The Golf Blog: The Golf Channel should apologize to Phil Mickelson for Ryder Cup slight

mulligan, 01 October 2012, Comments Off on The Golf Blog: The Golf Channel should apologize to Phil Mickelson for Ryder Cup slight
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The Golf Blog says: After Golf Channel analysts including Nick Faldo (who was a terrible, losing Ryder Cup coach for Europe in 2008) incorrectly blamed US Captain Davis Love for sitting Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley on Saturday afternoon (c’mon guys, check the facts), the so-called “Golf team” has now blamed Mickelson for his decision to sit on Saturday afternoon after playing 3 matches in a row. Despite he and Keegan having the same 3-1 record (they played together in all 3 wins), Golf Channel gives Keegan a grade of A, but Phil a grade of B. The reason: Phil’s “request to sit Saturday afternoon hurt the team,” says Golf Channel.

Wait a second, Keegan and Phil both had the same 3-1 winning record, and one gets an A and the other gets a B? Even a kindergarten student would know something ain’t right.

The Golf Channel has committed the worst kind of error in basic logic, what’s called “post hoc” fallacy. The Golf Channel believes that just because the Americans ending up losing on Sunday, Phil’s decision to sit on Saturday must have contributed to the loss on Sunday. With that kind of flawed logic, all sorts of events on Friday and Saturday can assume undue importance–the decisions to sit Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson on Friday morning, and Tiger Woods on Saturday morning–in influencing the final outcome of the Ryder Cup on Sunday. If only Davis had played Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson on Friday morning, or Tiger on Saturday morning, the U.S. team would have won the Ryder Cup by getting that vital 1 extra point. Right.

The problem with boiling down cause and effect (loss of the Ryder Cup) to a single decision that occurred on Friday or Saturday is that so many intervening things occurred in between. 12 singles matches involving 24 people and 4 team matches involving 16 people were played after Phil’s decision to sit. It’s hard to imagine Phil’s not playing in 1 match caused the US team to lose 10 matches involving 12 US players–as if all 10 matches were negatively influenced by Phil’s decision.

As we wrote earlier, even if Phil and Keegan had played Saturday afternoon, there is no guarantee they would have won. Phil’s 42 years old and has arthritis. Only 1 American has ever gone 5-0 in a Ryder Cup, and that was Larry Nelson back in 1979. So pushing Phil and Keegan to play 5 matches did not have a high probability that they would win both Saturday and Sunday matches. Indeed, pushing Phil and Keegan to play 5 matches could have backfired even worse: they could have lost both on Saturday afternoon and Sunday.

Moreover, even if Phil and Keegan had played and won on Saturday afternoon, it probably would not have changed the result. The pairing played the 2nd match in each of their first 3 sessions, so it’s pretty safe to assume that Davis would have put them in the 2nd match on Saturday afternoon–a slot that the U.S. team of Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson won anyway. So even if Phil and Keegan played and won a point on Saturday afternoon–which was by no means guaranteed if Phil was gassed, they wouldn’t have altered the score on Saturday. The U.S. still would have had a commanding 10-6 lead, which in 37 of the past 38 Ryder Cups would have been enough to expect a victory on Sunday.

The only way the US team could have gotten a different result on Saturday afternoon is if (1) someone could have beaten Ian Poulter-Rory McIlroy, which seems unlikely given how Poulter was a man possessed, making 5 closing birdies and adding to his off-the-charts, all-time Ryder Cup record; or (2) if someone could have beaten Luke Donald-Sergio Garcia, which again seems a tall order and no sure thing, given that Tiger’s 5 back nine birdies couldn’t even pull out the win against the two Europeans who also have amazing all-time Ryder Cup records.

The Golf Channel is entitled to its opinion. But when it suffers from basic errors in logic and analysis, the Golf Channel should come out and admit its blatant mistake. The Golf Channel gets a C+ in our book for its dubious analysis of the Ryder Cup.


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