Uneven Numbers

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At first blush the headline appeared to be some sort of April Fools' Day offering, but then we realized that the Associated Press doesnt do frivolity. Davis Love III was indeed outside the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking, and in turn likely out of the Masters, by the slimmest of margins, by the most suspicious math.
 
Its not that Love dropped outside the top 50, golf is a game of numbers and somebody is always missing a decimal point, so much as why he dropped. The 20-time Tour winner missed the cut at last weeks Arnold Palmer Invitational, and ' perhaps predictably ' dropped from 47th to 51st.
 
Davis Love III
Despite winning in 2008, Davis Love III will miss the Masters for the second year in a row. (Getty Images)
Heres where the math, or maybe its the method, gets sideways. According to the report Love would have remained inside the top 50, by seven-thousandths of a point, had he skipped Bay Hill. A week earlier Love skipped the Transitions Championship to recharge in the Georgia woods hunting and moved up a spot in the ranking.
 
Whether Love deserves to be in the Masters is a debate for another day. Truth is, DLIII is the victim of having the wrong passport and of having won a Tour event on the wrong side of the FedEx Cup calendar. If, by way of comparison, Love grew up in Sea Island, Australia, chances are very good he would have been granted a foreign exemption, like Greg Norman in 2002, to motor down Magnolia Lane. If Love would have won last years Travelers Championship, instead of Disney which had a statistically stronger field according to the world ranking, hed be chasing Tiger Woods next week at Augusta National and not wild game at his hunting camp.
 
Yet, as egregious as Loves Masters miss may seem, our beef is with the ranking. During this age of added value, when Tour officials regularly plead with professionals to play more and to be more engaging with sponsors and pro-am partners, we have a rating system that appears to reward inactivity.
 
Its perfect if youre a career couch potato, but probably not what the folks in the Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., home office are looking to encourage.
 
In many ways Love is the quintessential world ranking victim. Hes a company man to his core, a four-term Policy Board member who spent Monday and Tuesday of Bay Hill week in board meetings and Wednesday playing in the pro-am. Probably not the best way to prepare for a late Masters run. Love is the antithesis of a ranking system that encourages fewer starts at home and more appearance fees abroad.
 
Love is hardly alone in the ranking conundrum. Vijay Singh, for years the Ironman of the Tour, is regularly hurt in the ranking because of his high volume of play. Without the aid of a slide-ruler or MIT-educated editor, a players ranking is based on a two-year rolling scale and a minimum of 40 events, a perfect number for Woods ' who averages between 15 and 20 Tour events each season. Singh, however, is a road warrior, having played less than 27 times on Tour just once since 1998. As a result, his divisor drives down his ranking.
 
A few years back a member of the Tours Policy Board was eyeing the field for the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship ' which is plucked directly from the top 64 in the World Ranking ' and wondered aloud why the Tour still used the complex rating when the circuit had its own way to measure success ' the FedEx Cup points.
 
We had a chance to talk with Louis Oosthuizen earlier this season, good guy, great player and, according to one long-time observer, South Africas next star. And Augusta National is an island, anchored by tradition and certainly free to invite whomever they wish. But a player, like Oosthuizen, who has a total of 10 starts in Tour-sanctioned events and his best finish is a tie for 20th should not be ranked among the top 50 in the world.
 
It is the mathematics of the world tour, a global village concept that is fine for picking World Cup teams but should not be the basis for entry into what is arguably the seasons most important event.
 
Play better, its the tired bromide players and their sports psychologist trot out every time a situation becomes too confusing or a scenario inches too close to home. Love could have played better and no one would have been penning an ode to Oosthuizen missing his first Masters. But then the South African didnt finish in the top 10 at Augusta National four out of five years starting in 1995, doesnt have 20 Tour titles, a major or venerable Ryder Cup record.
 
Less than a year ago Love was 146th in the world, hobbled by a severe ankle injury and written off in some circles as an American warhorse past his sell by date. In the months since, he whipped his 44-year-old frame into the best shape of his career, endured qualifying for the U.S. and British opens, won a Tour title and finished 48th in earnings. As resumes go, that one is keeper.
 
But then, Augusta National has become a tough place for the games Roman Numerals, joining DLIII on the sideline next week will likely be Augusta native Charles Howell III and Tommy Armour III. It all adds up to another set of numbers that just dont make sense.
 
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