Editors' BlogJune 10, 2008

Tiger's handicap...and not his knee

Alex Lavin, Highland Park, Ill., perhaps thinking that Tiger's knee injury makes him vulnerable, send this question.

My friends and I have been engrossed in an argument over the past few days: The score Tiger Woods would shoot at our local course, with a rating of 71.1. The question: If I carry an Index of 0.8 could I come within ten shots of Tiger if we played together. Compelling arguments say I could, yet there is strong support for the other side. Please give us some guidance.

Having had to do a few calculations like this for the Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge, I went to Ron Read of the USGA (he'll be the starter at the Open, as always) and Dean Knuth, our consultant on handicap matters and the former Pope of Slope.

To answer your question, we need a couple of additional pieces of information: Tiger's handicap and the slope of your golf course. A friend in the industry, a scratch player himself, who claims to have calculated this, says Tiger's last 20 tournament scores make him a plus-13. Even if we were to use his ten worst scores instead of his ten best from the last 20, says the friend, he would be plus-8. But let's go with plus-13; he's earned it.

And let's assume the slope of your course is 130, from which we calculate your course handicap. That's done by dividing this slope by the average slope (113). In that case, 130 divided by 113 is 1.15. Multiply that by your 0.8 Index and you get 1.05, or 1. We'll drop Tiger one shot because this course is harder than average. He's now a plus-12.

Things still aren't looking good for you.

--Bob Carney

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