Golf's World Ranking has a major problem

Wednesday June 20th, 2012
World No. 1 Luke Donald reached the top spot without winning a major championship.
John Biever / SI

In April 1986, golf’s World Ranking debuted, with Bernard Langer as the No. 1 player. Since then 15 men have held the top spot, but does that mean they were the best? From the start the ranking and the way the points were allocated raised questions. Most related to IMG, which created and ran the ranking. Did the management group favor its own players? After all, IMG ran some of the bigger events, such as the former Volvo World Match Play, and controlled who played in them. Still, for the most part people believed the No. 1 player in the ranking was the best in the world.

Related: Simpson takes over No. 1 in latest SI Golf Ranking

Until recently.

Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, through brilliant consistency, have each risen to the top spot in the world over the last two years. They remain the only two players to reach golf’s zenith without winning a major. In the process they raised new, more troubling questions about the World Ranking. Almost any Tour player would trade anywhere from a few to 10 or 12 regular Tour wins for a major victory, which is understandable because majors define a career. In the ranking a major win is worth 100 points, while the Players Championship brings in 80 and the World Golf Championships a few less. These point payouts don’t accurately reflect the difference between what it means to win a major versus any other event. That’s why players have grown cynical about the current ranking.

Perhaps the World Ranking, now run by an independent body, should increase the points given for a major, because right now the argument that the top player in the ranking is actually the best player in the world is unconvincing.

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