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Pope Of Slope

The Gatesgate Scandal

Bill Gates already has an unbelievable number attached to his name his $18 billion fortune. Recently at a charity golf tournament near Seattle, the Microsoft mogul posted two more unreal numbers: He shot an 87 with a 30-handicap to finish low net winner.

"That's statistically inipossible," maintains Dean Knuth of the U.S. Golf Association. "A 30 cannot shoot an 87. He cannot."

As a warning for all the fudgers, gonifs, and sandbaggers out there with silicone scorecards, Knuth laid out the odds on your terrific scores actually jibing with your handicaps:

The odds are 1 in 200 that you'll beat your handicap by three strokes.

Beat it by five strokes, it's 1 in 570.

The odds for going 10 under are 1 in 82,000.

For Gates' score, Knuth is talking 1 in 1,000,000, and the rest of us are shouting fraud.

"Bill did not know his handicap," Knuth offers. "They gave him a nurnber, or he said it. Statistically, he's probably a 19."

And just what did Mr. $18 Billion win? When the dust settled on the Richard Karn's Seattle Star Days golf event at Willows Run, the triumphant Gates had won a box of balls, a big-screen TV, a set of Wayne-Dalton garage doors and ah, gee, some computer software.

Next time Bill Gates tells you about his 30-handicap, tell him to reprogram his computer.

More on Gatesgate

In the October Digest ("The Gatesgate Scandal"), Dean Knuth is quoted as saying the odds are 1 in 200 that you beat your handicap by three strokes, 1 in 570 that you beat it by five strokes and 1 in 82,000 that you beat it by 10 strokes. I suggest Dean check the batteries on his calculator. If the odds are 1 in 200 that you beat your handicap by three strokes then Greg Norman would shoot a 66 once in every 200 rounds. It would also mean that your garden-variety, 18-handicapper would be a model of consistency, shooting within two strokes of his handicap more than 90 percent of the time.

As far as 10 under goes, I'll bet nearly everyone with a handicap of more than 15 has done it at least once and in a lot fewer than 82,000 rounds. I don't have any idea what Bill Gates' handicap is, but it's pretty clear ol' Dean is the wrong guy to calculate it. He is statistically challenged.

STEVE HOLSTON
LAKEWOOD, CALIF.

Dean Knuth, senior director of handicapping at the U. S. Golf Association, responds:

"First off, if Greg Norman had a USGA handicap index in 1995, his level of play equated to a plus 7.5. That is to say, 7.5 strokes better than a scratch golfer. The average USGA course rating is approximately 71, so Greg's better-half scoring average would be 63.5."

"On tour, the courses are set up to a course rating of about 76 on the more difficult stops. There his best average would be 68.5. To beat his handicap index by three strokes, he would have to shoot 60.5 on the average course (that we play), or 65.5 on the strong tour course. (Note: The average tour player is a plus 3.5)."

"With respect to the garden-variety 18-handicapper, he or she averages three strokes over his or her course handicap and plays to it only 25 percent of the time. Beating your handicap by three strokes or more twice in tournaments becomes such a rare event that Section 10-3 of the USGA handicap system automatically reduces the player's USGA handicap index. Less than 1 percent of the golfers are reduced under that procedure, so it is an uncommon event, except by the sandbaggers of the links. However, it is true that the size of the handicap index does affect the probability of making a low net score."

"I have been called a number of things, but never before 'statistically challenged.' I scored a perfect 800 on the math section of my SAT test in high school, graduated from the Naval Academy and got a masters in systems technology. USGA statistics are based on a database of millions of scores and were worked out by our handicap research team of statisticians, mathematicians and professors. "

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