The Proof is in the Putting

Jason Day reached the pinnacle of golf on March 27th, 2016 becoming the number one ranked golfer in the world. A significant contribution to Day’s success was his putting throughout his stretch of PGA Tour wins in 2015 and 2016. Starting with the RBC Canadian Open, Jason Day had the TaylorMade Ghost Spider Tour in the bag when he edged Bubba Watson by one stroke to hoist the trophy on that final day of the tournament. Following that win, Day notched three more wins in 2015, most notably his first ever Major at the PGA Championship. The trend continued for Day in 2016, adding three more wins to his repertoire. It would be ill-advised to assume that just one golf club is the sole reason for Day’s success, but the numbers don’t lie. A new statistic, adopted in 2011, tracks the amount of strokes gained through putting. created a statistic that measures the probability of making each putt based on distance and assigning a certain value to each distance. provides an example below of how Strokes-Gained Putting is measured:

Let’s say a golfer has an 8-foot putt, which the stats say a player should make 50 percent of the time. The putt is given a value of 1.5. If the golfer makes it, he/she gains 0.5 strokes on the field. If the golfer misses it, he/she loses 0.5 strokes on the field (Golf WRX 2016).

Essentially, the longer the putt, the higher the amount of strokes gained on the field. Unfortunately, based on the information provided, the statistical analysis could only go as far back as 2004. For those unfamiliar with the PGA tour, Tiger Woods had a run of 264 consecutive weeks as the world number one in golf from 1999-2004 (Golf Today). Had Strokes-Gained Putting existed during that run, this article may have a far different focal point.

Listed below is a chart of the Strokes-Gained Putting for each of the world number one golfers from 2004-2016:

The spread is astonishing. Prior to 2016, no one had even topped 0.97 Strokes-Gained. Not only did Jason Day top the 1.0 mark, but he cleared it by 0.13, which is the largest spread between any two consecutive golfers listed. Tiger Woods, whom arguably has the greatest career any golfer on this list, is nearly 0.3 strokes behind Day. Given the information provided, it can be inferred that Jason Day, statistically, had the greatest putting season ever. It is beyond a mere coincidence that Day’s putting performance sky-rocketed since switching to the TaylorMade Ghost Spider Tour, and other tour pros are noticing.

Rookie golfer Jon Rahm, of the TaylorMade team, captured his first win on tour at the Farmers Insurance Open, sealing the win by sinking a 60 foot eagle putt on the 18th hole. Yet again, the TaylorMade Ghost Spider Tour contributed to a tour victory. Current world number one golfer Dustin Johnson, whom has been a part of the TaylorMade team since 2007, previously had a Titleist Scotty Cameron putter in his bag up until the 2016 season when he too made the switch to the Ghost Spider Tour. Upon switching putters, the current number one and number two golfers in the world are now both carrying TaylorMade’s masterpiece in their arsenal. Once again, no single club will win a golf tournament, but the question has to be asked what makes this putter so special.

The TaylorMade Ghost Spider Tour has a few key features that differentiate it from the competition. The putter has a Pure Role™ system on the face of the putter that helps the golf ball maintain its line through the putt. As stated on, the putter, “… features a redesigned seamless crown as well as vibration dampening foam between the body and frame for enhanced feel and audio feedback.”  Below is an image breakdown of the Pure Role™ system:

The Ghost Spider Tour also features two counter-balance weights at the back of the putter head to provide an even weight distribution. Needless to say, this putter is one of the most innovative on tour. TaylorMade, having the number one driver on tour for years, now has a seat at the table for the argument of the best putter on tour. With three wins in 2017 already, the Ghost Spider Tour is on a roll, with no signs of stopping.

Sanders, Peter. “Did Jason Day just have the best putting year of any Tour pro ever?” Golf WRX. 12 November 2016.

Red Bull Air Race Returns to San Diego


San Diego is an epicenter of sports and sporting events. The events cover a wide variety sports and the city frequently hosts events which fall well outside of the traditional sports arena / park.

This weekend the Red Bull Air Race tour returned to San Diego for the first time since 2009. The weekend was full of tricks, turns, and speeds which are, frankly, hard to conceptualize / understand from the ground. The sky was the standard California bright blue and the sun was as expected, shining!

As we progress through the Sports MBA program, it’s clear that from now on, we can never attend sports events without a critical eye! Everything we have learnt so far adds an element of question, inquiry, and evaluation when we attend these events. Being based in San Diego, this gives us endless valuable opportunities to put our knowledge to the test and allows us to expand our learning in the real outside environment, not just the classroom.


Warning Track Power: SMBA ’18 Visits Athelytix Precision Sports Analytics

Earlier this week SMBA ’18 headed to Athelytix to meet with CEO Jim Chase and CMO Norb Seufert to demo The GRID Hitting System. This system is a part of the Athelytix precision sports analytics offered for training and entertainment to deliver meaningful performance improvement to athletes at all levels. According to WinterGreen Research, the sports analytics market is expected to grow $4.7 billion worldwide by 2021 which places Athelytix in a unique position to make analytics available to the masses.

The newly patented system offers bi-directional laser object detection to capture accurate real-time data where competitors can only track a single direction. The precise measurement and predictive analytics calculate velocity, trajectory, distance and location while HD video captures biomechanics and synchronization. This is all sent to the cloud where the results are immediately analyzed and can be compared over time on their web platform or free mobile app. This system can also be expanded to many other sports besides baseball/softball including golf, soccer, and hockey.

Before SMBA ’18 stepped into the cage, the San Diego Padre’s field dimensions were loaded into the system allowing the students to see how they stack up in a big-league park. Thanks to Athelytix for getting SMBA ’18 into the cage to demo this system and track our performance in the process.

The Pure Imagination Behind the Penguins Golden Ticket Promotion

In the corporate partnerships space, truly disruptive ideas are a rarity.  For SDSU Sports MBA alumnus Jack Tipton (SMBA ’06), Director of Partnership Marketing with the Pittsburgh Penguins, conceptualizing groundbreaking new ideas is how he approaches his day-to-day.  “I’m always looking to push the envelope,” says Tipton,  “Go big or go home!”

Tipton, after all, had the idea to create a draft of MMA fighters (and get it sponsored) when he was with the International Fight League.  He partnered with Muscle Milk on their first national sports sponsorship.  He created the one of the first 5Ks that ended inside a baseball stadium (at home plate) with the Pirates 5K Home Run, which has been replicated across the industry. 

It seemed fitting, then, that his first full season with the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins coincided with the club’s 50th anniversary.  Jack’s big idea for the team’s golden anniversary season is perhaps his finest achievement yet, and he joined us on the podcast to discuss the creation and implementation of his groundbreaking idea for the Penguins Golden Ticket promotion.

Last August, during his annual visit with the SDSU Sports MBA students in San Diego, Jack discussed the nascent idea for a 50th anniversary promotion and his vision for how it could align corporate partners with fans in an engaging way.  His plan was to create 50 tangible golden tickets that fans could win throughout the 50th anniversary season.   One lucky winner randomly selected from the group of 50 golden ticket recipients would receive a pair of lower bowl Penguins season tickets for 20 years.

The B2C business has evolved substantially in the 50 years since Raold Dahl invented the the golden ticket contest to find an heir to inherit Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, so it’s natural to assume that Tipton’s golden ticket idea would be much more intricate than Wonka’s.   It should be stated, for the record, that the real Tipton has a sizable competitive advantage over the fictional Wonka, inasmuch as Tipton holds a sports-focused MBA degree from SDSU Sports MBA.  [Wonka’s higher education credentials are absent in both Dahl’s story and its various cinematic adaptations.]

Tipton set out to ensure his idea would deliver much more value to Mario Lemieux and Ronald Burkle and ownership within the Penguins front office, so a significant number of golden tickets were sold to Penguins corporate partners, thus ensuring that each partner in possession of one could hold his or her own contest to determine a winner.  

As Tipton discusses on the podcast, the promotion gained significant traction as partners seized the opportunity and leveraged their golden tickets all season long, adding prizes of their own and generating season-long media attention and social media buzz. 

For a bank looking to leverage affinity for the Penguins to gain local market share, offering a golden ticket to Pittsburghers engages your current clients and collects data to prospect new ones.   Key Bank even added in a fully stocked party suite for 40 to its golden ticket contest.  

Photo via

Whatever your company’s specific marketing objective, the Penguins Golden Ticket promotion could be a fit.  PPG Paints, the naming rights partner of the Penguins’ arena used their golden ticket to increase foot traffic in their 18 local stores.  

Penguins fans could use the Dunkin’ Donuts app to win a golden ticket and free coffee for a year, and activated their sponsorship using Iceburgh, the Penguins mascot. Consuming specific brands of everything from coffee to meatballs to potato chips or other potato chips in the Pittsburgh area all season long meant chances to win a golden ticket along with other prizes.  A golden ticket could even be yours if you attended one of those “painting with a glass of wine” classes in the Pittsburgh area.  Throughout the season, fans made targeted purchases, handed over personal information, and visited retail locations, all while partners enjoyed the halo effect of their relationship with the defending Stanley Cup champions.

The promotion was a unequivocal success for the Penguins organization, its fans, and its corporate partners.  As Jack’s friend and former classmate, I applaud Jack’s organization for their 2016 title, securing Jack a championship ring and affording his son the opportunity to pose for a photo in the Stanley Cup.  As the director of an MBA program, however, I’m even more thrilled to celebrate his game-changing business idea that will be used as a case study in our Sports Marketing courses for years to come.  

Use the links below to hear Jack Tipton (SMBA ’06) discuss the Penguins Golden Ticket promotion on the Sports MBA Podcast.


Direct Download

Web Link

For more information on the Sports MBA program at SDSU, contact us at or (619) 594-5566.

Enjoy the podcast!

-Scott Minto (SMBA ’06)