Breaking IBM Watson

Masters 2019: Tiger Woods challenges Artificial Intelligence, too

April 14, 2019

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tiger Woods 2.0, or whatever version won the 2019 Masters in a more subdued manner than we remember, not only beat Francesco Molinari and Brooks Koepka (and the storm that swept into Augusta on Sunday afternoon), but he challenged the Artificial Intelligence of IBM Watson.

This year for the first time, the Masters used enterprise-grade AI to capture every shot by all 89 players in the field to produce a three-minute highlight video for Masters.com almost instantly at the end of each round. Even more fascinating, the IBM Cloud stored and integrated data for each shot measuring the Crowd Roar and Player Gestures—hand, arm and facial movements—to create an overall excitement score. Tiger's crowd roars were typically louder than everyone else’s even on tap-ins, so IBM had to design the system to take into account Tiger-size crowds relative to other players' galleries.

At least four of his shots in the last round scored a perfect 1.0 in crowd reaction: his short putt for a bogey to win on the 18th green, and his birdie putts on the third, 13th and 16th—all remarkably short considering the bombs he’s made in his career. Tiger’s highest score—another 1.0—in Player Gestures was on 18 when he jumped, pumped, hugged and danced off the green. His next highest Player Gesture score was on his approach shot to the seventh green, setting up another birdie; he got a .82.

The highest non-Tiger excitement score of the week belonged to Bryson DeChambeau’s hole-in-one at the 16th during Sunday’s final round. The Crowd Roar was .94 on a 1.0 scale, and Bryson’s body and facial reactions scored a perfect 1.0.

As anybody who watched on Sunday could see, Tiger was Mr. Cool throughout the round—rarely gesticulating or getting excited as he tacked his way around the course with Nicklausian conservatism, putting himself in a position to win and waiting for the rest to retreat. If it were a presidential campaign, Tiger might have been called Low Energy. But the strategy worked even as Tiger’s calm demeanor set fan reaction off the charts.

IBM analysts in the back room at Masters Digital admit: Tiger simply moves the needle like nobody else.

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