Breaking the Ranking Status Quo

By Rex HoggardFebruary 10, 2011, 2:52 am

For years, perhaps decades, the World Golf Ranking has prattled on virtually unchecked. For as long as most fifth-graders can remember, Tiger Woods was first in the ranking and for most that was good enough for them.

But then Woods stumbled, first to No. 2 and now all the way to third in the world, unseated by a non-major-winner and a German who has never played a full schedule in the United States.

For many, the final shoe dropped last weekend when the U.S. Golf Association made the ranking an even more important part of qualifying for the U.S. Open, dropping previous exemptions for finishes on various money lists for more openings via a player’s World Ranking.

Whether by design or a dearth of other options, the World Ranking has become the default litmus test for entry into the game’s biggest events from the majors to World Golf Championships. It is a blanket endorsement that ignores many of the problems, either real or perceived, with the current ranking.

“If you’re going to make so much ride on those top 50 or 60 spots you have to make it legit,” said Arron Oberholser, who has studied the World Ranking, warts and all, in much more depth than most of his Tour fraternity brothers.

From his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., Oberholser cuts straight to his concerns with the World Ranking; “Get rid of the ‘home tour’ bonus, get rid of appearance fees, get rid of the two-year rotation, up the purses in Europe and see where the guys want to play. If you want a legitimate ranking, that’s what you would have to do.”

For the non-MIT graduates, the “Home Tour” bonus increases an event’s overall strength of field, which determines how many World Ranking points are awarded, based on how many top-30 players from that circuit’s previous year’s money list are playing.

The previous year’s money winner is worth eight points, followed by No. 2 (7 points) and so on up to a maximum of 75 points or 75 percent of the total strength-of-field value.

The rule was established during the Nick Faldo-Greg Norman era as a result of skyrocketing purses on the American circuit. It was structured to protect the globe’s other circuits and give marquee players a reason to support the home tour, but has since become pro golf’s version of revenue sharing.

Last October, Bill Haas won the Viking Classic and earned 24 World Ranking points. A world away someone named Michio Matsumura won the Japan Golf Tour’s Tokai Classic and earned 18 points. It’s a snapshot that defies explanation based on the overall strength of the PGA Tour.

By clinging to the “home tour” rule officials have unnecessarily narrowed the global playing field and skewed the World Ranking.

“It’s like spotting a weaker ping-pong player seven points when you’re playing to 21,” Oberholser said.

“You know how deep your own Tour is, especially the guys who play on both sides of the pond. The European Tour is nowhere as deep (as the PGA Tour). The top 15 are just as good as our top 15, that’s proven every other year at the Ryder Cup. But in my opinion the European Tour gets weaker substantially after that.”

But the “home tour” rule is only part of the problem. The practice of appearance fees, which is not allowed on the PGA Tour, also works to undermine the current system.

Woods’ appearance this week is worth 32 points towards the Dubai Desert Classic’s strength-of-field total and Phil Mickelson’s start in Abu Dhabi last month came with 27 points. It’s pro golf freak-onomics – the more top players an organizer can attract the more important your event is perceived to be, at least in the eyes of the World Ranking.

Lucas Glover, who slipped to 65th in the World Ranking following last week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open and outside the WGC-Accenture Match Play bubble, decided to skip this week’s Tour stop at Pebble Beach. When asked if his man considered adding the Pro-Am to his schedule in order to make the field at Dove Mountain his manager confirmed a long-held assessment of the current ranking structure.

“He does everything with the Masters on his mind. He starts with Houston (Open) the week before and works his way back,” Glover’s manager with Crown Sports Mac Barnhardt said. “But if I was worried about World Ranking points I’d send him overseas, he’d get more points and an appearance fee.”

Barnhardt was simply echoing what has become an inconvenient truth for U.S.-based pros and a growing concern as the golf world continues to put more importance on a player’s ranking.

The system’s two-year rolling window is also a concern for Oberholser and others. Although points earned slowly expire, about 1 percent a week following an initial 13-week period, the system often seems out of date as evidenced by the fact that the current No. 1 (Westwood) has just two victories in his last 22 global starts.

Oberholser is quick to point out his concern with the ranking is neither an indictment of the European Tour nor a growing shift atop the ranking toward the Continent (Europe currently holds six of the top 10 spots in the ranking). Instead, his focus is on fixing a system that is increasingly becoming the benchmark of success in the pro game.

“The World Ranking will never be right unless everybody is playing on the same field every week,” Oberholser said. “Unless you get the same field week in and week out, the best 150 players in the world, you’re never going to know.

For now, that doesn’t seem likely. But what is just as clear is the status quo is no longer acceptable, not with so much riding on the math and the misplaced values of the World Ranking.

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Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.