How To Fix the World Golf Rankings

Since there isn’t much of interest happening in the golf world right now, much discussion in the media is turning to which undeserving player most/least (they can’t decide which tack to take) deserves to be #1 in the World Golf Rankings. (Actually, the fuss is over why TW is #7 or so, when in the last year he has been playing like #25, but no one wants to come out and say that).

And while we’re at it, why don’t we criticize the formula itself, which we’ve never paid attention to until now? The formula puts Lee Westwood at #1, but he hasn’t won a major championship. So what? He plays consistently well more than anyone else in the world. You can make a case that player is deserving of being #1. Not a great case, but a case.

The Rankings formula is too complicated. Again, so what? It’s a complicated matter to compare over a thousand golfers playing on six different tours, most of whom have never had head-to-head competition with more than a few hundred. That’s a complicated feat to pull off.

But the real problem is that a two-year period is too long to carry over performance. Now we’re on to something — the Tiger thing actually. They way he played in 2009 is nowhere near how he’s playing today, or did in 2010. That’s the formula’s biggest flaw, and the one easiest to fix.

Golf’s ubiquitous ranking system is the handicap. The USGA has one, the R&A has one, I think. While the handicaps are rating systems, they can easily be turned into ranking systems.

Base the Rankings on performance in the same vein as my handicap and your handicap is based — on the 10 best of the last 20 tournaments (instead of rounds), with a thirteen-month limit. Not enough tournaments, you’re off the Rankings list.

What everybody wants to know is, who is the best golfer in the world right now? What someone did two years ago, even though those results are down-weighted currently, is no indication of current performance. The USGA recognizes this, which is why they keep dropping off rounds as I add new ones on. They want to keep my rating (handicap) current. If it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for the pros.

Now I can’t tell you what the Rankings would be using this plan. That requires more data than I have at my command, and more time than I would want to devote to the analysis if I had it. It wouldn’t matter anyway.

This different way of ranking players would have immediate validity because it would be understood by the layman, and it is aligned with how he or she is rated. While there are many ways to rank things, the method that has the greatest acceptance among the consumers of the rankings is always preferred.

You might point to the major flaw in the USGA handicapping system, which is that their formula rewards a hot-and-cold player more than it does a consistent player. This would not be a flaw for the pros, though. Who do you think should be ranked higher — a guy who gets a lot of top tens, or the player who might not be as steady, but who wins a few tournaments every year? The winner, of course. That’s the point of competition anyway, isn’t it?

We’re going through a period right now where there is no dominant golfer, and the Rankings rely too much on ancient history. We can’t scratch the first itch, but we can the second. The powers that be read this blog religiously, and I know they will see the sense of what I suggest. Until they do,

My new book, The Golfing Self, is now available at It will change everything about the way you play.

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