He is lost. He is brain dead. He is unconscious on the golf course. And he used the second round of the British Open as a practice round since he knew he was going to miss the cut after an opening 79. He is Rory McIlroy, of course.
What's wrong with this picture, besides the fact that Rors can barely break 80? Answer: He is ranked No. 3 in the world.
The Official World Golf Rankings continue to be exposed as flawed and not nearly responsive enough to a player's current form. Yes, I've ranted on this topic before, but Rory's ranking deserves an encore. What's wrong with the rankings (besides its very existence) is that while it allows for rapid movement upward, The Rory Conundrum reminds us that the rankings don't allow for rapid movement downward. Rory shouldn't still be No. 3. He shouldn't still be in the top 10.
I'll skip the part about why the rankings shouldn't be used to determine fields in big tournaments, or why golf doesn't need rankings any more than college basketball, which has an elimination tournament, because golf has tournament results. If you want the most accurate, up-to-the-minute rankings, just look at last week's British Open results.
You won't find Rory's name near the top in those. He was as good as gone midway through his first round at Muirfield, yet he's still No. 3 in the world due to the mistaken assumption that a player's results from 20 months ago, or even 12 months ago, have some bearing. As McIlroy has proven, a lot can happen in six weeks, let alone six months. Rory, we hardly recognize you.
The official rankings are based on a rolling, two-year period of results — the last 24 months, in other words. As a player's results age, or get stale, their value is gradually reduced. This sounds like good, common sense. It also means that until the middle of last month, Rory was still getting some points for his U.S. Open win at Congressional. Talk about ancient news.
Luke Donald — remember him? — is currently ranked ninth. Buy yourself a drink if you recall the last time he won any tournament. Even Rory's PGA Championship win at the Ocean Course seems like long ago and far away, like some Middle Earth fairy tale.
There is no good solution to the rankings issue. My suggestion is, call them a cab. Get them gone. They aren't accurate enough and never will be, they don't serve a useful purpose, and we don't need them.
But if they're going to be used, they should be more current. Nothing older than 12 months should be counted. Or, the rankings should start anew Jan. 1 and everybody begins with a blank slate. Here's how the rankings would look if they were based only on how many ranking points players accumulated in 2013 (actual current ranking in parentheses):
1. Tiger Woods (1) 322.94
2. Phil Mickelson (2) 315.58
3. Matt Kuchar (6) 234.89
4. Justin Rose (5) 221.55
5. Adam Scott (4) 179.16
6. Graeme McDowell (8) 174.48
7. Brandt Snedeker (7) 173.11
8. Henrik Stenson (20) 163.80
9. Jason Day (19) 157.78
10. Billy Horschel (38) 138.40
11. Bill Haas (24) 135.61
12. Kevin Streelman (40) 131.91
The top seven in the rankings aren't dramatically different, except McIlroy, having earned a paltry 66.23 points this year, isn't anywhere close to the top seven. He probably would not be in the top 50. Same goes for Luke Donald, who amassed only 72.75 of his 277.74 points this year. That's still more points in 2013 than No. 12 Louis Oosthuizen, who has amassed only 70.00 points while battling a mysterious neck injury this season, and nearly as many as No. 18 Bubba Watson, 73.89.
The players who are having poor years aren't being punished quickly enough in the rankings. Jason Dufner has only 69 points this year, but he's still ranked 23rd. Nick Watney with 54 points is 29th and Peter Hanson, with a mere 40, is 30th. The rankings are cluttered up by a lot of downward-spiraling deadwood, in other words. Let's clean it up so the real players can get through. Or let's get rid of the rankings completely so we can spend our time on something more useful. Like Klingon Boggle.
The Short Game
Critics jumped on Phil Mickelson for not having a driver in the bag at Merion. Well, he didn't have one in the bag at Muirfield, either, and he won.
Give him credit for a smart strategy. Phil used a hot 13-degree 3-wood instead, with a 43 1/2-inch shaft. Tiger Woods was a driving machine in his younger days with a 43 1/2-inch steel shaft. Maybe Tiger should borrow Phil's idea. Just don't tell Tiger where that idea came from … News from the other side of the tracks on the PGA Tour: One of the hotter players at the moment, quietly, is Daniel Summerhays. He's finished ninth, fourth and second (by playoff) at Greenbrier, John Deere and the Sanderson Farms Championship. His nice run in three modest-purse events was worth about $595,000 … Bet you didn't notice that former Open champion Justin Leonard tied for 13th at Muirfield … Woody Austin, 49, won at Sanderson Farms for his first PGA Tour win since 2007 and his first cut made on Tour in 2013.
This Just in from the Van Cynical Mailbag
Van Cynical, Looking at the Presidents Cup standings, Captain Fred is going to have some hard calls. What would your American Cup team look like? Also, it was stunning to see 40-something Phil win the Open while 40-something Davis Love III played in an alternative field event.
Brian Rosenwald, via Twitter
Sorry, BriRose, but I, like most observers, remain in Presidents Cup denial until after the PGA Championship. As for Love, well, it's a tough league on Tour when you hit your mid-40s. If the tables were reversed and Phil wasn't in the Open, do you think he would've played the Sanderson Farms Championship? Well, we'll never find out now.
Gary, Why is Bones called Bones?
David Collins, via Twitter
Phil's caddie, Jim Mackay, has long been known as Bones. He got the nickname because he's tall and kind of skinny and because that's what Fred Couples once called him years ago when Freddie couldn't remember the caddie's name. It stuck.
GVS, If you ranked the top 50 players in the world, where do you think Tiger lands in this category: Enjoys playing golf.
Ryan Bogosta, via Twitter
Excellent question, Bogo. Tiger loves winning, he loves beating other players and he loves money. I'm not sure he loves playing golf. I think he's more like Nicklaus than like Palmer in that regard. Jack loved winning, Arnie loved playing. For the last 40 years, Palmer has been out on the course almost every day, whether it's been in competition or with buddies. Not Jack. I'd rank Tiger at No. 41. That's still nine spots ahead of Rory (Brain Dead) McIlroy at the moment.
Van Cynical, Why does Augusta National/USGA/R&A contract with ESPN for (poor) coverage of majors when they don't do any other golf?
Rick Fisher, via Twitter
Maybe Billy Payne is hoping to appear in one of those great ESPN commercials with the Syracuse Orange mascot, John Kruk and Scott Van Pelt. Or it may have to do with the Thursday and Friday windows, where the major networks are obligated to show the soaps and game shows while ESPN is wide open. Plus, ESPN has a big audience and excels at marketing its product.
I agree that ESPN golf telecasts don't have the continuity of CBS and NBC golf, probably because they don't have all those weeks of tournaments and practice. Like Tiger says, it's all about the reps. But they did stack an impressive lineup of analysts that included Paul Azinger, Curtis Strange, Peter Alliss and Tom Weiskopf, to name a few.
So, is Tiger worse than he was, or is it just that everyone else is better? And didn't Tiger help create that?
S. Cracer, via Twitter
Yes, Tiger is worse than he was. That said, this "Worse Tiger" has four victories and is ranked No. 1 in the world. Golf Channel's Brandel Chamblee had a good line, saying, "Half as good as he once was, Tiger is still twice as good as everybody else." That's not quite true, but it's not far off, either. If everyone else is better, I missed that show. It's all about the putter for Tiger, just like it is for anyone else playing the game.
GVS, why do pros get mad when they miss birdie putts from six-plus feet? Shouldn't they be mad for not hitting it closer?
Derek Lewis, via Twitter
Yes. Just like you shouldn't be mad because this answer is lame, you should be mad at yourself for not asking a better question. Next time try to include one of the Kardashians or Ben Hogan in your question.
Van Sickle, baseball analogy — Phil got the triple last at bat. Can he realistically homer for the cycle? How many more good at bats?
Eric Houser, via Twitter
There is no doubt Phil has the physical tools to complete the Grand Slam. But after a record six runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open, can he overcome the mental hurdles and the pressure? He beat himself at Merion with some poor decisions and poor shot-making at crucial times. Missing the green at the 110-yard 13th hole was an inexcusable lapse. There are a lot of ghosts in his U.S. Open closet. It would be easy to say no, he'll never do it, but Phil's British Open win shows he is capable of anything. If Phil stays healthy, arthritis-wise, there's no reason he can't contend for six or eight more years. Nicklaus won the Masters at 46 and Phil is much stronger, and in far better physical condition, than Jack ever was.