Tiger Woods' 2019 Masters triumph seems even more unlikely when tracking his win probability that day
Golf fans are well aware of how unlikely Tiger Woods' 2019 Masters win was based on everything that happened leading up to the tournament, most notably four back surgeries including a last-resort spinal fusion. But to fully understand how unlikely it still was during the tournament's final day, you need math experts.
Filling that description—and filling our time with no live golf to watch—are the good people at Data Golf. And on Wednesday, the website provided a reminder of how wild and wacky that memorable Sunday at Augusta National was by linking to its archived win probability chart. You can see it briefly in the tweet below, but it's better when you go to the actual site.
OK, let's dive in. When the day started, Francesco Molinari had a two-shot lead over Woods and Tony Finau with the three playing in the final group because of tee times being moved up due to a bad weather forecast. According to Data Golf, Molinari, who had beaten Woods head-to-head to win the 2018 Open Championship and had won the month before at Bay Hill, began the day with a 38 percent chance of winning. Woods had the second-best chance at 16.9 percent.
Things looked bleaker for Woods after back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 4 and 5. He was down to 11 percent while the steady (for now) Molinari climbed to 57.3 percent.
With a two-shot swing on No. 7, Woods jumped to 23.8 percent while Molinari fell to 37.5. But after a bogey on the 10th, Woods fell back to 13.8 percent to Molinari's 51.3. And it was about to get worse.
Molinari's reached its peak—or "Mt. Molinari" as Data Golf calls it—of 64.1 percent (Woods at 16.5) after both players par 11 (Woods' par from right of the trees after his worst tee shot of the day can't be overlooked) and following Brooks Koepka dumping a tee shot into Rae's Creek on No. 12. Of course, Molinari was about to follow suit.
Things flipped in a hurry following Molinari's disastrous double bogey to Woods' par on the iconic par 3. There was now a three-way tie atop the leader board at 11 under with Woods, Molinari and Xander Schauffele and Tiger now had a slight edge at 30.8 percent, according to Data Golf's model:
But things were far from over! Patrick Cantlay eagled 15 to emerge as the favorite. Then Schauffele took pole position after a birdie at 14. Bedlam on the back nine at Augusta National!
Again, though, it was far from over with Koepka and Dustin Johnson making late runs to eat away at the leaders' win probability. There was a five-way(!) tie at 12 under as Woods and Molinari made their way to 15. But that's when the (now) 15-time major champ seized control for good with a two-putt birdie to take the outright lead for the first time as Molinari's second double bogey in four holes all but ended his chances of winning for a second time in the past three majors.
You know what happens next. Tiger nearly aced the 16th hole to grab a two-shot lead and his win probability only skyrocketed from there on his way to claiming a fifth green jacket. What a scene!
But tracking the action through this graph may have been even more exciting. OK, so that's a stretch. But we can probably agree that seeing math in action has never been so much fun.
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