AP News

Top ranking points in Europe, but only this month

(AP) — Alvaro Quiros is not well-known in the United States, but that might change. When the Spaniard won in Qatar, he climbed from No. 74 to No. 28 in the world ranking, assuring him a spot in the next two World Golf Championships and most likely the Masters.

As for Chad Campbell?

He was No. 64 in the world, tied for eighth in the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and fell four spots to No. 68. Among those who passed him were Quiros, Qatar Masters runner-up Louis Oosthuizen, Hope winner Pat Perez and Anders Hansen, who tied for 12th in Qatar. Five months after going 2-1 in the Ryder Cup, Campbell is struggling to make the 64-man field for the Accenture Match Play Championship.

This kind of movement - or lack thereof - fuels speculation that the European Tour is where to make gains in the world ranking.

Europe has offered more world ranking points than the PGA Tour the last two weeks, and Qatar was a significant example. Quiros received 54 points by winning in Qatar, while Perez received 32 points for winning the Hope.

No doubt, Europe is getting stronger. It had 18 players in the top 50 in the world at the end of last year, compared with 12 Americans. Passports aside, however, 35 of the top 50 were PGA Tour members, while 24 were full European Tour members.

So while Europe looks stronger at the moment, consider a bigger picture.

Based on the 2008 ratings for strength of field, PGA Tour winners received an average of 50.17 ranking points, compared with an average of 40.65 points for winning on the European Tour.

The eight strongest fields - no surprise here - were the four majors, The Players Championship and the three WGCs. After that, the next 12 highest-rated events were on the PGA Tour. The highest-rated regular European Tour event was the HSBC Champions in China, which was tied with the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook.

Strength of field is calculated by a combination of the players' world ranking and their position on the money list of that tour. The BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth is a flagship event, so the points awarded are higher than if it were a regular tournament.

If last year is any indication, when Europe's ``Desert swing'' ends this week in Dubai, ranking points awarded in Europe might not top what the PGA Tour offers until the end of May.

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CALLING CAPTAIN COUPLES: Fred Couples once famously said that he doesn't answer the telephone because ``someone may be on the other end.'' So how is he getting by as U.S. captain for the Presidents Cup?

With a phone in his hand, but not necessarily up to his ear.

Couples text messaged good friend Davis Love III after his victory at Disney, and Love has been impressed - not only with Couples picking up a new habit, but hanging on to an old one.

``The tour tried to make him do e-mail and iPhone and all that to try to get him up to speed,'' Love said. ``They got him to at least where he's really good with the texting. But you can text him, and then immediately call him, and he still won't answer. So he has not figured out that, 'Wait a minute - we know you've got the phone in your hand.'''

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CAR DEAL: Two months ago, the Northern Trust Open considered renting a fleet of automobiles to use as courtesy cars for the players. Consider its announcement Tuesday to be a major upgrade.

Mercedez-Benz has signed a two-year deal to become the official car sponsor of the Northern Trust Open. Not only will it give every player at Riviera a courtesy car, it will offer a Mercedes GLK 350 to anyone making a hole-in-one on the par-3 14th.

That's where Rich Beem made his ace two years ago, creating one of the more memorable scenes at star-studded Riviera by climbing atop the Nissan and hugging the roof. If Beem is to get a sponsor's exemption, he might want to consider not leaving spike marks.

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PIT STOP TO DUBAI: Brandt Snedeker might join the Race to Dubai, but it probably won't be this year.

Snedeker missed the cut in his European Tour debut (British Open excluded) last week at the Qatar Masters, but it would not have counted toward the minimum 12 starts required because he didn't sign up as an affiliate member before the tournament started.

``We were trying to figure out if he was to join or not, and we decided to hold off,'' said Jimmy Johnston, his agent at Crown Sports.

Snedeker ended last year at No. 64 in the world, so there was no guarantee he would be in the World Golf Championships, and at the moment he is eligible only for the Masters and British Open. The majors and WGCs count toward the 12 events required by Europe.

``More than likely, he won't do anything this year,'' Johnston said. ``Qatar might be his only tournament over there. He's going to be playing his normal schedule.''

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MARRIED LIFE: Pat Perez says the last six weeks have been the best of his life, from getting married Dec. 13 to winning his first PGA Tour event on Sunday. He wonders whether it was a coincidence, for Paul Casey was married one day after Perez and won last week in Abu Dhabi, and Rory Sabbatini won in Phoenix shortly after his marriage.

``I figured I would try it,'' Perez said. ``If not, I can always get divorced.''

He was only kidding.

But moments later, he was asked the name of his bride.

``My wife's name is Athena,'' Perez said. ``She is the Greek goddess of war. And that holds 100 percent true.''

Nick Faldo, who has been down the aisle about as often as he has slipped on a green jacket at Augusta National, read the comments from Perez during the Saturday telecast of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and couldn't help but chime in on Athena's name.

``If she's the goddess of war when you get married, what is she when you get divorced?'' Faldo said. ``I could think of a few words.''

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DIVOTS: The USGA has awarded $5.1 million in grants to support 230 golf programs for 2008 through its ``For the Good of the Game'' initiative. It now has awarded over $63 million over the last 12 years, with $24 million going to The First Tee. ... Brian Gay is the only player to start the year with four consecutive tournaments. He is 44-under par and is 12-of-13 in rounds under par. The exception was a 72 in the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. ... CBS Sports embarks on its 59th year broadcasting golf with the weekend rounds of the FBR Open.

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STAT OF THE WEEK: The Tour Championship last year ranked No. 20 in strength of field on the PGA Tour schedule.

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FINAL WORD: ``I got to a point in my career ... that I was just tired of being average. I was tired of being nobody.'' - Pat Perez.

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