The Miracle at Medinah
The Ryder Cup was about as exciting as golf can get. Down 10-6 going into the last day, the European team eked out a 14.5-13.5 victory.
The headline in USA Today reads “Europe Rallies for Miraculous Ryder Cup Win.” The Ryder Cup website calls it the “Miracle at Medinah.”
So how miraculous was the outcome from a statistical perspective?
Europe needed to win eight of twelve matches for a victory. (If the teams tied, Europe got to keep the trophy, so it is considered a European win.) Let’s assume that each of the pairings was an even match. Then the likelihood that Europe wins after being down 10-6 after two days is given by the binomial distribution: what is the likelihood of at least 8 heads coming up if you flip a fair coin 12 times.
The answer is about 19 percent.
Not exactly the stuff of miracles, but fun nonetheless.