World Golf Ranking formula defies common sense

By Jason SobelApril 15, 2012, 11:12 pm

You may believe Luke Donald is ill-suited to be the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world. You may think such honors should be reserved for a major championship winner or the most talented player according to the ol' eyeball test.

You may even be firmly ensconced in the camp which contends that after back-to-back finishes outside the top 30, Donald no longer deserves to be called No. 1 – despite the fact that his last result prior to the past two weeks was a victory at the Transitions Championship.

You can’t, however, convince me that the following development makes any semblance of sense.

Donald finished T-37 at the RBC Heritage on Sunday, in the process losing his No. 1 spot on the Official World Golf Ranking to Rory McIlroy – a guy who spent the past week enjoying some well deserved time off.

The truth is, Donald could have finished as high as ninth at Harbour Town and still been ousted by a player whose two main accomplishments this week were reaching 1 million Twitter followers and relaxing with his tennis-playing girlfriend.


Idle McIlroy takes top spot back from Donald


Speaking of which: They say it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, but when it comes to golf’s rankings formula, abstention is often the best policy.

Does this happen in other professions? Can the world’s top-ranked surgeon perform several lengthy procedures, only to lose his title to a guy sunning himself in Cabo? Can the No. 1 plumber spend the week knee-deep in unclogged toilets, then get surpassed by a vacationing peer who left his plunger at the office?

We’ve been spoiled by the serendipity surrounding the No. 1 ranking’s revolving door over the past 14 months. When Martin Kaymer first reached the top spot, it was because he reached the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. When Donald initially got there, it was due to his playoff triumph over previous No. 1 Lee Westwood at the BMW PGA Championship. When McIlroy got the call, it came directly based on his Honda Classic victory.

Each of those momentous occasions masked an underlying problem within the infrastructure of the OWGR’s formula: There is no accounting for common sense.

Perhaps both the best and worst thing about the OWGR is that it's all based on mathematics. If you've got a problem with where somebody is ranked, you can't scream at a biased voter, but rather must take issue at what can only be imagined as a large supercomputer that's constantly spitting out new calculations.

Of course, nowhere in that formula is there a factor for the voice of reason, which should state some pretense of the following: If Player A competes – and especially if Player A competes pretty successfully – then he shouldn’t be passed on the list by Player B if Player B spent the same time drinking mojitos poolside at some exclusive resort.

This scenario is magnified when the No. 1 spot is involved, but it’s hardly unique to that lone place on the list. Every single week, players are passed by others with no apparent rhyme or reason, other than the calculation favors somebody else. Just recently, Bubba Watson publicly questioned how a share of fourth place at the Arnold Palmer Invitational dropped him from 16th in the world to 18th.

How does this happen? It’s all about divisors. In the case of McIlroy passing Donald, young Rory’s divisor dropped from 50 events during the rolling two-year calendar to 49, though his total number of points largely remained intact, meaning his average points – the final number used to determine world ranking status – actually increased not despite his week off from work, but because of it.

Consider it a glitch in a system that many are quick to condemn without fully understanding. Much like its distant cousin, college football’s Bowl Championship Series, the OWGR is often deemed a failure not for the high percentage of rankings that the calculations get correct, but the low number of them that are glaring and egregious errors.

In both cases, the underlying root for such issues is the lack of a common-sense divisor, some type of corollary that would override the formula when its math obviously isn’t thinking clearly.

If that had been in place this week, someone would have been able to push the big red “stop the presses” button before the OWGR was released, in effect keeping the status quo atop the ordering because it made sense, even if the numbers said otherwise.

It’s perfectly fine if you believe Luke Donald doesn’t deserve to be the world’s No. 1-ranked player. Likewise, it’s absolutely acceptable to think that Rory McIlroy should be in that place instead.

Neither conclusion, though, would have been reached based on this week’s results. Alas, there is no scenario in which a share of 37th place at a PGA Tour event should trump seven days of R&R, despite what the numbers contend.

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.

The golf world celebrates Thanksgiving

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 6:01 pm

Here's a look, through social media, at how the golf world celebrates Thanksgiving.

Lexi Thompson:

Baking time!!

A post shared by Lexi Thompson (@lexi) on

David Feherty:

Jack Nicklaus:

GC Tiger Tracker:

Steve Stricker:

Golf Channel:

Frank Nobilo:

Ian Poulter:

Tyrone Van Aswegen:

Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.