Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tiger Woods Leads the Field by 52 1/2 Hippopotami

Tiger Woods currently leads Steve Stricker in the FedEx Cup by a little over 3,000 points. Tiger won the regular season FedEx point title over Vijay Singh by just over 11,000 points. Tiger could loose out on the $10 million grand prize if:
Stricker can win the FedEx Cup by winning at East Lake, which would be his second victory in these playoffs.

Mickelson could capture the cup if he wins the Tour Championship and Woods finishes lower than second alone.

Rory Sabbatini (No.4) and K.J. Choi (No. 5) have to win the Tour Championship and hope that Woods finishes out of the top 15
Is this making sense so far? There's more.

This weekend the PGA tour will head off to the Tour Championship in Atlanta. This tournament will consist of the top 30 players from the previous 3 playoff events. Like the past three tournaments, the Championship has 50,000 points on the line. Unlike the past three tournaments, the Championship awards 10,300 to the winner (as opposed to the previous prize of 9,000.)

In order to qualify for the four tournament playoff, each regular season PGA tour event was assigned 25,000 FedEx Cup points that were spread between places 1 and 70. At the end of the year, the leader (Mr. Woods) had his score reset to 100,000 and the last place player (some nobody who finished in 144th place) was reset to 84,700. (Note: not all players played in all 3 playoff events. Mr. Woods had enough points at the beginning of the playoffs to not compete in the 1st tournament. Mr. Michelson had enough points at the end of the 2nd tournament to not play in the 3rd.)

That's it. That's how the whole thing works. Did anything jump out at you? How about the fact that the entire point system is arbitrary? Tiger's 112,733 points are nearly meaningless and they sure don't neatly correspond to any recognizable performance indicator like greens in regulation, average score, average finish, and so on and so forth. Why 9,000 for a winner? Why not 5,000? How about 36? What about 3 nipples and a handshake?

Tiger pretty much lapped the field during golf's regular season. He earned a magical 30,574 points in 13 tournaments. Yes, this tells us he is good in relation to other players but it does so in a way that is not tied in any meaningful way to actual golfing reality. (Note: Tiger is so good that even when the numbers are cooked, there is no way for him to not come out on top.)

Mr. Singh, the lowly second place finisher, finished the year with 19,129 points. He achieved this score by participating in 23 tournaments. That's roughly 832 points per tournament for those of you playing at home. If you compare that to Mr. Woods' ridiculous 2352 points per tournament, you can begin to see how silly and meaningless this entire ranking system is. It becomes even more nonsensical as you make your way down the rankings.

In 3rd place with 16,691 points is Jim Furyk. His points per tournament average is 878. In 4th place with 16,037 points is Phil Michelson. His points per tournament average is 891. In 5th place with 15,485 points is KJ Choi. His points per tournament average is 737. This bassackwardness continues down the line; 10th place Adam Scott finished with 11,196 points but his average beat out 5th place Choi 746-737.

Again, this ridiculous point system has no basis in a reality-based description of performance. None. Which brings me to General Petraeus.

The General came prepared with a bunch of slides that he claims were vetted by two intel organizations. These slides show the flow of foreign fighters (none from Saudi?), weekly attacks in Iraq (taken at seemingly random intervals--ex. July 6th, 07 is followed by July 27th, 07--and does not correlate with numbers from previous years), civilian deaths (which are at odds with other studies), "ethno-sectarian" deaths (undefined methodology), caches found and cleared, and so on and so forth.

Getting around to the point, General Petraeus seems to be suffering from Fedexcupatitus: a condition marked by a distinct gap between the world people perceive and the numbers used to describe what they see.

Petraeus' numbers make absolutely zero sense set against a backdrop of unimaginable violence. "Ethno-sectarian" violence is down but the question of overall violence remains unanswered; Iraqi violence is reportedly down, but only measured in weeks picked seemingly at random and with no correlation to prior data; the surge is "capping" violence but we have no idea what will happen when the cap is removed; and so on and so forth.

Take a look at Petraeus' numbers. Forget about the fact that we don't know where he got his data from, where his data is, or the methodology used in its collection and interpretation; why does any of this indicate progress? Why these numbers? What do they have to do with achieving the political solution? The military solution? What is the greater context of these numbers? (Senator Hagel was the only Senator who came close to asking these questions.)

President Bush will speak to the nation Thursday night about the need to drawdown troops in Iraq. He will likely point to the data given in the Petraeus report. What does the data mean? Petraeus himself acknowledged that the drawdown depends on deployment length, not the data on the charts. We simply can't maintain current levels of deployment. For all practical purposes, President Bush will tell us that we need to drawdown troops in Iraq because the surge has worked and violence has dropped by 42.3 Hippopotami.

No comments: