Is Tiger Woods Loss Averse? Persistent Bias in the Face of Experience,
Competition, and High Stakes
Devin Pope & Maurice Schweitzer
University of Pennsylvania Working Paper, June 2009
Although experimental studies have documented systematic decision errors, many leading scholars believe that experience, competition, and large stakes will reliably extinguish biases. We test for the presence of a fundamental bias, loss aversion, in a high-stakes context: professional golfers’ performance on the PGA TOUR. Golf provides a natural setting to test for loss aversion because golfers are rewarded for the total number of strokes they take during a tournament, yet each individual hole has a salient reference point, par. We analyze over 1.6 million putts using precise laser measurements and find evidence that even the best golfers - including Tiger Woods - show evidence of loss aversion. On average, this bias costs the best golfers over $1.2 million in tournament winnings per year.
Dominance, Intimidation, and 'Choking' on the PGA Tour
Robert Connolly & Richard Rendleman
Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, May 2009
Extending the work of Connolly and Rendleman (2008), we document the dominance of Tiger Woods during the 1998-2001 PGA Tour seasons. We show that by playing 'average,' Woods could have won some tournaments and placed no worse than fourth in the tournaments in which he participated in the year 2000, his best on the PGA Tour. No other PGA Tour player in our sample could have come close to such a feat. We also are able to quantify the intimidation factor associated with playing with Woods. On average, players who were paired with Woods during the 1998-2001 period scored 0.462 strokes per round worse than normal. Although we find that Woods' presence in a
tourname nt may have had a small, but statistically significant adverse impact on the entire field, this effect was swamped by the apparent intimidation factor associated with having to play with Tiger side-by-side. We also demonstrate that Phil Mickelson's performance in major golf championships over the 1998-2001 period was not nearly as bad as was frequently mentioned in the golf press. Although Mickelson won no majors during this period, he played sufficiently well to have won one or two majors under normal circumstances. Moreover, his overall performance in
majors, relative to his estimated skill level, was comparable to that of Tiger Woods, who won five of 16 major golf championships during our four-year sample period. Thus, the general characterization of Woods as golf's dominant player over the 1998-2001 period was accurate, but the frequent characterization of Phil Mickelson choking in majors was not.
(Nod to Kevin L, who never chokes)