Tuesday, December 20, 2011

European PGA Money Leaders in the PGA

Luke Donald's unprecedented finish at the top of the money list for the European PGA and the PGA tour had me wondering about how rare an event this feat is, and what might be expected for the future.

In the graph above, I show the PGA tour money list ranking of the player who finished first on the European PGA Tour (the data comes from here for EPGA and here for PGA). The data starts in 1994, because in 1993 the European PGA Tour money winner, Colin Montgomery, did not place in the PGA Tour rankings. It has often been the case over the recent decade that the top PGA Tour money winner did not place in the European PGA rankings, e.g., Tiger Woods.

What you see in the graph above is a trend -- hardly linear -- over the past 17 years of improved performance by the European PGA Tour money winner in the PGA, culminating with Luke Donald's unprecedented double.
In 1990s the European PGA was dominated by Colin Montgomery whose PGA successes were modest at best. The early 2000s saw Retief Goosen and Ernie Els, both of whom played golf globally. In 2004 Els almost achieved the double, with a first in Europe and third in the US. Recent years have seen the European PGA Tour money winner in the top 50 of the PGA.

What accounts for the trend? Probably money -- larger purses on both sides of the Atlantic and greater ease in accessing that money, as more and more top golfers find the logistics of travel less onerous than they once were (e.g., private jets), though tiring nonetheless.

Will we see another double?  I suspect so, and I'd guess sooner rather than later.


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