Acting On The Data

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 10.1.2016

Dustin Johnson finally broke through in 2016. After years of finishing second or third he finally won a major and was the 2016 PGA of America Player of the Year.  It wasn’t a new coach or club but use of analytics that apparently made the difference.

dustin-johnsonAccording to an article by GeekWire.com, Johnson’s use of Trackman helped him improve his wedge game from 53rd to 4th among those on tour. That’s a huge jump and it was made because Johnson was exposed to the data and then acted upon it.

This is important not just for athletes but for everyone. Finding the data and analyzing it are steps one and two. But it is step three, what to do about it, is the step that most people screw up on. Johnson didn’t.

Johnson had been so close so many times in major tournaments that it would have been easy for him to pass it off as ‘bad luck’ or ‘it’s not your day’ but he didn’t. Being the competitor that he is, he worked at that part of his game to the point that it put him over the top and made him the 2016 PGA of America Player of the Year.

Golf is in the midst of a youth movement. Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth among others are all under 30. They have come up in a time of massive amounts of instant data ranging from the angle of their swing to information about their health. Acting on that data is proving to be the tipping point between winning a major and having a top 10 finish. That difference is a difference in millions of dollars.

Big Data In College Football

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 9.10.2016


Rukkus, a ticket selling website, showed what you can do when you sit down and comb through the data. Some of this shouldn’t be surprising like the fact that Hawaii leads everyone in how far players have to travel to go to school there. Some of the other stats may surprise you though.

One of the things that made total sense is that Stanford was second. Stanford has to recruit a certain kind of ‘student-athlete’ and Stanford is that place where they truly are ‘student – athletes’. So the Cardinal has to go all over the country to find their players.

Navy, Army, and Air Force pretty much the same deal as Stanford. A certain type of person is going to go to these Academies. This is why all 3 are in the top 12.

Nor Cal

The one that did raise an eyebrow but it really shouldn’t when you think about it was the fact that the PAC-12 has 11 of the top 24 spots on the list. Surprising because you really never think of it but not surprising in that when you get out west, things are little more spread out than they are in the south.

Overall this was a really impressive use of data in sports. A lot of times people look at data within the context of the sport itself or they find another sport and transfer over that data. Other times data like this is glossed over and used a bumper on ESPN College Gameday into the ‘feature’ on a player or coach.

imageNow compare this to the ESPNFC article from the other day that pondered the question, if your NFL team was in the Premier League, what team would they be?

Really? This is what you are bringing to the table ESPN?

A ticket selling site gives us great use of big data and ESPN throws out this? Really disappointing.

Data like this can be used to draw so many other conclusions. Last 5 College Football National Championships have been won by Florida State, Alabama (3) and Ohio State. They are only a few spots from each other (59, 63 and 67) or have players who are 400 to 367 miles on average away from home. Oregon and Oklahoma are the only two schools in the top 48 who have made the College Football Playoff and neither won the National Title. Those players travel some 1,000 (Oregon) and 515 (Oklahoma) miles to go to school at these universities.

This is a great use of data. It’s intriguing, can help put things in a new perspective and help coaches, players and fans know their schools just a little bit better. Biggest shock, this wasn’t ESPN, CBS, NBC or FOX that came up with this.