model that estimated how each golfer should have scored in every round of every tournament he participated in based on his skill level, while also factoring in the effects of random variation in scoring.
Using their model, they ran 10,000 simulations of each tournament to determine the average minimum score required to win, factoring in the size and overall quality of the field.
Rendleman said the Players Championship earned the top spot because it has a large 144-player field consisting only of top professionals. The Masters, meanwhile, has the smallest field of any major at roughly 95 golfers, and it reserves many of those spots for amateurs and past winners who have virtually no chance to win.