There are few absolutes in professional golf – Tiger wearing red on Sunday, slow play – ironically combined with players complaining about slow play – and a widely held distaste for the Official World Golf Ranking.
How, for example, could the winner of last month’s Kansai Open Golf Championship – it’s a real event on the Japan Golf Tour, look it up – earn more world ranking points than the winner of the Cox Classic held the same week on the Web.com Tour?
Detractors claim that built-in minimums like that at the Kansai Open screw the world ranking, ignore competitive reality and create abnormalities in the system like Brendan Jones.
Jones played the PGA Tour in 2005, missed almost as many cuts (13) as he made (14), finished 144th in earnings and returned to ply his trade on the Japan circuit. Three times since 2008, however, the Australian has returned to the United States to play the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship because he’s been able to maintain his spot in the world’s top 64 playing the Japan Tour almost exclusively.
At Tour water coolers, anomalies like Jones have made the world ranking golf’s version of the BCS, which prompted your scribe to test the OWGR math. For an entire year we selected our team each week for the Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge based on the screwed points and confusing algorithms.
The initial thesis was that an entire year betting chalk based on the world ranking math and misplaced importance of many tournaments would expose the ranking, right? But it turns out there may be something to the arithmetic after all.
With fields split into four groups – normally with the top 10- to 12-ranked players in Group 1, the next 25 to 40 players in Group 2 and the remainder of the field split between the final two groups – your scribe sailed out to an early lead in the 22-person “expert” division.
By the time the Tour left the West Coast, the lead was about $100,000 and that ballooned to nearly $1.5 million when D.A. Points – the top-ranked player in Group 3 at the Shell Houston Open – won for the second time on Tour. For those scoring at home, Points entered that week ranked 195th in the ranking.
At the turn of the season (Zurich Classic) the lead was $704,000 over Gary Williams, thanks primarily to perennial favorite Tiger Woods’ three victories before April.
Things took a bad turn at the Open Championship when chalk delivered Woods and Louis Oosthuizen, who tied for sixth and withdrew, respectively, and Charlie Rymer moved into the top spot, about $230,000 ahead of the good guys.
Although we briefly took the lead again at the Canadian Open – thanks to Brandt Snedeker – Rymer pulled away when our “chalk” picks failed to make a dime, or a world ranking point, at the Wyndham Championship.
Rymer won the season-long race, finishing with $25.5 million; followed by GolfChannel.com staff writer Ryan Lavner at $23.6 million and the much-maligned world ranking left yours truly in third place with $23.1 million.
Despite the loss, and the year of incessant bragging that Rymer is sure to bring, the OWGR delivered against, well . . . all odds.
Although the Fantasy Challenge is based primarily on the PGA Tour schedule, LPGA majors and select European Tour events, like the circuit’s flagship BMW PGA Championship and Scottish Open were included in the yearlong competition, and seemed to follow the world ranking script closer than stops in the United States.
This was not the column we imagined we’d be writing when the experiment began in January at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, not when one considers the amount of time that has been wasted trying to create a better ranking. History, if not histrionics, suggested we should have expected a finish closer to the back of the pack and more than just a single wasted week like the one endured at the Wyndham.
The OWGR is not perfect, and probably never will be. Trying to quantify the level of play on 13 different tours across the globe is, by definition, subjective. But over the course of nine months, the Official World Golf Ranking outperformed all but two of Golf Channel’s experts.
If you’re looking for a way to improve your fantasy team for next season we highly recommend it, but we’ll leave the chalk lineups to others. Next season is just two weeks away and there is no way we can let Rymer go back-to-back.