On the 30th September Europe and the United States began to battle it out for the right to be called Ryder Cup champions of 2016.
Europe, under the captaincy of Darren Clarke, will be seeking their fourth consecutive victory, a feat which has never been achieved before, while the US will be hoping to put recent defeats behind them and re-live some of their past glories.
So how will either team go about achieving this? Data analytics could be the key differentiator.
When the players roll out at the Hazeltine National in Minnesota they will have all been fully prepared with data on how they should go about winning.
Both teams have been utilising data expertise in the build up to the Cup with Clarke bringing a team of six data specialists from UK data analysis company 15th Club. This company is an offshoot of 21st Club, a data consultancy that works with football clubs.
Davis Love III, the captain for America, is also using data analytics experts, this time in the shape of Scouts Consulting Group.
But this isn’t the first time Love has used data analysis though, the US team used it in 2014 – and lost. This time around they are going to be using much more sophisticated analysis, according to Love, so perhaps this time it will work.
One front that the US team is already losing on is social media. In 2014 CBR reported that the European Twitter feed had 61.5K followers, while the US team had 51.3K followers.
The good news is that Europe is still winning. Europe has 151K followers while the US is lagging behind with 129K.
There are warnings about over reliance on data. The statistics could say that on the 16th hole the most successful clubs to use are driver, followed by a 5 iron and a putter, but there are so many different factors involved such as position on the green, the time of day, wind strength, driver distance of the player, fatigue, pressure, nerves.
Statistics and data analytics can only play a small part in the game when there are so many variables that current technology cannot really calculate.
That’s not to write the whole thing off as a fad, more to dampen expectations that the use of data analytics is going to be the most important factor.
What the use of data analytics plays to is the philosophy of ‘marginal gains’ which Sir David Brailsford championed to great success with the British Olympic cycling team. Essentially, it is not one single factor that will win the race but if everything is broken down and improved by 1% then combined it creates a significant difference.
For golf then the idea is to increase the chances of hitting the ball in the right place, of choosing the right club and so on.