Forget about the complicated formulas that determine the Official World Golf Ranking. If you voted right now, who's your No. 1?
It would probably be Adam Scott. He's my pick in the wake of his near sweep of the Aussie Triple Crown. Scott won the Australian PGA and Masters and was poised to take the biggest of them all, the Australian Open, until he and Rory McIlroy executed the old bogey-birdie Mongolian Reversal on the final hole, where McIlroy swiped it from him for his first victory of 2013.
Still, that's four wins this year for Scott, including, of course, the Masters. He also snagged the Barclays during the FedEx Cup playoffs. Three wins late in the year give Scott a pretty strong case for No. 1, and he certainly gets my vote.
Except Scott is not No. 1. He is No. 2 and a fairly distant one to Tiger Woods. All right, Tiger won five times in 2013, and even though none of them was a major, it's hard to find fault with that. My recurring problem with the OWGR is that it doesn't change quickly enough. Even though results from 2012 are discounted compared to 2013 results, my point is that they shouldn't count at all. Really, what part of a player's performance in February of 2012 has any relevance right now?
It's old school, of course, but I was always partial to the money list. That was a very low-tech way to keep score. FedEx Cup points shouldn't be used to determine anything, including exempt status and entry into tournaments. I consider them bogus, but that's another story.
My own top 10 today wouldn't even match the top 10 you get using Ranking points only from the calendar year in progress. Based on points earned only this year, Woods is still No. 1, followed by Henrik Stenson, Scott, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose, Jason Day, Brandt Snedeker, Steve Stricker and finally No. 10 Graeme McDowell.
Stenson would be a close second to Tiger, just 12 points behind (460.65-448.00). Scott, despite his late spree, barely noses out Mickelson for third, 356.65 to 356.52 — a difference of .02. The rest of the top 10 are reasonably close to where they are now. Day would jump up three spots from 10th, Kuchar would move up two spots from seventh. The biggest difference would be McIlroy. Incredibly, he's still hanging out at sixth in the OWGR. Even with his win last weekend, I counted 40 players with more points earned this year than McIlroy, and that includes Harris English, currently 55th; Jimmy Walker, 45th; Boo Weekley, 56th; and Jonas Blixt, 39th.
While the OWGR is a little slow to credit success, it's pathetically lethargic in recognizing poor play. What's wrong with the money list? Nothing. Tiger was first last year with $8.5 million. Stenson was second, Kuchar was third and Mickelson was fourth. That's PGA Tour earnings, of course. A world money list, which would count Scott's Australia spree, would be an even better way to go.
The short game: Some interesting stats I uncovered from the depths of the PGA Tour's Shotlink data: There's a category for highest percentage of one-putt greens. Does that mean the leader is a very good putter or does it mean he misses a lot of greens in regulation and gets up and down like a thief? The short answer is, yes. Brian Gay ranked first in 2013, one-putting 45.71% of his greens. Gay also ranked 180th, dead last, in greens hit in regulation, with 56.68%. Fewest one-putt greens was Vijay Singh at 31.33%… Average proximity from the pin after an approach shot from the fairway isn't such a telling stat. Jim Furyk ranked first at 31 feet 3 inches. Aaron Baddeley was last at 180th with 39-3. Only eight feet separate the whole Tour? It's a putting game, I'm telling you… Here's a stat I didn't know they had: Average distance to hole after tee shot (not including par 3s, obviously). Bubba Watson was first at 159.2 yards. Dustin Johnson, Keegan Bradley, Scott Piercy and the other acknowledged big hitters were all up there. Mike Weir was last at 190.3 yards while Furyk was 177th… Stenson hit the fewest shots into the right rough, an average of just 9.56%. Bobby Gates hit the most, 21.36%. Ken Duke hit the fewest shots into the left rough, 8.05%, while Luke List hit the most, 22.66%. Mickelson, no surprise, ranked 168th in that category… Bubba was only second in measured clubhead speed at 122.97 mph. I would never have guessed the guy at No. 1 — Charlie Beljian, 124.45. Rory McIlroy ranked sixth. Tiger was 28th, Mickelson 52nd. Slowest clubhead speed belonged to Jin Park, 104.48 mph. We should all aspire to be so slow.
These just in from the Van Cynical Mailbag:
Van Cynical, I heard Lindsey Vonn was sucking face with someone other than Tiger in Miami. What do your sources say? — MDavid via Twitter
I've got golf sources, MD, not face-sucking sources. All I know is what I'm forced to read in tabloids to answer questions here. Said face-sucking was reported way back in September, making it older-than-Moses news, and suitably denied. This stuff comes and goes like the tides. While searching for your answer, I also found this headline from the ancient archives of 2011: Vonn and Tebow more than just friends. Was it ever true? Nobody cares now. But it was good enough for a boffo headline then.
Vans, With so much new equipment each year, how much do players like it versus being annoyed because they're pressured to change? — Kris B via Twitter
Pros are quick to check out the latest and greatest but not so quick to make wholesale changes. Your question raises a great point and a valid one. Frequent obsoleting of one company's line of gear may be good marketing for the public but it's a nuisance to touring players under contract who are "urged" to get the new stuff on TV. I'm not sure what the answer is but I'm going to suggest we ask this as one of our annual poll questions in our PGA Tour player survey. Anonymously, we might get a legit number. I'm guessing "annoyed" might have a slight edge in the poll results, though.
Sickle, How will the tour handle big-name players cutting back their playing schedules? Might we eventually see an end to their independent contractor status? — Brian Rosenwald
Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Tom Watson didn't play many tournaments above the minimum once they reached superstar status. It's an old issue, in other words, and the Tour has no practical recourse. It's not as big a problem as you might think. When the top players don't play, other players win and become stars to join them in the pantheon of the elite. When Tiger was out for a time, Padraig Harrington became a big name by winning majors. Talk of forcing players to visit each Tour stop once every five or six years is just talk. The stars will never go for it and they've got the leverage. Tiger, for instance, could walk away and start his own tour of 16-man tournaments and probably have a bidding war between TV networks who'd fight over it. Players will remain largely independent and open to the type of clever coercion — copious piles of money! — typified by the Tour's FedEx Cup playoff events.
Van Sickle, If Adam Scott wins four more majors with his long putter in the next two years before the anchored putting ban goes into effect, will history put an asterisk on his wins? — Mikey via email.
Not likely. Does anyone care that Ernie Els won the British with a belly putter? Or Keegan Bradley a PGA? Then there's all those British Opens that used the now-banned small ball. Are you going to stick asterisks on 100-plus Open champions because of that? I don't think so. Over time, only these players' major wins will be remembered, not what they used or how they won them. That said I'd have doled out an asterisk to Tiger if he'd won the Masters this year after he should've been disqualified for signing a wrong scorecard following his erroneous drop in the second round. But I think we've already covered that ground, right?
Vans, How many 18-hole scores did you post this year? — Kirby via email
Not here, man. Some of my bosses read this column. They think I'm out working.