Yin and the Yang of the World Rankings


KAPALUA, Maui, Hawaii -- The computers that click, whirr, thrum and drive the Official World Golf Ranking are quiet just now. The final numbers for 2004 are in and there is much to be learned from the data--especially the stats that show last year's biggest gainers and losers.
You won't be surprised to learn that Vijay Singh had the biggest net gain in world ranking points during his run to No. 1 last season. What might surprise you is how many (210.91) net points he gained. The next closest in that category was Stewart Cink (145.24) as he rocketed all the way to No. 10 after starting the year at No. 53.
Both Cink and Singh will be champing at the bit to earn even more points this week at the Mercedes Championships, the initial 2005 event on the U.S. Tour.
Other players with eye-popping surges in 2004 included Miguel Angel Jimenez (No. 94 to No. 12), Mark Hensby (No. 373 to No. 38); Stephen Ames (No. 105 to No. 17); Yong-Eun Yang (No. 688 to No. 77); Zach Johnson (No. 207 to No. 44) and, of course, Sergio Garcia (No. 36 to No. 7).
Tiger Woods dropped just one slot (No. 1 to No. 2) in the rankings but his net loss of ranking points (119.09) was second in that department only to Jim Furyk (213.14). Furyk, who spent much of 2004 recovering from wrist surgery, will not be playing at the Plantation Course which seems strange since he owns a home, next to one owned by New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, right on the property.
For that matter, the event doesn't seem the same without Davis Love III. Love won four times in 2003 but dropped from No. 4 to No. 9 in the rankings during a winless 2004.
The rankings' system may be imperfect. But the numbers don't lie. Hard to believe Nick Price, at the moment, doesn't rate among the top 50. But there he is at No. 51. Colin Montgomerie dropped all the way to No. 79 before finishing second in a powerful field at Woods' Target World Challenge in December. For his efforts he actually slipped to No. 81 by year's end. Time for that event to count for world ranking points.
Montgomerie is now just one of several prominent players who find themselves on the bubble for the WGC-Accenture Match Play event near San Diego in late February where you need to be among the top 64 on the list to guarantee an invitation. Others include Tim Herron at No. 65, Duffy Waldorf at No. 67, Paul McGinley at No. 68 and Jesper Parnevik at No. 75.
If you want a sleeper pick to crash the top 10 in 2005, try Aussie Peter Lonard. Lonard won three straight events in his homeland late in 2004 and moved up to No. 37.
Yong-Eun Yang, by the way is a Korean. Never heard of him? Most likely neither have Craig Parry, Loren Roberts, Joey Sindelar, Scott Hoch, Ben Curtis, Mark O'Meara, Jeff Sluman and Lee Janzen--all of whom currently rank behind Yang.
To repeat, the system isn't perfect. So here's one more thing you won't be surprised to learn: Yong-Eun Yang won't be playing at the Mercedes Championships this week either.
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