Microsoft’s Making Golf (Even) More Enjoyable to Watch

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On nearly any Sunday during Golf season, you can find me parked on a couch in front of a TV watching the leaders wrap-up the back nine. And if it’s a large tournament, that couch-riding may start on Thursday afternoon. So when Microsoft tells me that they are using their AI to help improve the game, it’s a pitch made in heaven.

Golf is a data-intensive sport and if you are not familiar with the game, here’s why.

The goal of golf to put that little white ball into the small hole but depending on the wind, club selection, ball construction, and my awful swing, this will determine how it flies through the air. Because professional golfers have a very consistent swing (mine is about as stable as a jello mold) means that they can use data to help them find the perfect shot and swing combination to hopefully land a ball on the green depending on the conditions of that day.

We see an analog version of this data tracking with the yardage books that golfers carry but on the other side of the coin, the PGA Tour is also tracking golfers shots. With dozens of players playing in each tournament and roughly 65 shots per golfer per round of golf, the data adds up very quickly.

For presenters, you can use this data to help tell a story about a shot such as the exact swing and club setup Sergio Garcia used to rack up an impressive 13 on the 15th hole of the Masters or how Phil Mickelson chooses from the four wedges in his bag.

As I have written about many times on Petri, Microsoft knows a thing or two about data and analytics and when paired up with this golf data, it creates unique scenarios for telling the story of the game.

The PGA Tour and Microsoft have created the Content Relevancy Engine that uses Azure to track, analyze, and uncover historical clips/content to help the producers of the event broadcast the tournament.

A simple scenario for this is at Augusta National (or any golf course), producers can easily calculate dynamically the probability of a golfer making a putt from any distance. Or using that same scenario, Azure could find a unique pattern of putts from a certain distance that shows no one is making from that location because of hidden breaks or slopes on-demand.

Because there are cameras everywhere on a course and data is entered in real time, it’s often hard to see everything that is happening but by using this information, if it is detected that a player hit a 400 yrd drive to land on the green, that clip can be presented to produces automagically to showcase to the audience without any overhead.

Everything about golf can be reduced to a data-driven decision and because the PGA Tour has been cataloging all this content and Microsoft knows how to intelligently mine the content, it’s going to make watching golf a little bit more enjoyable.

As a golf fan, I quite like this idea and the fact that I can link it into a blog post, makes it an even better day knowing I won’t be able to break out the sticks this afternoon.