Notes Trying to make sense of the world rankings

By Doug FergusonDecember 31, 2009, 5:28 am

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?

Not necessarily.

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.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 2:30 pm

Tiger Woods shot his second consecutive 70 on Friday at Carnoustie and enters weekend play at even par for the championship, still in contention for major No. 15.

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Scott and Sunesson a one-week partnership

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 2:13 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Adam Scott has been in between caddies for the last month and went with a bold stand-in for this week’s Open Championship, coaxing veteran looper Fanny Sunesson out of retirement to work for him at Carnoustie.

Sunesson caddied for Nick Faldo in his prime, as the duo won four major titles together. She also worked for Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia before a back injury forced her to retire.

But for this week’s championship, Scott convinced the Swede to return to the caddie corps. The results have been impressive, with the Australian following an opening 71 with a second-round 70 for a tie for 16th place.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It's been going great. Fanny is, obviously, a fantastic caddie, and to be able to have that experience out there with me is certainly comforting,” Scott said. “We've gotten along really well. She's picked up on my game quickly, and I think we think about things in a very similar way.”

Scott was also asked about a potential long-term partnership between the duo, but he didn’t sound hopeful.

“It's just for this week,” he said. “It would be up to her, but I don't think she's making plans of a comeback. I was being a bit opportunistic in contacting her and coaxing her out of retirement, I guess. But I think she's having a good week. We'll just take it one week at the moment.”

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After tense Augusta Sunday, Rory ready to be aggressive

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 1:51 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy temporarily lost his superpowers during the Masters.  

In one of the most surprising rounds of the year, he played tentatively and carefully during the final day. Squaring off against the major-less Patrick Reed, on the brink of history, with the backing of nearly the entire crowd, it was McIlroy who shrank in the moment, who looked like the one searching for validation. He shot a joyless 74 and wound up six shots behind Reed.

No, the final round was nowhere near as dispiriting as the finale in 2011, but McIlroy still sulked the following week. He binge-watched TV shows. Devoured a few books. Guzzled a couple of bottles of wine. His pity party lasted a few days, until his wife, Erica, finally dragged him out of the house for a walk.

Some deeper introspection was required, and McIlroy revealed a healthier self-analysis Friday at Carnoustie. He diagnosed what went wrong at Augusta, and then again two months later at the U.S. Open, where he blew himself out of the tournament with an opening 80.

“I was worrying too much about the result, not focusing on the process,” he said. “Sunday at Augusta was a big learning curve for me because, even if I hadn’t won that tournament, but I went down swinging and aggressive and committing to every shot, I would have walked away a lot happier.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

And so McIlroy has a new mantra this week at The Open.

Let it go.

Don’t hold back. Don’t worry about the repercussions. Don’t play scared.

“I’m committed to making sure, even if I don’t play my best golf and don’t shoot the scores I want, I’m going to go down swinging, and I’m going to go down giving my best,” he said. “The result is the byproduct of all the little things you do to lead up to that. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that, and I just need to get back in that mindset.”

It’s worked through two rounds, even after the cool, damp conditions led McIlroy to abandon his ultra-aggressive strategy. He offset a few mistakes with four birdies, shooting a second consecutive 69 to sit just a couple of shots off the lead.

During a sun-splashed first round, McIlroy gleefully banged driver on almost every hole, flying or skirting the bunkers that dot these baked-out, undulating fairways. He wasn’t particularly accurate, but he also didn’t need to be, as the thin, wispy rough enabled every player to at least advance their approach shots near the green.

Friday’s weather presented a different challenge. A steady morning rain took some of the fire out of parched fairways, but the cooler temperatures also reduced much of the bombers’ hang time. Suddenly, all of the bunkers were in play, and McIlroy needed to adjust his driver-heavy approach (he hit only six) on the fly.

“It just wasn’t worth it,” he said.

McIlroy hit a few “skanky” shots, in his words, but even his bigger misses – on the sixth and 17th holes – were on the proper side, allowing him to scramble for par and keep the round going.

It’s the fifth time in his career that he’s opened a major with back-to-back rounds in the 60s. He’s gone on to win three of the previous four – the lone exception that disastrous final round (80) at Augusta in 2011.

“I don’t want to say easy,” he said, “but it’s felt comfortable.”

The weekend gets uncomfortable for everyone, apparently even four-time major winners who, when in form, ooze confidence and swagger.

Once again McIlroy has that look at a major.

The only thing left to do?

Let it go.

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Z. Johnson may have to pay for the jet home

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 1:23 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Zach Johnson will have some bragging rights when he gets back to the ultimate golf frat house on Friday after a second-round 67 moved him into the lead at The Open.

Johnson is rooming with Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Kevin Kisner, Jimmy Walker, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler this week at Carnoustie. It’s a tradition that began two years ago at Royal Troon.

Kisner joked on Thursday after he took the first-round lead that the perks for the house/tournament front-runner were limited: “I probably get to eat first,” he said.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

There is, however, one running wager.

“Two years ago we, I don't know if you call it bet, but agreement that, if you win, you get the jet and you buy it, so we go home,” said Johnson, who added that because of varying travel arrangements, the wager might not be needed this year. “I didn't pay last year. Somebody else did.”

Spieth won last year’s championship at Royal Birkdale.

Despite the expense, Johnson said he didn’t know how much it costs to charter a private flight back to the United States, but it’s a good problem to have.

“I’d be happy to fork it over,” he smiled.