Reflections on The Open for The Ages | NTT DATA

Mon, 03 August 2020

Reflections on The Open for The Ages

The eighth year of NTT DATA’s partnership with The Open also saw COVID-19 turn the sporting world upside down. Right across the board, major sports events, including the 149th Open, were cancelled due to health concerns. Rather than taking a step back this year, as the official IT patron of The Open we wanted to help The R&A create an innovative alternative. So working together we forged a new idea: The Open for The Ages.

Broadcast on 19 July, The Open for the Ages was a 3-hour TV extravaganza for golf fans, pitting past greats like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Jack Nicklaus against each other in a unique virtual tournament in the storied surroundings of the St Andrews course.

In a gripping final round, viewers were left on the edge of their seats as they watched Tiger Woods fail to sink his birdie putt on the 18th hole, ensuring Jack Nicklaus clinched the Claret Jug by just one shot with a beautiful final par.

NTT DATA technology

Sitting behind the dramatic day of golf was a formidable array of technology. We deployed NTT DATA’s expertise in data analysis to examine golfing data from past iterations of The Open at St Andrews from 1970 to 2015. This encompassed a range of sources, from paper scorecard data to more recent radar data. Together, this work enabled us to compile a baseline of performance to compare and assess what the results might have been in a tournament between golf’s greatest players. It was this data, combined with results of a fan vote, that helped inform how the final programme played out.

Whilst not a granular scientific study of the game of golf, NTT DATA proved with The Open for The Ages that a company’s data is a huge asset for creating new and innovative experiences, and engaging new audiences. Our data analysis helped The R&A turn its vast archive of golfing history into a hugely compelling entertainment package to air instead of the cancelled 149th Open.

More than a day


By using AI, highlights creation (a process that usually takes hours of manual work) is completed in a matter of seconds, allowing The R&A to rapidly deliver the kind of bitesize content increasingly sought after by sports fans.

Leveraging unused data

The Open for The Ages serves as an insightful case study for any business responding to rapid change – even one on the unprecedented scale of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ability to rapidly respond to unexpected disruption makes a huge difference for customer engagement, even for industries like sport with a high reliance on income from regular showpiece events.

Above all, The Open for The Ages is testament to the overriding importance of data to business success. An organisation’s data pools, like the archives of The R&A, are often treasure troves of possibilities for customer engagement. Few organisations use the data they already have in the most effective and efficient way. And as the virtual tournament demonstrates, neglected data and digital assets like this can often be transformed into game-changing business assets.

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