Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Churchless Tiger Woods Loses Masters

Back when news of Tiger Woods' numerous affairs first broke, I posted an article about the disbanding of the "First Church of Tiger Woods," an apparently serious religious organization dedicated to the worship of a guy who hits a ball with a stick really well.

I say "apparently serious" because while there's no evidence that the group's website was tongue-in-cheek, I have a hard time believing that anyone could be so stupid as to be involved in such a "church" - and bear in mind I was raised by football fanatics so I've had plenty of exposure to really dedicated sports fans over the course of my life.

While it was operational the Church proposed that its members perform prayers for Tiger Woods - that is, cast spells on his behalf. So as I commented in the original article, the public disbanding of the Church provided the perfect opportunity to start compiling data regarding those spells' effectiveness:

From a practical magical perspective this gives us a perfect situation for empirical research. If these people have really been praying for Tiger Woods all this time, could those prayers have been improving his golf game to paranormal levels? A public announcement like this gives us a clean before and after delineation for our experimental and control samples and golfing statistics are meticulously kept. So we'll be able to see if Woods continues to play as well over the course of the next couple of years without magical support and back up whatever conclusion emerges with hard data.

Our first data point is now in. Tiger Woods returned to golf last week for the Masters tournament and lost to longtime rival Phil Mickelson. NBC Sports commentator Mike Celizic writes:

I’m not saying Tiger is through. That would be absurd. He’s obviously a great golfer, but at the moment, he’s no longer clearly the greatest golfer on the planet.

That title would probably go to Phil Mickelson, who played as perfect a tournament as you could play, collecting his third green jacket in impressive fashion.

Lefty used to be the guy who would always find a way to blow a major. Now Tiger’s doing the things his biggest rival used to do in the big ones: the drive hooked or sliced into the woods, the missed two-footer, the skulled chip shot, the brain cramp at the critical moment.

Referring back to my original article, I noted that there is some empirical evidence that while the Church was in operation Woods' rivals played a little worse than usual against him in tournaments:

As evidence of a possible paranormal influence, take a look at this paper by Jennifer Brown of UC Berkeley. Her data shows that other elite golfers play worse when playing in tournaments with Woods. While Brown puts forth a psychological explanation for the phenomenon, this is also exactly the sort of data you would expect to see surrounding a player who is receiving magical assistance. If somebody casts a spell on you with the intent of enabling you to win some sort of game or contest, not only will you generally do better but your opponents will also do worse than usual.

If last week's Masters was any indication that effect appears to have vanished. Woods still looked good for the most part and finished fourth overall, which would be great for anyone other than the presumed "greatest golfer on the planet." Magick or no magick he's still an outstanding athlete and that's unlikely to change. It's interesting, though, that with the Church gone his remarkable luck seems to have returned to normal and Mickelson's game appears to have improved enough to beat him.

You can call it psychology, you can call it "mystique," but to this ritual magician the effects look just like those of a broken spell. Perhaps the disbanding of his Church has hurt Woods more than he knows.

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Imago said...

Good article, Scott.

Any chance of being able to look up his stats:
1. Before the founding of the Church of Tiger Woods
2. After the founding of the Church of Tiger Woods

We'll have to keep tabs on this...


Scott Stenwick said...

I would have to check, but I believe the original website stated that the Church was founded around the time of Woods' debut as a professional golfer back in 1997. Even at the beginning of his career the media hype about Woods was unbelievable.

As a result, if that's true we really don't have much data about Woods' professional career prior to the establishment of the Church. That's really too bad, because it would be a much more impressive data set if we had a set from before, a set during, and a set after and could compare the three.

ChandraNova said...

Y'know, what you need is a banding together of say 10 - 12 dedicated bastards like us, to take on a team or player whose performance has been uniformly mediocre, and then we set a period to get involved and see if it improves.

THEN we set a date to step back - no harm no foul, just pull out, walk away - and see if it falls by the wayside back to where they were.

Just a thought - leave it to you all to comment or whatever, but all this is theory - maybe TW got sucked in to act out the sexy desires of his unschooled "church" who saw him as their macho-symbol "scorer" by proxy - that would be some epic lulz!

(As an aside, but serious: I deplore the pain caused to his wife, and find the media's gloating on this gruesome and ugly.)

Giania said...

I'm not 100% sure that this is the best subject to test on. Too many other variables, such as people who are undoubtedly praying AGAINST him due to an affront to their morals, and his own internal struggle in the midst of the secular pressure caused by his personal situation, and for that matter, the non-religious but highly hyper-focus on him from a non-religious perspective. I.e. "haters".

I rather like Chandra's idea. Take someone with a pretty solid track record from some sport (preferably not someone ultra famous to rule out competing influence), throw a double-handful or so of dedication at him/her for a period of time, then simply let it go. It'd give a good subject for before-during-and-after comparisons of performance of that player and those around them without so much noise and speculation.