One tweak to world ranking would give more accurate picture of who's No. 1

One tweak to world ranking would give more accurate picture of who’s No. 1

Under a new formula, Lee Westwood would be the No. 1 player in the world.
Robert Beck/SI

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — World rankings don’t seem to work very efficiently in golf. The game already has a ranking system in place that is the best of any sport. It’s called tournament golf. Players tee it up and those with the best scores earn the best ranking … for that week. No subjectivity is involved.

The problem is, we want to make broader statements than just who’s the best player of the week. Doing that is filled with potential potholes. For example, some wonder how Tiger Woods can still be ranked No. 1 in the world. Well, he did win six times last year, and he still gets credit for those. Should what a player did 12 or 18 months ago be considered relevant? How long is any golf result relevant? There is no correct answer.

We’re currently in the middle of computations trying to figure out what might happen to the Official World Golf Ranking at the PGA Championship this week. Phil Mickelson, again, has a chance to pass Woods and claim the No. 1 ranking. In the right scenario, so could fourth-ranked Steve Stricker. Third-ranked Lee Westwood is out of action with a calf injury.

No system is perfect. But here’s my thought: What if the OWGR was based only on the current year’s results? How different would it look?

The answer is a lot different. Meet your new No. 1 — Westwood. Two-time winner Ernie Els would be second, followed by Mickelson, Luke Donald (surprise!), U.S. Open champ Graeme McDowell and British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen.

Among the most dramatic changes:

• Tiger Woods, with only 65.23 OWGR points earned this year, would not be among the top 50.

• Justin Rose, a two-time winner, moves up from 20th to ninth.

• Stricker, also a two-time winner this year, falls out of the top 10 to 11th.

• Charl Schwartzel, a multiple winner in Europe, moves up from 30th to 12th.

• Bo Van Pelt improves from 41st to 19th.

• Jeff Overton, who appears likely to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team, ranks 21st, much better than his world ranking of 45th.

• Ian Poulter, the WGC-Accenture Match Play champ, falls from 10th to 21st.

According to what I gleaned from the OWGR’s official website, the list below is how the rankings would look if they were based only on performance in 2010. That is, the total number of world ranking points earned. It’s a cumulative total, not an average (like the actual OWGR), so the more times a player played, the more advantage he would have.

Yeah, it’s not a great system, either, but it does seem to more accurately reflect where we think these players stand in relation to each other at the moment. I look at this list and find myself nodding in agreement with it, unlike the actual OWGR.

For the sake of argument, I have included the player’s current world ranking in parentheses, followed by the world ranking points he has accrued this year. Consider it food for thought:

1. (3) Lee Westwood — 273.95
2. (6) Ernie Els — 226.42

3. (2) Phil Mickelson — 215.97
4. (7) Luke Donald — 201.16
5. (11) Graeme McDowell — 198.55
6. (18) Louis Oosthuizen — 193.96
7. (12) Hunter Mahan — 174.24
8. (5) Jim Furyk — 173.13
9. (20) Justin Rose — 172.63
10. (10) Rory McIlroy — 170.29
11. (4) Steve Stricker — 160.30
12. (30) Charl Schwartzel — 156.73
13. (13)Martin Kaymer — 150.02
14. (14) Anthony Kim — 149.19
15. (9) Paul Casey — 145.54
16. (25) Tim Clark — 142.85
17. (14) Matt Kuchar — 139.91
18. (15) Retief Goosen — 138.50
19. (41) Bo Van Pelt — 137.94
20. (21) Edoardo Molinari — 137.51
21. (45) Jeff Overton — 135.25
22. (27) Camilo Villegas — 133.34
23. (10) Ian Poulter — 132.11
24. (36) Miguel Angel Jimenez — 131.17
25. (29) Dustin Johnson — 130.69