In nearly all sports, athletes are frequently placed in pressure-filled situations. The way the athlete responds to that stress is a key determinant of whether the competition is won or lost. As a result, athletes often gain a positive or negative reputation based on their past performances in this type of situation. An athlete who handles the pressure well and who actually performs in a manner that is better than his typical performance is cast as a clutch performer. One who lets the pressure impact him in a negative way is referred to as a choker. In this paper, we wish to examine this phenomenon in the sport of golf, specifically regarding the professional golfers on the PGA Tour. There are three main pressure scenarios that we will consider: the pressure of the last round of a tournament, the additional pressure of the last round of a tournament when in contention, and the pressure of being near the cut line. In an attempt to classify each golfer as a clutch performer or a choker, we considered creating both a function and an index for each player. Upon examining the advantages and disadvantages of each, we determined that the index approach was best. Three choking indices were created for each player, one that details a golfers tendency in the last round of a tournament and two that detail a golfers tendency when in contention going into the last round of a tournament. A choking index that describes a player’s performance near the cut line was left for future consideration. All three indices were generated using various types of hypothesis testing. Proposals for additional future work are also included.
S. Smith Proposal (PDF)