Yesterday Brandel Chamblee made an interesting tweet.
In my opinion Brandel Chamblee is the best commentator in golf, and there are only a handful that even come close to him in all sports. However, when I saw this tweet something didn’t seem right. Mainly, how did he measure peak performance? Peak performance is a pretty subjective measure. It could mean the year a player won the most times in his career, or it could be dependent on which tournaments he won. But what if a player never won? Paul Casey has only won twice in his career, how would you determine his peak? Dustin Johnson wins a tournament or two every year, but rarely one that stands out from the rest, so which year did he peak? It would be hard enough to measure peak performance like a couple of players like this, so my question is how did Chamblee manage to do it for entire generations. Until a clarification is made it’s very difficult not to be skeptical of what he’s said.
The second thought was that if what he states above is true then his point is of interest. What other sport can say that today’s best talent is nearly a decade younger than the best talent from 30 years ago? If that’s the case, then what is causing it? Brandel thinks it could be today’s focus on power over short-game. I would certainly believe that. I also think that with how much tournament golf younger players have today through the AJGA then NCAA, they come to the Tour expecting to win like they always have been.
So, how can we know if the numbers that Chamblee tweeted are true. Unfortunately, ShotLink data doesn’t go back as far as the stats from Chamblee’s tweet. So instead, I looked at all event-level data available from ShotLink (back to 1983). Filtering on just players who won an event, I found the average age from each year of players who won, breaking it down by major and non-major, thinking it might be possible that Chamblee tried to measure peak performance around the weight of the tournament being won.
This plot shows that what Chamblee described is likely to be incorrect. While the average winning age may have risen around the early 2000s, there was certainly not a huge dive in age from the early 80’s to now. In fact, the lowest average age of winners from any given year in the above plot never got lower than 30 (that’s when you combine all events together, and don’t break it down by major and non-major). That is nothing like what Chamblee describes. So again, I would be interested to know what data Chamblee was going off of. Was he using any data? I’m having a hard time seeing how he got there based on the data provided by ShotLink.