The Imperfect Storm


Do you know how long it has been since a player has won a PGA Tour or European Tour event while holding the No. 1 ranking?

Seventy-five weeks.

We haven’t witnessed a world No. 1 win on the PGA Tour or European Tour since Tiger Woods won the J.B. Were Masters on Nov. 15, 2009.

Yes, the J.B. Were Masters is an Australasian Tour event, but it’s also a sanctioned European Tour event.

If you despise the Official World Golf Ranking, you like hearing this. You like hearing that it’s been nearly a year-and-a-half since a player holding the No. 1 ranking has won on the two most important tours on the planet. You like it because it supports your belief that the rankings are too flawed to take seriously.

The funny thing is that we’ve never taken the Official World Golf Ranking more seriously.

Luke Donald
With a win at the Heritage, Luke Donald will become No. 1 in the world. (Getty Images)

The world rankings have never been more vital or intriguing than they are today.

In fact, the world rankings are more vital and more intriguing by virtue of the fact that there isn’t a dominant player in the game right now.

The world rankings bring an added component to the Heritage this week because Luke Donald can jump from No. 3 to No. 1 by winning the event. This will outrage some folks because Donald’s moved into this position winning just twice in the last five years.

That isn't an indictment of the OWGR as much as it is of today’s top players failing to take advantage of the golden opportunity afforded them with Woods slumping.

The Official World Golf Ranking has never been better for the game than it is today.

Wow, can’t believe I wrote that without the benefit of a helmet or flak jacket, knowing how so many despise the system.

I’m not in the camp that believes the OWGR is good for the game just because it’s controversial. I don’t believe it’s good for the game in the same way that the BCS is good for college football, because it gets people talking about the sport, though it serves that purpose pretty well.

I recognize the world rankings are flawed but like the system because I want some standard to compare and measure the world’s best players in the same way that I can measure the standing of my favorite Major League Baseball, NBA or NFL teams. I like having “standings” that live and breathe and change with the week’s action. Of course, the nearly impossible challenge in golf is finding a measurement that compares apples to oranges, that compares Americans, Europeans, Asians, Australians, Africans and whoever plays professionally even when they’re not competing directly against each other.

Yeah, the OWGR is flawed, it’s imperfect, and it can be maddening to understand, but I like it because it works remarkably well given its impossible task.

Why do I believe that? Because so few tour pros complain about it.

Sadly, that is my best defense of the rankings. There’s almost no outrage among players. If the system were that flawed, that unjust, wouldn’t we hear more players pointing out the inequities? Players complain about everything. Greens, sand in bunkers, rental cars. If there was something fundamentally wrong with today’s world rankings, we’d hear it ad nauseam.

While there are players who dislike the OWGR, a staggeringly large number of them think it works pretty well.

Hey, you might quibble over who should be No. 1 and who should be No. 10 or No. 50, but the system does a surprisingly good job identifying the best grouping of players. Generally, the system gives us a fairly legitimate top 10 and top 50.

I concede the largest problem is on that top-50 bubble, or whatever bubble’s being used to qualify players for majors and world championships.

And I get Paul Azinger’s complaint that players should understand exactly how they’re qualifying for big events. There are quirks in the way a player can sit out a week and move up in the world rankings. Azinger’s best criticism of the world rankings is that players should know what they’re choking for. They should know if they miss this 10-foot putt, it will cost them a title or the $100,000 they need to move up the money list. Nobody’s really sure how many ranking points he’s losing missing a 10-foot putt.

The OWGR is like the weather, though. Everyone likes to complain about it, but nobody does anything about it.

Nobody’s offering a system that comes close to being better.

A column like this will incite numerous complaints about injustices in the system, but few, if any, realistic solutions that specifically show how that new system would more accurately measure players from around the world.

Until somebody can show me a better plan with fewer imperfections, I’m liking that we have the OWGR.

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell