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Does pressure impact performance? That's what Neil Metz and Dan Hickman examined and it won them the 2014 ShotLink Intelligence Prize. (Getty Images)

The PGA TOUR provides structured ShotLink data sets to credentialed higher education institutions for research and other approved academic purposes. If you are interested in participating in this program, please contact us at -

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In 2012, the PGA TOUR and CDW partnered to create the ShotLink Intelligence Prize, a competition among academic researchers to use the ShotLink data set. The winning paper was from Dr. Lucius Riccio of Columbia University and is shown below. Details are here.

The 2014 winner was announced on Friday, February 27, 2015. Neil Metz and Dan Hickman won the prize on their paper The Impact of Pressure on Performance: Evidence from the PGA TOUR. Read their research below.



Neil Metz and Dan Hickman
University of Idaho/University of Central Oklahoma (August 2014)

Do large rewards lead to psychological pressure causing underperformance? Previous studies have tested this ‘choking’ phenomenon using the world of sports, but such studies often lack an explicit link between performance and reward. This study utilizes a large PGA TOUR dataset to more directly analyze the effect of pressure on individual performance by calculating the potential change in earnings from making or missing a putt on the final hole of a tournament. We find that as the amount of money riding on a shot increases, the likelihood that shot is made is significantly reduced. Download PDF



Dr. Lucius Riccio
Columbia University, Columbia Business School
 (Published October 2012)

This paper sets out to produce a single, comprehensive measure of long approach shot ball striking to supplement the driving and putting statistics.  The paper proposes a straightforward and comprehensive measure to rank all players and identify the best players in long approach shot accuracy. Download PDF




Columbia University, Graduate School of Business (Published 2008)

The software application Golfmetrics was created to capture and store golfer shot data and to quantify differences in shot patterns between players of different skill levels. Across golfers it is shown, somewhat surprisingly, that longer hitters tend to be straighter than shorter hitters. Individual golfers can be measured relative to a benchmark to assess relative accuracy and to suggest whether to focus on increasing distance or decreasing directional errors. Shot value is a quantitative measure of the quality of each shot in comparison to a scratch golfer. Shot value analysis is a useful way to measure consistency, assess a golfer's relative strengths and weaknesses, and to indicate where practice and improvement are most needed. [Mark Broadie]
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U. of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School (Published September 22, 2008)

This project documents the dominance of Tiger Woods during the 1998-2001 PGA TOUR seasons. It asserts that by playing "average" Woods could have won some tournaments and placed no worse than fourth in the tournaments in which he participated in year 2000, his best on the PGA TOUR. No other PGA TOUR player in the sample could have come close to such a feat. It also quantifies the intimidation factor associated with playing with Woods. Although Woods' presence in a tournament may have had a small, but statistically significant adverse impact on the entire field, this effect was swamped by the apparent intimidation factor associated with having to play with Tiger side-by-side. [Robert A. Connolly and Richard J. Rendleman, Jr.] Download PDF


University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Business (Published June 2009)

Although experimental studies have documented systematic decision errors, many leading scholars believe that experience, competition, and large stakes will reliably extinguish biases. We test for the presence of a fundamental bias, loss aversion, in a high-stakes context: professional golfers' performance on the PGA TOUR. [Devin G. Pope and Maurice E. Schweitzer] Download PDF


Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management (Published January 11, 2010)

Existing performance metrics utilized by the PGA TOUR have biases towards specific styles of play, which make relative player comparisons challenging. This project evaluates golfers in a way that eliminates these biases and better demonstrates how the best players maintain their advantage [Douglas Fearing, Jason Acimovic and Stephen C. Graves] Download PDF


Harvard Business School, MIT Operations Research Center, MIT Sloan School of Management
(Published January 13, 2011)

Existing performance metrics utilized by the PGA TOUR have biases towards specific styles of play, which make relative player comparisons challenging. Our goal is to evaluate golfers in a way that eliminates these biases and to better understand how the best players maintain their advantage. Using ShotLink data, we develop distance-based models for two components of putting performance: the probability of making the putt and the remaining distance to the pin conditioned on missing. Additionally, by describing the act of putting using a simple Markov chain, we are able to combine these two models to characterize the putts-to-go for the field from any distance on the green for the PGA TOUR. [Douglas Fearing, Jason Acimovic, Stephen C Graves] Download here


Faculty of Sports and Health Sciences, Technical University of Munich (Published April 1, 2011)

The ISOPAR method is a method for characterizing the difficulty of golf holes and allows the performance of shots to be analyzed. The method is based on the ball locations provided by ShotLink and the subsequent number of shots required to hole out from each respective location. ISOPAR values are calculated which represent the number of shots the field would require to hole out. These ISOPAR values can, a) be visualized on an ISOPAR map and, b) lead to a new performance indicator called Shot Quality, which is the difference between the ISOPAR values of the starting position and finishing position, respectively. The Shot Quality score can also be used to determine how many shots were saved per shot, or per type of shot, with respect to the performance of the field. [Michael Stockl; Peter Lamb; Martin Lames] Download PDF


Rutgers University (Published, April 11, 2011)

In this paper we present survival function estimates for elite professional golfers who have
participated on or presently participate on the Champions (Senior) professional golf tour. Our
primary data set consists of 313 Champions tour golfers who have won at least one regular PGA TOUR event or one Champions Tour event. Kaplan-Meier survivor function estimates indicate that 88% of these golfers should survive beyond age 76 as compared to about 50% of the American male population of similar birth cohorts who have also reached age 50. The estimated Kaplan-Meier median survival age is 88 years. Our results show their life expectancies are high in comparison to the general male population of the United States and also relative to the life expectancy advantages of other elite athletes over comparison populations as reported in the literature. This survival advantage could be attributed to the high level of physical activity of senior golfers, but also to the higher socio-economic status of golfers. [Douglas Coate, Julia Schwenkenberg] Download PDF


Wake Forest University (Published, September 9, 2011)

This study examines how PGA TOUR golfers' playing strategies offset a ban on technologically superior golf club grooves and how the strategy changes translated into performance changes. The ban, which was implemented at the beginning of the 2010 season, effectively decreased golfers' abilities to spin the golf ball from all on-course environments and offers a unique opportunity to examine offsetting behaviour in the light of a ban on the type of technology. We compare 2009 and 2010 PGA TOUR results in a manner consistent with previous studies of offsetting behaviour and golf club groove construction. Our results suggest that offsetting behaviour mitigated the effects of the technological regulations on golf clubs in an economically and statistically significant way, as golfers' performances improved following the technological ban. [Todd A. McFall, Julianne Treme]  Download PDF


Roanoke College, Department of Mathematics (October 2011)

The PGA TOUR collects data on every stroke of (almost) every tournament, with the location of the ball determined to the inch. This detailed data opens up unprecedented possibilities for the analysis of golf statistics. In this paper, several statistics are presented, examining various aspects of the game. Certain putting statistics indicate that professional golfers perform with greater proficiency when putting for par than when putting for birdie. A general framework for evaluating golfers at different skills is presented. [Roland Minton]  
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University of Western Ontario, Richard Ivey School of Business (October 26, 2012)

Is Sunday made-for-TV? Through the PGA TOUR's ShotLink data, author Chris Higgins attempts to answer the following questions: 1. Are scores different from the first day to the last day? 2. Are scores different across the four rounds? 3. Are young people doing better than those who are older? 4. Do long hitters have lower scores? 5. How important is driving accuracy in determining one's score? 6. Do people putt for dough and drive for show? [Chris Higgins] Download PDF


Rutgers University (Published June 2013)

In this paper I examine driving distance on the PGA and LPGA tours, 1993 to 2012. I use piecewise regression to identify separate periods of change in the annual average driving distance - year relationship. These are: 1993 – 1999, 1999 – 2000, 2001 – 2003, and 2003 – 2012. I argue that improvements in the driver in the 1990s are primarily responsible for the increase in driving distance in the first period and that the limitations placed on the trampoline effect of the driver face for 1999 by the USGA effectively ended the distance premium from new driver technology. Then, in 2001, the introduction of the three piece ball resulted in additional gains in driving distance until changes in testing procedures in 2003 enabled the USGA to more effectively control golf ball distance. The faster swinging men pros benefited more from the three piece ball than did the women in terms of driving distance, while each benefited equally from the improved driver technology. Fixed effect estimates indicate that there has been some crowding out of shorter drivers by longer drivers on the tours since 1993. [Douglas Coate] Download PDF


Simon Fraser University (Published July 2013)

Using ShotLink data that records information on every stroke taken on the PGA TOUR, this paper introduces a new metric to assess putting. The methodology is based on ideas from spatial statistics where a spatial map of each green is constructed. The spatial map provides estimates of the expected number of putts from various green locations. The difficulty of a putt is a function of both its distance to the hole and its direction. A golfer's actual performance can then be assessed against the expected number of putts. [Kasra Yousefi, Tim B. Swartz] Download PDF


San Diego State University (September 18, 2013)

The convex payoff structure in professional golf rewards scoring volatility, giving rise to player types who succeed in spite of higher average scoring. The same risk incentives should influence all players to adjust risk strategies at key moments in tournaments when payoffs either crystallize or become particularly convex. This paper develops a simple theoretical framework, then explores the empirical evidence for strategic risk adjustment by players over the 2003 – 2012 PGA TOUR seasons. Findings suggest that players respond measurably on average to risk incentives around the cutline, but much less so (if at all) to leaderboard position on the closing holes of a tournament. Both the payoff to risk and the technical capacity of players to add or subtract risk are estimated. Analysis of individual players indicates that some elite players are more risk responsive. Bias (e.g., loss aversion) is discussed along with other possible explanations for the apparent lack of risk response over the closing holes of a tournament. 
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Uppsala University (June 4, 2014)

This paper provides field evidence on the causal impact of past successes, which are assumed to build confidence, on future performances. Since persistence in success or failure is likely to be influenced by individual, potentially time-varying, heterogeneity it is intrinsically difficult to identify the causal effect of succeeding on the probability of succeeding again. We therefore employ a regression discontinuity design on data from professional golf tournaments exploiting that almost equally skilled players are separated into successes and failures half-way into the tournaments (the “cut”). We show that players who (marginally) succeeded in making the cut substantially increased their performance in subsequent tournaments relative to players who (marginally) failed to make the cut. This confidence-effect is substantially larger when the subsequent (outcome) tournament involves more prize money. The results imply that confidence is an important prerequisite when performing high-stakes tasks. Download PDF