World Golf Ranking formula defies common sense

By Jason SobelApril 15, 2012, 11:12 pm

You may believe Luke Donald is ill-suited to be the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world. You may think such honors should be reserved for a major championship winner or the most talented player according to the ol' eyeball test.

You may even be firmly ensconced in the camp which contends that after back-to-back finishes outside the top 30, Donald no longer deserves to be called No. 1 – despite the fact that his last result prior to the past two weeks was a victory at the Transitions Championship.

You can’t, however, convince me that the following development makes any semblance of sense.

Donald finished T-37 at the RBC Heritage on Sunday, in the process losing his No. 1 spot on the Official World Golf Ranking to Rory McIlroy – a guy who spent the past week enjoying some well deserved time off.

The truth is, Donald could have finished as high as ninth at Harbour Town and still been ousted by a player whose two main accomplishments this week were reaching 1 million Twitter followers and relaxing with his tennis-playing girlfriend.


Idle McIlroy takes top spot back from Donald


Speaking of which: They say it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, but when it comes to golf’s rankings formula, abstention is often the best policy.

Does this happen in other professions? Can the world’s top-ranked surgeon perform several lengthy procedures, only to lose his title to a guy sunning himself in Cabo? Can the No. 1 plumber spend the week knee-deep in unclogged toilets, then get surpassed by a vacationing peer who left his plunger at the office?

We’ve been spoiled by the serendipity surrounding the No. 1 ranking’s revolving door over the past 14 months. When Martin Kaymer first reached the top spot, it was because he reached the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. When Donald initially got there, it was due to his playoff triumph over previous No. 1 Lee Westwood at the BMW PGA Championship. When McIlroy got the call, it came directly based on his Honda Classic victory.

Each of those momentous occasions masked an underlying problem within the infrastructure of the OWGR’s formula: There is no accounting for common sense.

Perhaps both the best and worst thing about the OWGR is that it's all based on mathematics. If you've got a problem with where somebody is ranked, you can't scream at a biased voter, but rather must take issue at what can only be imagined as a large supercomputer that's constantly spitting out new calculations.

Of course, nowhere in that formula is there a factor for the voice of reason, which should state some pretense of the following: If Player A competes – and especially if Player A competes pretty successfully – then he shouldn’t be passed on the list by Player B if Player B spent the same time drinking mojitos poolside at some exclusive resort.

This scenario is magnified when the No. 1 spot is involved, but it’s hardly unique to that lone place on the list. Every single week, players are passed by others with no apparent rhyme or reason, other than the calculation favors somebody else. Just recently, Bubba Watson publicly questioned how a share of fourth place at the Arnold Palmer Invitational dropped him from 16th in the world to 18th.

How does this happen? It’s all about divisors. In the case of McIlroy passing Donald, young Rory’s divisor dropped from 50 events during the rolling two-year calendar to 49, though his total number of points largely remained intact, meaning his average points – the final number used to determine world ranking status – actually increased not despite his week off from work, but because of it.

Consider it a glitch in a system that many are quick to condemn without fully understanding. Much like its distant cousin, college football’s Bowl Championship Series, the OWGR is often deemed a failure not for the high percentage of rankings that the calculations get correct, but the low number of them that are glaring and egregious errors.

In both cases, the underlying root for such issues is the lack of a common-sense divisor, some type of corollary that would override the formula when its math obviously isn’t thinking clearly.

If that had been in place this week, someone would have been able to push the big red “stop the presses” button before the OWGR was released, in effect keeping the status quo atop the ordering because it made sense, even if the numbers said otherwise.

It’s perfectly fine if you believe Luke Donald doesn’t deserve to be the world’s No. 1-ranked player. Likewise, it’s absolutely acceptable to think that Rory McIlroy should be in that place instead.

Neither conclusion, though, would have been reached based on this week’s results. Alas, there is no scenario in which a share of 37th place at a PGA Tour event should trump seven days of R&R, despite what the numbers contend.

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After starting with 62, Na finishes with 61

By Al TaysMay 27, 2018, 9:13 pm

After Kevin Na opened the Fort Worth Invitational with an 8-under 62, he was disappointed with his next two rounds of 73 and 70. But on Sunday, the magic returned. Na tied the course record of 61 for a four-round total of 14-under 266.

Na came within inches of breaking the course record, hitting his final approach shot, a 9-iron from 146 yards, to inside a foot and tapping in for 61.

"Yeah, I knew it was for the course record," Na said. "I knew I had to birdie the last to tie it. I had a beautiful 9-iron. Drew it in there, turned to the left flag. It's a little dangerous. Obviously anything left goes in the water.

"So, pitched it two yards right. With that hook spin coming in, nearly went in to about 10 inches."

Na, who is seeking his first win since 2011, finished T-6 at last week's AT&T Byron Nelson.

Na was informed that he had made 381 feet of putts in four rounds, including 130 feet on Sunday alone.

"I putted great first round and final round," he said. "Second round I putted awful. I went back to my putter I played with last week in Round 3 and then I putted great today. That putter only lasted one round, a good round.

"But I'm very pleased. My putting has been kind of up and down this year, but I had a great putting day today."

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Runner-up McIlroy: 'I should have closed it out'

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 5:18 pm

After taking the 36-hole lead by three and taking a share of the 54-hole lead into the final round, Rory McIlroy failed to keep pace with Francesco Molinari on Sunday at the BMW PGA Championship.

Struggling with a two-way miss throughout the weekend, McIlroy fell four down to Molinari through 10 holes.

The Ulsterman attempted to mount a late charge, with birdies at 12 and 17, but when his eagle putt at the 72nd hole came up inches short, and when Molinari's ball opted not to spin back into the water, the comeback bid came to an end.

His final round of 2-under 70 left him in solo second, two shots behind the champion.


Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship


"I’m just disappointed I didn’t play better over the weekend," McIlroy said. "I was in a great position after two days and struggled yesterday and sort struggled today again, as well. I just couldn’t get it going. I let Francesco get a few shots ahead of me, and I couldn’t claw that back.

“I played some good golf coming down the back nine, hit some better shots, but I need to work on a few things going forward."

McIlroy ended an 18-month worldwide winless drought earlier this year with his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational but hasn't claimed victory on the European Tour in two years, since the Irish Open in May of 2016.

"I get a bit down on myself because my expectations are high, and with a 36-hole lead, I should have closed it out this week," McIlroy said. "But that’s not taking anything away from Francesco. He played a great weekend and bogey-free around here is some playing. He deserved the win, I need to do a little more work, and I’m looking to forward to getting right back at it at Memorial next week."

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Molinari holds off McIlroy to win BMW PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 3:20 pm

VIRGINIA WATER, England - Francesco Molinari's path to the biggest win of his career at the BMW PGA Championship was drama-free until he sized up his approach to the 72nd hole.

Rory McIlroy, his closest rival three strokes back, had just hit to 20 feet to set up an eagle chance. Molinari was between clubs for his third shot and faced a delicate wedge over the water protecting Wentworth's pretty 18th green.

His ball landed short of the pin and span back toward the water. The spectators held their collective breath - so did Molinari - but it came to rest on the fringe, just short of trouble.

''Just a bit of luck at the right time,'' Molinari said, with a smile.

After McIlroy came up inches short with his eagle putt, Molinari rolled in for par from 6 feet for a 4-under 68 that secured a two-stroke victory at Wentworth on Sunday. It was the fifth win of his career, and his most satisfying.

''If I could pick one tournament to win in my career, it would be this one,'' the Italian said at the prizegiving ceremony.

A Sunday shootout between Molinari and McIlroy at the European Tour's flagship event never really materialized.

They entered the final round tied for the lead on 13 under but while McIlroy sprayed his drives left and right, Molinari was the model of consistency and established a three-shot cushion by the turn after birdies at Nos. 3, 4 and 8.

From there on, it was a clinic in front-running from Molinari, who laid up when he needed to and picked up his only shot on the back nine with a tap-in birdie at the par-5 12th.

McIlroy birdied the par 5s at Nos. 17 and 18 but mounted his victory charge too late.

''I didn't feel intimidated at all,'' Molinari said of his head-to-head with the former world No. 1. ''It's just the last couple of holes, he's basically thinking eagle, eagle. I'm thinking par, par, and that makes the whole difference.

''Sometimes I just get too drawn on what the other guy is doing, and I was really good today, hitting good shots and focusing on my process and not worrying about anything else.''

Molinari played his final 44 holes bogey-free. He only dropped two shots all week, one of them coming on his first hole.


Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship


He will likely climb into the world's top 20 on Monday and has moved into the automatic qualifying places for the European team for the Ryder Cup, which he hasn't played since 2012 when Europe beat the United States in the so-called ''Miracle at Medinah.''

''I'm playing well enough that I shouldn't really worry too much about that,'' Molinari said. ''I should just keep doing my own thing and hopefully things will take care of themselves.''

Molinari previously had five top-10 finishes in the last six years at Wentworth, including being runner-up to Alex Noren last year.

On that occasion, Noren closed with a 10-under 62 and the Swede embarked on another last-day charge 12 months later, a fifth birdie of the day at No. 12 briefly drawing him to within two shots of Molinari.

It was the closest he came, with a bogey at the next virtually ending his bid for victory.

With a 67, Noren was tied for third with Lucas Bjerregaard (65), a stroke back from McIlroy.

McIlroy, the 2014 winner at Wentworth, played what he described as one of his best rounds of 2018 on Friday, a bogey-free 65 that left him with a three-shot lead.

He struggled off the tee in shooting 71 on Saturday and started the final round with errant drives on Nos. 1 and 3 (both right, into spectators) and No. 4 (left). After a bogey at No. 10, he was the only player in the top 10 over par but he birdied the three par 5s coming home to salvage what was otherwise a disappointing Sunday.

''With a 36-hole lead,'' McIlroy said, ''I should have closed it out this week.''

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Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:19 am

IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.

Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.

Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.

Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.

Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.