World ranking debates reaches the top

By Doug FergusonOctober 13, 2010, 12:24 am

About all anyone can say with certainty about No. 1 in the world is that it won’t be Tiger Woods at the end of October.

It won’t be Phil Mickelson, either.

Lee Westwood hobbled home from the Dunhill Links Championship at St. Andrews to rest his calf injury. He doesn’t plan to compete again until the HSBC Champions in Shanghai at the earliest. By not playing, and through a gradual reduction of points, he will have a higher average than Woods in the ranking published Nov. 1.

But that doesn’t guarantee Westwood will be atop the world ranking for the first time in his career.

Martin Kaymer moved to No. 4 with his fourth win of the year at the Dunhill Links, and the 25-year-old German can go to No. 1 if he wins the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama the last weekend in October.

“At the moment, for me, Lee Westwood is the best player in the world,” Kaymer said.

Not yet.

And maybe not for long.

They all could meet in Shanghai – assuming Westwood is fit to play – and all four could have a shot at No. 1.

For most of the last decade, any debate about the world ranking took place around No. 50, not at the top. Aside from incentives in endorsement contracts, the real value of the ranking came from the majors giving exemptions to the top 50 (or the top 100 for the PGA Championship as it tries to assemble the strongest field).

Even those who didn’t even try to understand how the ranking worked rarely quibbled about No. 1. That much was obvious.

Woods returned to No. 1 a week before the 2005 U.S. Open, and he stayed there by doing in five years what it has taken Westwood a career to achieve – 32 victories (along with five majors) and 15 runner-up finishes.

The question is why he stayed there so long this year.

Not only did he take off five months when his personal life imploded, Woods has only two top 10s this year, a tie for fourth in the Masters and U.S. Open. Because points are gradually reduced over a rolling two-year period, Woods has lost more world ranking points this year (330.105) than any other player has earned.

But it’s important to understand what the world ranking is – and what it is not.

Just because a player is No. 1 in the world doesn’t mean he’s the world’s best player. Anyone who has watched Woods over the course of the season can figure that out. It also was pretty clear in 2004 that Vijay Singh was the best golfer on the planet, yet the Fijian didn’t rise to No. 1 until the sixth of his nine wins that season.

Being No. 1 simply means that player has compiled the best average (net points divided by number of tournaments) during a two-year period. The world ranking used to measure three years. The board could decide it should be only one year. Or one month.

In the last two years, Woods won seven times and finished in the top 10 in 58 percent of his tournaments. No one else has done that.

Mickelson has been No. 2 for most of the year, and he has been No. 2 longer than anyone in the history of the world ranking without reaching the top. Lefty has only himself to blame for that. He had 13 consecutive starts this year with a mathematical chance to replace Woods at No. 1 and didn’t get it done, including a 78 in the final round at Firestone and a 76 in the final round at the TPC Boston.

Perhaps the player with the best case is Kaymer.

Not only has he won four times, he captured his first major at the PGA Championship, had top 10s in two other majors and has accumulated the most ranking points of any player in 2010. Then again, it’s not only about winning, and it’s not just about the majors. And the ranking is about more than one year.

That’s where Westwood fits in.

During the last two years, Westwood has three wins, four seconds and four thirds. He was runner-up at the Masters and British Open this year, tied for third in the British Open and the PGA Championship last year. He won the Order of Merit on the European Tour. And he had to sit out for two months in peak form because of his calf injury.

Asked why he did not plan to take up PGA Tour membership last year, Westwood shared something that his manager, Chubby Chandler, had told him.

“Why would you take up membership in the States when you’ve been the most successful player in the world this year, through the injury, and you still have the great chance to go to world No. 1?” he said at St. Andrews. “You’ve come in second in two major championships. You must be doing something right.”

It would be an amazing comeback for Westwood, who was No. 4 in the world in 2000, then fell out of the top 200 during a three-year slump. He never imagined back then that he could one day reach No. 1.

Not many could have guessed it might happen like this. Westwood’s only win this year was the St. Jude Classic, made possible by Robert Garrigus taking triple bogey on the last hole. If Kaymer doesn’t win at Valderrama, Westwood will rise to No. 1 without lifting a club, much less holing a putt. That would be OK with him.

“It’s something I’ve always dreamed of, and it would be great if it happened,” he said.

Sure, it might be anticlimactic, but that can happen when a ranking is based on math – addition, subtraction and division. It brings to mind the summer of 1999, when Woods easily dispensed of David Duval in that Monday night exhibition known as the “Showdown at Sherwood.” A week later, when neither played, Duval went back to No. 1 in the world.

The following week, Woods won the PGA Championship and was No. 1 for the next five years.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.