Study: Tiger Woods' superstar status hobbled the competition

December 06, 2011

Tiger Woods's phenomenal talent won him a ton of golf tournaments. But an article published in the latest issue of the Journal of Political Economy shows he has something else going for him: his superstar status hobbles the competition.

According to research by Northwestern University economist Jennifer Brown, when Woods played in a tournament during his heyday, the other golfers' scores were substantially worse compared to tournaments where Woods did not play. Instead of raising their game to play the superstar, golfers facing Woods tended to wilt.

Brown's research is designed to investigate the dynamics of tournament-style competition within companies. For example, a company may reward its top monthly salesperson with some extra money or a prize -- the idea being that competition increases everybody's effort. But what if one salesperson seems to win every month? The others might slack off, knowing they have little chance to take the prize.

Brown's analysis of Woods supports the idea that superstars can be a disincentive to the competition.

She looked at PGA scores from 1999 to 2010 -- years that included Tiger's prime. She found that when Woods played in a tournament, other players shot nearly a full stroke higher -- which in golf means worse. The effect was strongest among the top-ranked players, who would be in direct competition with Woods for the highest payouts.

The poorer play was not due to players attempting longer, riskier shots to try to keep up with Tiger, Brown found. If that were the case, we'd expect to see players hit more eagles (two strokes better than par) and more double bogeys (two strokes worse than par) when playing against Woods, reflecting a high-risk, high-reward strategy. But that's not the case, Brown's research shows. There were significantly fewer eagles and double bogeys when Woods played.

So how much has Woods benefitted from the superstar effect?

"My calculations suggest that Woods's PGA Tour earnings would have fallen from $54.5 million to $48.4 million between 1999 and 2006 had his competitors' performance not suffered the superstar effect,' Brown writes. "By my estimates, Woods pocketed nearly $6 million in additional earnings because of the reduced effort of other golfers -- prize money that would otherwise have been distributed to other players in the field."

The results have implications for businesses that use internal competition to drive incentives, Brown says.

"For example, sales managers and law firms should be aware of the impact of introducing a superstar associate on the cohort's overall performance," she writes.
-end-
Jennifer Brown, "Quitters Never Win: The (Adverse) Incentive Effects of Competing with Superstars." Journal of Political Economy 119:5.

One of the oldest and most prestigious journals in economics, the Journal of Political Economy has since 1892 presented significant research and scholarship in economic theory and practice. The journal aims to publish highly selective, widely cited articles of current relevance that will have a long-term impact on economics research. JPE's analytical, interpretive, and empirical studies in a number of areas - including monetary theory, fiscal policy, labor economics, development, micro- and macroeconomic theory, international trade and finance, industrial organization, and social economics - are essential reading for all economists wishing to keep up with substantive new research in the discipline.

University of Chicago Press Journals

Related Competition Articles from Brightsurf:

Cell competition in the thymus is crucial in a healthy organism
The study published in Cell Reports demonstrates that the development of T lymphocytes lays on the coordination of signals followed by cells in order to ensure the maintenance of a healthy organism.

How sexual competition and choice could protect species from extinction
New research shows that removing sexual competition and choice through enforced monogamy creates populations that are less resilient to environmental stress, such as climate change.

Aging and nutrients competition determine changes in microbiota
Two studies with surprising discoveries: in the elderly, the bacterium E. coli evolves in a way that can become potentially pathogenic and increase the risk of disease and, according to data obtained in another study, the metabolism of the same bacterium present in the microbiota evolves differently if it is alone or accompanied by other bacteria.

Is human cooperativity an outcome of competition between cultural groups?
A study by ASU researchers looks at how culture may have fueled our capacity to cooperate with strangers.

Location and competition
Those of us who drive regularly are keenly aware of gas prices and their daily fluctuations.

Political competition is hurting our charitable giving
As the midterm election heats up and the fallout of the Supreme Court nomination rings across the political divide, a new study presents a unique angle of American politics: how party affiliation affects charitable donations.

For wineries, competition boosts profits from sustainability
An international study of small- to medium-sized wineries and vineyards finds that the more sustainability practices a winery has in place, the better its financial performance -- and the effect is enhanced when a winery perceives significant pressure from competitors.

Outside competition breeds more trust among coworkers: Study
Working in a competitive industry fosters a greater level of trust amongst workers, finds a new study from the University of British Columbia, Princeton University and Aix-Marseille University, published today in Science: Advances.

Step aside Superman, steel is no competition for this new material
When it comes to materials, there is no question as to who wins the strongman competition.

Competition between males improves resilience against climate change
Animal species with males who compete intensively for mates might be more resilient to the effects of climate change, according to research by Queen Mary University of London.

Read More: Competition News and Competition Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.