Don’t mistake Player of the Year for No. 1

Under Peter Kostis's proposed ranking system, 2010 PGA Champion Martin Kaymer would be the World Player of the Year.
Kohjiro Kinno/SI

I’ve heard some grumbling from the usual quarters
over the validity of the Official World Golf Rankings,
which allowed Tiger Woods to stay No. 1 during his almost
year-long slump and then awarded Lee Westwood the
top spot despite the white-hot play of Martin Kaymer,
who capped his PGA Championship win by tearing off
consecutive victories on the European Tour.

The truth is that the Official World Golf Rankings have
served us well since their debut in 1986. The rankings factor
in a player’s performance over the last two years, and, by
and large, they’re pretty fair. They must be fair, because you
hardly ever hear the players complain about them, which
is remarkable because the rankings have become hugely
important in determining
who gets into the majors.

The real reason it took
so long to unseat Tiger as
the No. 1 player is that he
was so much better than
everyone else for so long.
Tiger had earned a lot of
equity with his play over the
years, and it makes sense
that it took almost a year
for Lee Westwood to win
the top spot. Like Woods,
Westwood deserves the No. 1 ranking for consistently playing
well over the last two years.

Still, there’s no question that Kaymer is the hottest player
in golf. The solution is to keep the rankings as they are, but
create a special one-year ranking to determine the World
Player of the Year. As it stands now, the players on the European
and PGA tours vote for their tour’s player of the
year, which is about as subjective as it gets. Plus, golf is a
worldwide game now, so the Player of the Year award should
be a worldwide honor, eligible to golfers on either tour.

Under my scenario, the player who gets the most world
ranking points in his best 15 events (so we don’t penalize
guys who play more) is the World Player of the Year. This
year, the player with the most world ranking points is Martin
Kaymer, followed by Lee Westwood and Luke Donald. (Tiger
is 57th.) You get the best of both worlds. Westwood is your
World No. 1 for his steadily brilliant play, while Kaymer is
your World Player of the Year for his torrid 2010. If the tours
still want to give out their awards, that’s fine, but we don’t
need to pay attention to them.