Truth In Numbers Tour caddie Bob Ming makes stats do tricks

February 16, 1998

Armed with a handheld computer, PGA Tour caddie Bob (Cowboy)
Ming is on a crusade to improve golf stats. "Pros call the
course their office," says Ming, "but they're trying to run
their office without keeping the books."

Many Tour players, especially older ones, are loath to rely on
statistics; the few who believe in numbers don't have many to go
on. The Tour ranks players in 35 categories, but much of that
information is useless.

Consider greens hit in regulation (GIR). That stat offers some
insight into a player's consistency, but Ming can do better. He
keeps track of how often players hit greens with each club, as
well as how close each shot ends to the hole. The upshot is a
stat he calls birdie opportunity rate (BOR): the percentage of
shots for each club that land within 15 feet of the flag.

Ming gets his complex matrix of numbers--including stats on
putting, the short game, approach shots, recovery shots and
driving--by tracking each shot of his player's round, then
generates spreadsheets to reveal the naked truth about his man's
game.

"Cowboy's system is a huge help," says Ming's current employer,
John Riegger, a secondyear Tour pro "If my three-iron layups on
par-5s stink, he'll know and advise me to hit a two-iron." The
chart below shows Riegger's BOR performance in '98.

After graduating from the Columbus (Ohio) Technical Institute,
the 50-year-old Ming worked as a business systems analyst. Golf,
though, was his passion, and in 1983 he left the business world
to pursue a life on the links. After odd jobs at several country
clubs, Ming started caddying on Tour in 1989. He developed his
stat system in '93 in hopes of making himself more employable.

Sometimes pros for whom Ming isn't looping hire him for a
statistical analysis. Soon after Ming evaluated Chris Smith's
game in 1995, Smith won two Nike tour events in three weeks.

"What I offer isn't what most players seem to want--yet," says
Ming. "Eventually everybody will see the light. The only
impartial truth in this game is what the numbers say."

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BURGESS SAGE COWBOY Ming (left) goes by the book with Riegger. [Bob "Cowboy" Ming and John Riegger]

CLUB TOTAL HIT TARGET 6 FEET 9 FEET 15 FEET BOR

3W 4 1 0 0 0 0%
4W 1 1 0 0 1 100%
3I 8 6 0 0 3 38%
4I 5 3 0 0 1 20%
5I 8 6 0 0 1 13%
6I 11 9 1 0 2 27%
7I 9 6 0 1 2 33%
8I 8 7 0 0 3 38%
9I 10 6 0 0 1 10%
PW 11 8 1 2 1 36%
SW 7 6 2 1 0 43%
LW 8 7 0 2 3 63%

Net Effect

A recent survey asked 1,500 golfers to name their favorite golf
Web site.

GolfWeb 59.2%
Golf.com 13.6%
PGATOUR.com 6.8%
iGolf 2.7%
GolfOnline.com 2.0%
Other 4.1%
Don't Know 11.6%

Hawaiian Punch

The last five Hawaiian Open winners averaged a stunning 14 under
par on the four par-5 holes at Waialae Country Club. Here are
the top 10 players on Tour in par-5 performance in '98 who are
scheduled to tee it up this week at Waialae.

TOTAL STROKES
PLAYER UNDER PAR

1. Paul Azinger -27
2. Bob Gilder -25
3. Len Mattiace -25
4. Steve Stricker -25
5. Russ Cochran -24
6. Brent Geiberger -24
7. Jeff Sluman -24
8. Kenny Perry -23
9. Omar Uresti -23
10. Scott Simpson -22

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)