Scott Verplank was No. 47 in the world after the Tour Championship. He starts next season at No. 60.
He isn’t the only American who saw his world ranking tumble after the FedEx Cup portion of the PGA Tour season ended. Dustin Johnson dropped 13 spots to No. 53, Davis Love III went from No. 52 to No. 79, and Kevin Sutherland plunged 24 spots to No. 84.
The final two months allow the rest of the world to catch up in a world ranking that consistently awards higher points to the PGA Tour.
An analysis of world ranking points between the PGA Tour and the European Tour showed that winners on the PGA Tour received an average of 52.51 points, compared with 42.54 points on the European Tour.
Europe had only eight tournaments that received more ranking points than the PGA Tour in the same week, and three of those came after the Tour Championship, which wrapped up the season for most of the top players.
Other European events that awarded more points came during its “Desert Swing” in January. Abu Dhabi (48) had slightly more points for the winner than the Sony Open (44), while the Qatar Masters (54) dwarfed the Bob Hope Classic (32) in the biggest point differential.
From February through September, however, the only time Europe offered more points was in May – the Irish Open (40) over the Texas Open (26), and the BMW PGA Championship (64) over the Byron Nelson Championship (44). The BMW is Europe’s flagship event and gets what amounts to bonus points.
The other European event was the Scottish Open (54) against the John Deere Classic (34).
The season-ending Dubai World Championship offered 56 points, the most of any regular European Tour event. The PGA Tour had nine regular tournaments with at least that many points. The strongest regular PGA Tour stops were the first two FedEx Cup playoff events (70 points each), with the BMW Championship in Chicago and the Quail Hollow Championship each awarding 68 points to the winner.
That should only feed the endless debate on whether it’s easier to gain in the world ranking by playing in Europe, where the points are smaller and the fields not considered as deep; or by playing on the PGA Tour, with more ranking points and stronger fields.
Europe ended the year with 20 players among the top 50 in the world. Only five of those players also were PGA Tour members – Paul Casey, Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Luke Donald.
Perhaps one measure might be Rory McIlroy, the 20-year-old from Northern Ireland who finished the year at No. 9 on the strength of 13 top-10 finishes, with only three of those on U.S. soil. McIlroy has taken up PGA Tour membership next year for the first time.
CROWDED SCHEDULE: The PGA Tour already has added to a crowded golf schedule in Asia next year with the Asia Pacific Golf Classic in Malaysia. The real juggling takes place in 2011, when the Presidents Cup returns to Royal Melbourne.
The Presidents Cup is to be played Nov. 17-20, and most of the International team—Geoff Ogilvy, Ernie Els, Camilo Villegas—also are European Tour members and competed in the Race to Dubai this year.
Keith Waters, the director of international policy for the European Tour, said the season-ending Dubai World Championship will have to be pushed back to December in 2011 because of the Presidents Cup and the World Cup in China.
The good news?
“We can avoid Thanksgiving and the national holidays in Dubai,” Waters said. “December in some ways is a better month in Dubai.”
NATIONWIDE PROMOTION: Michael Sim earned an instant promotion to the PGA Tour when he won his third Nationwide Tour event. The timing could not have been worse, coming right before the FedEx Cup playoffs.
As a result, Sim played only one time on the PGA Tour, on a sponsor exemption to Turning Stone. The Viking Classic was canceled, and he chose not to play Disney.
Should the rule be changed to create an automatic spot for such players?
The instant promotion is more about the following year than the current year. The payoff for Sim is that he is fully exempt for the 2010 season, meaning he is automatically in The Players Championship and is not subjected to the reshuffle that other Nationwide Tour and Q-school graduates face.
What not give Sim instant status? The tour wants to be sure the current crop of Nationwide/Q-school players have every chance to play an entire season without being bumped by someone who spent most of the year at a lower level.
TOP TEN: Europe uses the world ranking to decide half of its Ryder Cup team – not a player’s ranking, rather how many raw points the player has earned in the year leading to the matches.
That might be the best way to determine which players have had the best year in golf.
Using only points earned in 2009, the top three remain the same – Tiger Woods with 604.54 points, followed by Phil Mickelson at 367.29 and Steve Stricker at 333.57. Lee Westwood (299.54) and Rory McIlroy (283.06) round out the top five.
They are followed by Paul Casey, Jim Furyk, Kenny Perry, Sean O’Hair and Retief Goosen.
This also shows who had a poor season, for only three players in the top 50 failed to earn at least 100 ranking points – Vijay Singh, Ben Curtis and Robert Karlsson, who missed the heart of the season with an eye injury.
DIVOTS: Rory McIlroy plans to make his debut as a PGA Tour member at the Accenture Match Play Championship, with his road to the Masters going through the Honda Classic, Doral and the Houston Open. Also on his schedule are the Quail Hollow Championship and the Memorial. … Tiger Woods lost more world ranking points (485.82) than any other player earned last year. … Six players under 50 took a one-time exemption from career money to keep their PGA Tour card for the 2009 season. Only one of them, Bob Estes, finished inside the top 125 on the money list. The others were Jeff Maggert (128), David Duval (130), Chris DiMarco (135), Tom Lehman (142), who turned 50 in March, and Brad Faxon (221).
STAT OF THE WEEK: Ernie Els failed to win a golf tournament for the first time since 1990.
FINAL WORD: “I would think the players definitely need to get more involved. They need to change their schedule to play in more tournaments. They need to show the tournaments they care. If they don’t, why would a sponsor come in? If you don’t have a player in the top 20 in the field, a sponsor really has no interest.”—Bob Hope Classic defending champion Pat Perez.