Even if, like me, you are not that interested in golf you may be aware of Tiger Woods' stuttering return to form after his recent break from the game. Rory McIlroy caused something of a stir because of remarks to the effect that players aren't so intimidated by the once all conquering player. A catty remark? Well, it turns out that there is econometric evidence to support this. It would be interesting to know whether this result generalizes to other domains. For example, in academia, does the presense of a "superstar" cause people to raise or lower their game?
Quitters Never Win: The (Adverse) Incentive Effects of Competing with Superstars
Managers use internal competition to motivate worker effort, yet economic theory suggests that the benefits of competition may depend critically on workers relative abilities- large differences in skill may reduce competitors efforts. This paper uses panel data from professional golfers and finds that the presence of a superstar in a rank-order tournament is associated with lower competitor performance. On average, higher- skill PGA golfers first-round scores are approximately 0.2 strokes higher when Tiger Woods participates, relative to when Woods is absent. The overall superstar effect for tournaments is approximately 0.8 strokes.
The adverse superstar effect increases when Woods is playing well and disappears during Woods' weaker periods. There is no evidence that reduced performance is due to "riskier" play.