Becoming No. 1
The Official World Golf Ranking is a mysterious mix of points and mathematical formulas used to determine the world’s best golfer
From the Print Edition:
Saturday Night Live: How it Shapes Our Politics & Culture, September/October 2011
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These are all matters that are taken up by the Official World Golf Ranking committee, which debates changes annually. The biggest changes since the inception of the rankings in 1986 are the move to a two-year rolling system from three years, the inclusion of more tours and the so-called “Vijay” rule that attempts to overcome a disadvantage to players who like to play a lot.
In the public arena, the matters of practicality take a decided back seat to the debate over who “deserves” to be No. 1.
“I think that who’s the best player in the world is that guy we all think it is,” says Davis Love. “When Tiger was on top, there wasn’t any question about who was the best.”
David Duval was No. 1 in the world for 15 weeks, in 1999. That was two years before he won his only major, the 2001 British Open at Royal Lytham. But by that time Tiger Woods was No. 1 and climbing on afterburners.
“I was No. 1,” says Duval. “But I wasn’t The One.”
Jeff Williams is a contributing editor for Cigar Aficionado.
The Official World Golf Ranking is endorsed by the four major championships—The Masters, U.S. and British Opens, and the PGA Championship—and the six leading professional tours (PGA Tour, European Tour, Japan Golf Tour, PGA Tour of Australasia, Sunshine Tour and the Asian Tour).
A company owned by the major championships and the tours, based at the European PGA Tour headquarters in Wentworth, England, calculates the Official Golf World Ranking and issues it every Monday.
The official events from the six leading professional tours together with the Canadian, OneAsia, South American, Korean, Nationwide and European Challenge Tours are taken into account. Ranking points are awarded related to the strength of the field based on the number and ranking of the top 200 world-ranked players and the top 30 of the home-tour players in the respective tournaments. The four major championships are rated separately to reflect the higher quality, along with The Players championship on the PGA Tour and the BMW PGA Championship on the European Tour.
The world-ranking points for each player are accumulated over a two-year rolling period with the points awarded for each event maintained for a 13-week period to place additional emphasis on recent performances. Ranking points are then reduced in equal decrements for the remaining 91 weeks of the two-year ranking period. Each player is ranked according to his average points per tournament, which is determined by dividing his total number of points by the tournaments he has played over the two-year period. There is a minimum divisor of 40 tournaments over the two-year period and a maximum divisor of a player’s last 54 events, or a rule known as the Vijay rule.
For instance, Luke Donald, No. 1 in the world as of the first week of July, earned 76 points for his victory in the Accenture Match Play in February. By the first week of July that win was now worth 71.04 points and would continue to be devalued week-by-week according to a formula until it eventually fell off the board after 104 weeks.
In Donald’s case, he had accumulated 469.93 points over a 104-week period that ended July 3. He had played 52 events over the 104-week span, so his average per event was 9.04. Lee Westwood was in second place with an average of 8.69 for 47 events.
The winners of the four major tournaments get 100 points. Second place is 60, third 40, fourth 30, down to 1.5 points for a player completing the fourth round. The Players championship winner gets 80 points, the BMW PGA Championship winner gets 64 points.
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