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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
Jeff Williams
From the Print Edition:
Saturday Night Live: How it Shapes Our Politics & Culture, September/October 2011

(continued from page 3)

It is the top 50 rankings that are debated by the professional players far more than who is, or should be, No. 1. (Though strangely, not one player interviewed on the subject at Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament this June said he set his schedule in order to maximize his world-ranking points.)

Let’s just say that when it comes to world-ranking points, there are some sticking points.
One, many players question the amount of points accumulated for tournaments on the lesser tours in South Africa, Asia and South America.

Two, since the ranking of players in a tournament helps determine that tournament’s point value, players are skeptical of the added value of a tournament when Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson or any other “celebrity player” plays in an event in Dubai or Singapore or Australia because of a hefty appearance fee.

Three, they also question whether an event that doesn’t have official status with any tour should get any points at all, such as Tiger Woods’ Chevron World Challenge or the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa. Those two small-field events do receive some ranking status, and to do so must base their entries on the world rankings and not invitations.
David Duval points out something else he considers a “flaw.”

“You have very young players who haven’t played in 50 pro tour events making it into the top 50,” says Duval. “I mean, they are good players, but do they deserve to be in the top 50 as opposed to somebody who has played out here for 10 years?”

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.

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