An OWGR Rewrite

By John FeinsteinApril 26, 2011, 10:39 pm

For both better and worse the Official World Golf Ranking has become an important part of the sport.

Being ranked No. 1 in the world still isn’t as important as winning a major title, but it has become extremely significant. It has also become quite lucrative: a player who is No. 1 or has been No. 1 is likely to make more money from sponsors; receive higher appearance fees overseas and often receives bonuses for time spent at No. 1. There is also extra-added financial value in reaching the top 5, top 10, top 20 and so on.

More significantly, in a pure golf sense, the world rankings are used to determine who gets into major championships, who gets into lucrative World Golf Championship events and, in the case of the WGC match play event, the rankings determine the seeding of the 64 players.

So, they are a big deal. Which means it is time they are fixed.

This isn’t about a tweak here and there, the sort that the rankings have been given since they first came into existence in April of 1986 when Bernhard Langer was ranked No. 1 just prior to that year’s Masters. It is about blowing them up and starting over again.

This past weekend should have been the final straw. Lee Westwood became No. 1 again. The fact that Westwood – who has never won a major title – is ranked No. 1 would be reason alone to question the rankings. In fact, six of the current top-10 have never won a major.

But the issues go way beyond that. Westwood climbed past Martin Kaymer to the No. 1 ranking by winning a tournament in Indonesia in which the next highest-ranked player in the field was No. 90 Thongchai Jaidee and only one other player was ranked in the top 150.

Westwood went to Indonesia because he received a huge appearance fee, reportedly in the neighborhood of $500,000. Paying top players appearance fees is common overseas – it is the reason that Westwood and Ernie Els are teeing it up this week in South Korea.

Appearance fees are a pox on all sports. They have damaged tennis almost irreparably over the last 30 years, in part because most of them are still paid under the table, but also because there is no flow to the tennis season and not many pay attention to the sport except when the four majors are being played.

Golf is in better shape than that. Appearance fees are not against the rules except on the PGA Tour so at least they are out in the open. But the fact that the number of world rankings points available in an event goes up based on the number of highly-ranked players entered, skews the entire process.

Westwood’s presence in Indonesia almost doubled the amount of rankings points available to him and to the rest of the field. It allowed him to beat a field that may have been as good as a Nationwide Tour field and regain the No. 1 ranking. He got a bonus when he found himself playing against a bunch of guys who were as likely to ask for his autograph off the golf course as beat him on the golf course.

Problem 1: Tournaments receiving extra rankings points by paying players up front. Solution: Take away rankings points for each player paid an appearance fee. Deduct 10 percent for each player paid up front.

Problem 2: The rankings are calculated on a rolling two-year basis. On January 1 everyone goes to zero in the rankings. The only exception to this would be in determining a player’s rank for the match play event in late February. For the purposes of the match play only, the clock on rankings begins the week after it is played each year. That way, if a player is hot in January and February, he can still play his way into the top 64 for the match play. For all other purposes the rankings begin anew each January.

Invitational tournaments, most notably the Masters – but also Bay Hill, Colonial, the Memorial – can continue to use end of the year rankings and money lists as criteria for choosing fields as they have always done.

Finally, the rankings should actually be divided into two categories: the top 25 – much like in college football and college basketball – and everyone below the top 25. The computer, again, based on that year’s play, decides the top 50, top 100 – all the categories that involve entry into tournaments.

But the top 25 is decided by a poll of golf experts: 70 people selected at the start of each year by a board (one rep from each of the major tours worldwide) that can choose ex-players (including senior players no longer competing on the regular tours), writers, broadcasters and golf officials as voters. Each Sunday night the voters will e-mail votes and the results will be released Monday morning. Each ballot will be made public – as the Associated Press does with its football and basketball ballots. No secrecy here. If you think Lee Westwood is No. 1 this week regardless of who he is playing against – fine, vote for him and stand behind the vote. At the end of each year the board will review the performance of each voter and decide if they should be invited back the next year.

That would, if nothing else, make the weekly rankings more fun. How do you argue with a computer? You can’t. Let’s argue a little bit, let’s put a human element into the top 25 and let’s stop counting tournaments that happened two years ago in a player’s ranking. And, while we’re at it, let’s not give top players an extra reason, beyond the money, to play in tournaments they normally wouldn’t.

Oh sure, the world rankings should be about winning. But is it really winning when you beat your little brother one-on-one in the driveway?

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.