Dead Solid Lucky

February 17, 2011

It’s easy to understand the chokehold that putting has on the golfing mind. If you flub a drive or fly the green with a 9-iron, there’s still hope that you can make up for it with a miraculous recovery shot. In contrast, putting delivers a brutal, obvious, and seemingly final judgment. You miss the eight-footer, you drop a stroke. It’s no wonder that Ryan Moore and many of his peers see putting as the skill from which all good things in golf flow

via Does winning a golf tournament come down to skill or luck? – By Michael Agger – Slate Magazine.


The Dark Art of Putting

February 17, 2011

Putting, we’re told, is a dark art of willpower and focus. But putting has accrued such mystique in large part because the stats are a mess. On Tuesday, I explained how Mark Broadie’s shot value allows us to precisely measure how much putting or driving contribute to a player’s score. A team from MIT has built on Broadie’s work by developing a new putting stat for the PGA Tour called “putts gained per round.” It’s similar to Broadie’s shot value but makes a few different decisions in how to set a benchmark putting standard for pro golfers. Putts gained per round is likely to be the stat that brings “moneygolf” to the masses—if all goes according to plan, it should be part of golf’s television broadcasts starting next season.

via A new stat sheds light on the dark art of putting. – By Michael Agger – Slate Magazine.


7 Million Shots

February 17, 2011

Bundled together, those 7 million shots make up the richest dataset in sports. These shots teach us about the dynamics of competition: Do golfers really play worse when Tiger Woods is in the field? They teach us about choking: Do golfers who are in contention on Sunday miss more easy putts? And they help us answer golf-world conundrums that have always floated above the fairway, in the realm of hunches and best guesses: What separates an average pro from a champion?

via Moneygolf: Will new statistics unlock the secrets of golf? – By Michael Agger – Slate Magazine.


Bad Lies

February 17, 2011

Watch a golf tournament on television, and you’ll hear the announcers explain why Tiger Woods or Justin Rose or Ernie Els is in the lead. “He’s tops in the field this week in fairways hit,” they might say. Or perhaps they’ll point to his stellar driving distance, or his amazingly low number of putts per round, or his excellent birdie conversion rate. But none of those statistics—the ones we’re told separate the champions from the also-rans—truly reflects why golfers win and lose. At worst, they’re actively misleading, giving us the wrong impression of why the best players in the game succeed.

via Why most golf statistics whiff and how to fix them. – By Michael Agger – Slate Magazine.


The Shallows

February 17, 2011

In his new book, The Shallows, Nicholas Carr has written a Silent Spring for the literary mind. He begins with a feeling shared by many who have spent the last decade online. “I’m not thinking the way I used to think,” Carr tells us. “I feel it most strongly when I’m reading.” He relates how he gets fidgety with a long text. Like others, he suspects that the Internet has destroyed his ability to read deeply. “My brain,” he writes, “wasn’t just drifting. It was hungry. It was demanding to be fed the way the Net fed it.”

via In The Shallows, Nicholas Carr asks how the Internet is changing minds. – By Michael Agger – Slate Magazine.


The Complete Moneygolf

September 8, 2010

My series on the new golf statistics starts here.


Sam Lipsyte

March 15, 2010

I really liked his new novel, The Ask.

“We walk the halls of Barnes & Noble, lost, pale, and discontent. Surrounded by rows and rows of Nice Writing, we search in vain for a novel that will make us laugh. We gaze fondly at the Amises, remember our dear friend Bonfiglioli, reread the best passages of Scoop and A Handful of Dust, salute Joseph Heller, give Vonnegut a friendly page riffle, and end up where we always do. Right ho, Jeeves.”

More here at Slate.



James Salter

January 22, 2010

Got a chance to correspond with one of my favorite authors, James Salter.

Such Great Heights: The best novel every written about the outdoor life.


Jaron Lanier Is Not a Gadget

January 11, 2010

I reviewed Jaron Lanier’s new book for Slate. He’s not too thrilled about the current state of the Internet. We are all bunch of remixers and rehashers who serve the collective hive mind at the expense of our individuality.


John Updike

December 14, 2009

My pick for the book of the year:

John Updike’s Endpoint is a final burst of fluency from the New England master. Who else could spin a charming poem out of a trip to Best Buy to buy a new computer? “Brave world! The geeks in matching shirts/ talked gigabytes to girls with blue tattoos.” Updike’s lyric gift carried him to the end. His words meet death both obliquely and directly. Read this book late in the evening, with a stiff drink by your side. Then marvel at Updike’s metaphors, like the one about Payne Stewart’s swing: “its aftermath shimmered in the air: dragonfly wings.” Or at his cold-palmed observations, as when studying the departure gate for Florida: “Now, agèd, average, dullish, lame, and halt/ we claim our due, our fun doom in the sun.” And at his gentle knocks on your soul: “Birthday, death day—what day is not both?”

Read the rest of Slate‘s book picks.