Go figure: OWGR is good way to pick fantasy lineup

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2013, 8:40 pm

There are few absolutes in professional golf – Tiger wearing red on Sunday, slow play – ironically combined with players complaining about slow play – and a widely held distaste for the Official World Golf Ranking.

How, for example, could the winner of last month’s Kansai Open Golf Championship – it’s a real event on the Japan Golf Tour, look it up – earn more world ranking points than the winner of the Cox Classic held the same week on the Web.com Tour?

Detractors claim that built-in minimums like that at the Kansai Open screw the world ranking, ignore competitive reality and create abnormalities in the system like Brendan Jones.

Jones played the PGA Tour in 2005, missed almost as many cuts (13) as he made (14), finished 144th in earnings and returned to ply his trade on the Japan circuit. Three times since 2008, however, the Australian has returned to the United States to play the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship because he’s been able to maintain his spot in the world’s top 64 playing the Japan Tour almost exclusively.

At Tour water coolers, anomalies like Jones have made the world ranking golf’s version of the BCS, which prompted your scribe to test the OWGR math. For an entire year we selected our team each week for the Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge based on the screwed points and confusing algorithms.

The initial thesis was that an entire year betting chalk based on the world ranking math and misplaced importance of many tournaments would expose the ranking, right? But it turns out there may be something to the arithmetic after all.

With fields split into four groups – normally with the top 10- to 12-ranked players in Group 1, the next 25 to 40 players in Group 2 and the remainder of the field split between the final two groups – your scribe sailed out to an early lead in the 22-person “expert” division.

By the time the Tour left the West Coast, the lead was about $100,000 and that ballooned to nearly $1.5 million when D.A. Points – the top-ranked player in Group 3 at the Shell Houston Open – won for the second time on Tour. For those scoring at home, Points entered that week ranked 195th in the ranking.

At the turn of the season (Zurich Classic) the lead was $704,000 over Gary Williams, thanks primarily to perennial favorite Tiger Woods’ three victories before April.

Things took a bad turn at the Open Championship when chalk delivered Woods and Louis Oosthuizen, who tied for sixth and withdrew, respectively, and Charlie Rymer moved into the top spot, about $230,000 ahead of the good guys.

Although we briefly took the lead again at the Canadian Open – thanks to Brandt Snedeker – Rymer pulled away when our “chalk” picks failed to make a dime, or a world ranking point, at the Wyndham Championship.

Rymer won the season-long race, finishing with $25.5 million; followed by GolfChannel.com staff writer Ryan Lavner at $23.6 million and the much-maligned world ranking left yours truly in third place with $23.1 million.

Despite the loss, and the year of incessant bragging that Rymer is sure to bring, the OWGR delivered against, well . . . all odds.

Although the Fantasy Challenge is based primarily on the PGA Tour schedule, LPGA majors and select European Tour events, like the circuit’s flagship BMW PGA Championship and Scottish Open were included in the yearlong competition, and seemed to follow the world ranking script closer than stops in the United States.

This was not the column we imagined we’d be writing when the experiment began in January at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, not when one considers the amount of time that has been wasted trying to create a better ranking. History, if not histrionics, suggested we should have expected a finish closer to the back of the pack and more than just a single wasted week like the one endured at the Wyndham.

The OWGR is not perfect, and probably never will be. Trying to quantify the level of play on 13 different tours across the globe is, by definition, subjective. But over the course of nine months, the Official World Golf Ranking outperformed all but two of Golf Channel’s experts.

If you’re looking for a way to improve your fantasy team for next season we highly recommend it, but we’ll leave the chalk lineups to others. Next season is just two weeks away and there is no way we can let Rymer go back-to-back.

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.