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Little to choose between Tiger and Rory at the Masters

by Aidan Elder | April 4, 2012

Rory McIlroy goes Tiger Woods hunting

Tiger Woods versus Rory McIlroy
The old master versus the young pretender.
The fallen angel versus the (pretty much) squeaky clean angel.

There are more than two players contesting this week’s U.S. Masters, but don’t be surprised if those guys are left scrapping it out for crumbs of airtime. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy aren’t quite the only show in town, but you’ll be hard-pressed to hear too much being talked about the other 98 percent of the field.

For the first time since Woods’ euphemistic ‘difficulties’ and prolonged slump, the pair meet as leading fancies for a Major. Much of McIlroy’s rise up the rankings has been done in the absence of a peak-form Woods, But now he faces Tiger playing at a level that’s something other than vaguely shambolic (and our infographic has catalogued some of that). Both players are in form and there’s few ready-made excuses. Talk of it being a two-horse race isn’t accurate, but the two lead the betting and their fortunes over coming days will have huge bearing on the destination of highly coveted tailoring.

Rory and Tiger US Masters Betting

The statistics tell us there’s very little to choose between the two. If one has strengths in certain areas, the other holds the advantage in another aspect, and overall it broadly levels outs. Tiger holds a commanding lead when it comes to drive accuracy. That will surprise many because in the last couple of years he has developed a reputation as being about as accurate as a Twitter transfer rumour. He finds the fairway with his drives a shade under 70 percent of the time (67.94), whilst Rory just about sneaks into the sixties (60.74).

A better performance off the tee also feeds into Woods’ superiority in the Greens In Regulation stats. He manages to get onto to dancefloor in the ideal number of shots roughly about five percent of the time more often than his Northern Irish rival. And for fans of actual evidence, that equates to a GIR percentage of 71.85 for the great American adulterer to 66.67 percent for young, innocent Rory.

Tiger holding the upper hand when it comes to driving distance is no real surprise, but the skinny margin of the advantage will raise a few monobrows. Tiger manages a healthy average whack of 298 yards, but Rory’s curls must be the source of some Samson-like strength. Despite being the slighter and less angry-looking man, McIlroy also hits a mean ball and on average, finds himself less than half a Peter Crouch behind Woods at an average of 297 yards per drive.

Performance on the green somewhat turns the received wisdom on its head. Rory’s putting has been cited as an Achilles heel, whilst Tiger is often painted as the deadly accurate ‘Robin Hood with a putter’, particularly when it comes to putts under pressure. The data so far this year tells us Rory has performed better on the dancefloor in some key areas. He’s more accurate from distance of five-to-10 feet, 10-to-15 feet and takes a higher percentage of his birdie (or better) opportunities than Woods.

You can’t jump to too many conclusions based on the stats. There are so many other variables that will come into play over the four days of Augusta. The weather, course conditions and what side of the bed Tiger snuck out of that morning will have a big bearing on how the tournament shapes up. However, there’s clearly not a whole lot to choose between Woods and McIlroy and that’s sets us up nicely for an intriguing few days in Georgia.

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