Debate: Will Miguel’s Tour aces record ever be broken?

Four years ago Miguel Ángel Jiménez broke the record for the most holes-in-one on the European Tour after recording his tenth career ace at the BMW PGA Championship.

Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain celebrates winning the Senior Open Presented by Rolex

But will the Spaniard’s exemplary record ever be beaten? 

We asked 15th Club, leaders in golf statistics, to weigh up the arguments for and against.

Yes – Justin Ray, 15th Club Head of Content:

In an era where we have seen scoring records shatter across the world of golf, it’s tough to imagine that Miguel’s record number of aces will last forever.

Considering the heightened advancements in technology, course maintenance and player abilities, it’s no big surprise that we witnessed the first sub-60 round in European Tour history by Oliver Fisher last year. Jason Day became the first player to win a major at 20 under or better at the 2015 US PGA Championship – then Henrik Stenson joined him the following summer at The Open.

In 1996, the great Colin Montgomerie was the European Tour Player of the Year and held a season scoring average of 70.3. Last season, 26 players finished with a season scoring mark of 70.3 or lower. In line with those continued scoring trends across the sport, it only makes sense that Jiménez’s record will eventually fall.

The growth of the European Tour itself lends to this record being broken, too. The 2019 Race to Dubai has 47 official events – that’s up from 41 events 20 years ago, and just 26 events 40 years back. More events lead to more opportunities, more holes played, and invariably, more holes-in-one

Miguel quote

Miguel has long been one of the most beloved players in the world – his penchant for entertaining fans through both his play and personality has made him one of the most unique characters in golf over the past several decades. Maybe nothing best emphasizes this one-two punch better than his hole-in-one record: pinpoint iron accuracy, a flair for the dramatic, and the inevitable dance that follows. It’s tough to be shackled by the troubles of the world when watching Jiménez play golf.

Earlier this season, Jiménez became the second player in European Tour history to surpass 700 career tournaments played. As athletes learn more about how to prolong their careers, I believe that number will be matched, and surpassed, in the years to come. In that vein, another one of Miguel’s records should fall someday: Jiménez is the only player in European Tour history to win after turning 50. I predict he’ll have company in that club by the end of the next decade.

Records, after all, are made to be broken. I bet even Miguel could raise a glass of red to that.

No – Chase Warren, 15th Club Quantitative Analyst: 

Playing the devil’s advocate, let’s dive in to how much golf ‘The Mechanic’ has played on the European Tour. During the years he played most, from 1989-2015, Jiménez competed in 662 European Tour events, or 24.5 events per year during that 27-season span. In total, that adds up to 2,330 stroke play rounds since 1983.

Since we don’t have hole-by-hole scoring data before 1999, we can use a theoretical exercise to see just how unlikely it is for a player of Miguel’s longevity to reach ten holes-in-one. Let’s assume – for simplicity’s sake -that there are on average four par three holes per round played. That means that in his European Tour career, Jiménez has played roughly 9,320 par three holes. Throw in his 13 match play events and that number is probably closer to 9,500.

I have included a chart below of the probability of making an ace on the European Tour since 1999. Random chance will dictate year-to-year variability of this number, but we’ve seen a range between .03% and .06% per shot, with a median value of .04%.

Graphic 1

Assuming that Jiménez had an average chance of .04% to make an ace on any given tee shot throughout his career, the probability that he’d end with fewer than ten holes in one after 9,500 par three holes played is 99.4%.

In other words, if we had a time machine that told us Colin Montgomerie would end up with nine career European Tour holes in one, and that Jimenez would play 9,500 career holes in an effort to catch him, we would have assigned him about a .06% chance of achieving ten or more. Further, if we use these estimates to simulate Jiménez’s career 500,000 times, the results show that he would average 3.8 holes in one over 9,500 chances. In total, we see a 70% chance that he ends up between two and five career aces.

Chase Warren quote

As the odds of making an ace are so small - a determining factor in how many holes in one a player makes over their career is luck - the player that gives themselves the most opportunities will have the best chance to top Miguel on this list. Given that we’ve not seen anyone with Jimenez’s longevity in the history of the European Tour (other than Sam Torrance), it will take incredible commitment and fortune over a 30-year span to match what Jimenez has done.

Just as he is the outlier of the golfing world with his patented style and attitude that makes him so fun to watch, it’s fitting that he will end his career as the outlier of this data set as well.

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