Sports Simulation Board Games

TOURNAMENT MODE IDEA: How To Keep Golf's Biggest Stars from Entering Every Tournament...

Walt Powell checks in with some ideas on keeping golf's top stars from entering every tournament!

Walt Powell joined the PLAAY Games community a couple years ago, and is one of the many gamers who prefers the fictional side of the sports game hobby. Like a lot of us, he has a number of fictional projects going on concurrently. One of Walt's projects is a fictional golf tour with HMG's Pro National Golf cards. "We'll be playing for the PlanetExpressCup. Our four majors will be The Overlords Invitational (Masters), the Planet P Open (US Open), the PGS Championship, and the PERFORMERS Cup (PLAYERS Cup)." Sounds pretty cool!

Walt continues. "Even though I'm using the fictional golfers, I want to get usage correct." He notes that a number of community discussions have popped up on the various forums and social media platforms about how HMG's Tourney Day process gives the top golfers an edge in securing those precious final-round contender positions. Walt, and others, worry that this skews results in such a way that the "Best of the Best" win every tournament.

As I've mentioned a number of times, the tourney day process is as it is by design--it's not a mistake. It's based on my views on the way a majority of people play sports board games. I don't feel compelled to defend it, or make changes to it. However, I'm always open to promoting house rules that placate the as-played crowd! Back to Walt...

"I know not every pro plays in EVERY tournament," Walt notes. "I suspect the real-life 'best' all play in the four majors, and I know the actual PGA requires every member/player to play in at least 15 of the 46 events each year. But, how to determine how many (or few) tournaments each golfer plays in?" Fortunately for all of us, Walt took it upon himself to get some insights on this.

"Checking the actual 2017 PGA FedExCup final standings produced these results...

Walt took this data a step farther, checking the last five PGA seasons, and found the results to be very consistent. The average number of tournaments that the Top 50 players participated in was 23.90, not far off from the 2017 average of 24.16. Going deeper, the Top 100 averaged 24.88 tournaments teed up in. The Top 150 made the rounds of the greens in 24.89 tournaments.The Top 200 drove the fairways in 23.99 tournaments. The most tournaments a single player appeared in over that span: 32 four times, 31 seven times. Fewest played in: 3, 6, 11 twice; and 12 twice (these all were turned in by players in the lower 150-200).

Digesting these numbers, Walt came to some conclusions. "Of the 46 PGA events each year, it is a rare occurrence for any pro to play in more than about half of the events. The best will almost always appear in the four showcase tournaments (The Masters, The PGA Championship, The PLAYERS, and the US Open), but even they rarely play in more than 24 events each year. They also make more appearances in the big money and points tournaments. Lesser players often appear in events where the "Big Guns" DON'T come out to play. Obviously, places like our local John Deere Classic represent a prime opportunity for (lower tier golfers) to make some money and accrue FedExCup points. You see them filling out events where the top players are idle."

Beyond that, Walt says he didn't find anything, statistically speaking, to say who appeared in what and where. "I suspect it's 'players' choice,' based on their work schedule, age, potential face time" before national/international TV audiences, how they view their golf game (attempting to challenge for the Cup, or simply hoping to keep their PGA card) and everything in between."

Using these insights, Walt came up with his own strategy for limiting tournament participation on his fictional golf tour. He randomly assigned each of the 162 PNG golfers a number representing the number of tournaments the golfer would appear in. Older golfers will play in fewer events, younger golfers in more, but overall tournament participation will reflect that magic mean of 24. The top players will ALWAYS be in the four majors. A random draw of lower players will make up the fields for the lesser tournaments."

Walt's distribution was designed to reflect his documented 52% participation frequency. "As in reality, some (of my fictional golfers) will appear in as few as 8 or 9 events; others in as many as 20 or 21. That means I already have about 78 golfers who did not enter an event from the get-go."

"Entries were decided by the roll of a 30-sided die (reflecting 30 events for the season) for each golfer; if it was under his assigned number of tourneys, he entered this one. If it came up higher, he didn't send in an entry form. What remained was a nice 52% random cross-sampling of the graded PNG golfers, which will give lesser golfers a better chance to compete; as it does in reality. That left another 14 who didn't make the cut, and--Voila!--we had our field of 70! It worked nicely and I'm anxious to see what the results look like over the 30-event schedule of the PGS."

A clever solution, and I commend Walt for coming up with it! I think he'll get the results he's looking for, and am looking forward to getting more reports.

Let's consider a couple other things, though, before we leave this discussion. Dialing back to when HMG was in development, I specifically wanted to avoid a process in which you had to roll a die/dice for every golfer in the field, whether it was for tournament standing, final score, or whatever. Basically, you're asking people to make 150+ die rolls before you even begin playing the game. While some hobbyists will love this, others might find it a wee bit tiresome.

So, I thought it would helpful/beneficial to try to come up with an alternative idea for the full-campaign, as-played crowd, one that operates from the basic system already in place. I took Walt's research findings--specifically, that 1) golfers only play about half the year's events; 2)the better golfers pick and choose from the better events; and 3) the second-tier golfers eagerly take the leftovers--and thought about how they might be applied within the context of the existing Tournament Mode process. It's also worth mentioning here that the existing "Making the Cut" portion of Tournament Mode doesn't make a distinction between golfers who miss the cut and those who skip the tournament.

A logical place to start was to rank events based on the size of the purse. I created a spread sheet of the 2018 tour events, and found that it could be pretty easily separated into three tiers. The top tier events had purses of more than $9 million. The bottom tier had purses of less than $7 million. Then I thought about ways to cause the better golfers to gravitate toward the better events. Obviously, the Tourney Day system works as-is for the top events, where the best golfers *should* be expected to show up and give it their best. Any adjustment to the process would need be done for the second and third tier events...

I came up with this idea: suppose we simply altered the Tournament Rating of the better golfers for the poorer tournaments? So, Tiger Woods would be a "1A" for the Masters, but something lower for the middle-tier events and lower still for the bottom tier events. I think this would achieve the desired results without any extra dice rolls, gamer intervention, or decision-making.

Now, any adjustment is going to be arbitrary. As Walt pointed out, there doesn't seem to be any statistical evidence to indicate who should appear where, aside from the broad generalization that the better golfers "cherry pick" the better events. But, let's take a stab at it!...

Obviously there could be more shades of gray here, but I think this is a good starting point. I plan to run the Tourney Day process with the 2000s Stars (base game) cards using these guidelines, for an unspecified "bottom tier" event. I want to test the theory that even with dampened Tournament Ratings, even the bottom tier events should have a sprinkling of "name" contenders, while opening up the majority of the field for the lesser lights. I'll report results here when be continued!

Questions? Comments? Let us know!