No Middle Ground

By Rex HoggardOctober 14, 2010, 3:22 am
Lee Westwood will likely dethrone Tiger Woods as the top-ranked player in the Official World Golf Ranking from his couch in the coming weeks. Seems about right since Phil Mickelson spent the better part of the summer trying to do the same thing from what appeared to be a La-Z-Boy.

Still, let’s call the changing of the top card the wrong execution of the right idea. Woods has not played like the world’s best in about a year but he’d built up enough real-estate left of his ranking decimal point to spark another housing downturn.

Kenny Perry
Kenny Perry is currently ranked 50th in the OWGR. (Getty Images)
It is interesting, however, that the shakeup atop the world ranking has caused such a stir. As a measure, Woods likely counts his record 279 weeks atop the ranking somewhere just north of having never missed a pro-am tee time and his collection of lavender cardigans.

For the world’s best it is wins – not money earned or scoring averages or FedEx Cup points – that move the needle. But for the rank-and-file the ranking is everything.

The media will fixate on the No. 1 debate in coming weeks, but it is the injustice of the middle ground that truly needs a fix.

The mystical math that will lift Westwood from the DL to No. 1 in the next few weeks is the same barometer that will decide, to one degree or another, who plays in next year’s major championships and World Golf Championships, the Presidents and Ryder Cups and even the PGA Tour’s Qualifying School Tournament.

The top 64 in the world play the WGC-Match Play Championship, half of the victorious European Ryder Cup team was there via the convoluted arithmetic of the OWGR and the top 50 as of Sept. 29 earn a direct pass to the final stage of Q-School, hardly a perk but still.

Contrary to urban legend, European players are impacted just as much, if not more, than the American frat brothers. If a player from the continent wants to split time between home and the United States his only chance is to be in the top 50, the ultimate benchmark for many tournaments.

“They have the life of Riley if they are in the top 50,” said Rocky Hambric, a longtime manager with a lengthy list of European clients. “’If not it’s really difficult to set a schedule.”

The World Golf Ranking was the original “Cigar Guy,” a political bargaining chip photoshopped into entry qualifications from Asia to Akron. A system that no one understands yet is the ultimate litmus test for those who want to play for pay at the highest level.

Most observers will tell you the current ranking system is skewed toward tours in Japan, Asian, Australia and South Africa. Minimum point provisions assure representation from these secondary circuits while more deserving players from the European and PGA tours watch the biggest events from the sidelines.

Exhibit A: Yuta Ikeda, a fine player back home on the Japan Golf Tour, is currently 61st in the world ranking despite not posting a single top-10 in 10 U.S. events this season. By comparison Brendon de Jonge is wallowing at 92nd in the ranking after a season that included seven top-10s on the PGA Tour and made cuts in both majors he played in 2010.

One of those players is currently qualified for next year’s WGC-Match Play Championship. The other is de Jonge.

As a rule, money lists are the purest form of competitive proficiency and many argue that the current reliance on the world ranking to decide fields at marquee events should be nixed in favor of a 'Cash is King' concept.

Set the line at top 30 in earnings on the PGA Tour and European Tour, while all other circuits are limited to the top 3 money winners.

The world ranking doesn’t need to be dismantled, just recognized for what it is – a conversation starter. If you want to know who is No. 1 go to the OWGR. But if you want to set the field for a major or WGC a more equitable system is required.

Or, if not a better formula, then at least a model free of the political patronage that ignores the talent gap between players in the big leagues (PGA and European tours) and the secondary circuits.

A model that awards points based strictly on the strength of field, not minimum point provisos, would be a start. Currently winners of events on the Asian, South African and Nationwide tours earn at least 14 points, while an Australasian or Japan tour champion gets 16 points. On the European and PGA tours that minimum is 24.

Without a points threshold, tours in Asian and South Africa and Japan would need support from their homegrown stars or go without. Either way it’s competitive Darwinism at its best.

No, we’re not overly concerned with who takes over the top spot in the world ranking in the coming weeks. But No. 50, now that’s a conversation starter.
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Rose (64) peaking just ahead of the U.S. Open

By Nick MentaMay 25, 2018, 8:40 pm

A former U.S. Open champion appears to be finding his form just three weeks ahead of the year's second major.

Justin Rose ascended to the top of the leaderboard Friday at the Fort Worth Invitational, with rounds of 66-64 pushing him to 10 under par for the week.

Through 36 at Colonial, Rose has marked 12 birdies against just two bogeys.

"Yeah, I did a lot of good things today," Rose said. "I think, you know, the end of my round got a little scrappy, but until the last three holes it was pretty flawless. I think I hit every fairway pretty much and obviously every green to that point. ...

"Yeah, the way I played through, I guess through my first 15 holes today, was about as good as I've played in a long time."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Rose won in back-to-back weeks last fall, stunning Dustin Johnson at the WGC-HSBC Championship and riding that victory right into another at the Turkish Airlines Open.

Now the 2013 U.S. Open winner at Merion feels himself once again rounding into form ahead of this year's Open at Shinnecock. A final-round 66 at The Players gave Rose something to focus on in his recent practice sessions with swing coach Sean Foley, as the two work to shore up the timing of Rose's transition into the downswing.

As for his decision to tee it up at Colonial for the first time since 2010, "It was more the run of form really," Rose explained. "I feel like if I didn't play here it was going to be a little spotty going into the U.S. Open. I felt like I wanted to play enough golf where I would have a good read on my game going into Shinnecock.

"So rather than the venue it was more the timing, but it's obviously it's just such a bonus to be on a great layout like this."

For whatever reason, Rose does tend to play his best golf at iconic venues, having won PGA Tour events at Muirfield Village, Aronimink, Cog Hill, Doral, Merion and Congressional.

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Koepka (63): Two wrist dislocations in two months

By Nick MentaMay 25, 2018, 8:19 pm

Brook Koepka's journey back from a wrist injury that kept him out four months hasn't been totally smooth sailing, even if his play has suggested otherwise.

Koepka on Friday fired a 7-under 63 to move up the leaderboard into a tie for third, three shots behind leader Justin Rose through the end of the morning wave at the Fort Worth Invitational.

After a slow start Thursday saw him play his first 13 holes 3 over, Koepka is 10 under with 11 birdies in his last 23 holes at Colonial.

"It doesn't matter to me. I could care less. I'm still going to try as hard as I can," Koepka said. "I don't care how many over or how many under I am. Still going to fight through it."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Just like he's been fighting his wrist the last two months or so. Koepka reinjured his wrist the Wednesday of The Players when he was practicing on the range and had to halt mid-swing after a golf cart drove in front of him. He nonetheless managed to finish T-11.

And that's not the only issue he's had with that wrist during his return.

"We had a bone pop out of place. I didn't tell anybody, but, yeah, they popped it back in," Koepka admitted Friday. "Luckily enough we kind of popped it back into place right away so it wasn't stiff and I didn't have too, too many problems.

"Yeah. I mean, I've dislocated my wrist twice in the last two months. You know, different spots, but, I mean, it's fun. I'll be all right."

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Twitter spat turns into fundraising opportunity

By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 6:30 pm

Country music star Jake Owen, along with Brandt Snedeker, has turned a spat on Twitter into a fundraising campaign that will support Snedeker’s foundation.

On Thursday, Owen was criticized during the opening round of the Tour’s Nashville Golf Open, which benefits the Snedeker Foundation, for his poor play after opening with an 86.

In response, Snedeker and country singer Chris Young pledged $5,000 for every birdie that Owen makes on Friday in a campaign called NGO Birdies for Kids

Although Owen, who is playing the event on a sponsor exemption, doesn’t tee off for Round 2 in Nashville until 2 p.m. (CT), the campaign has already generated interest, with NBC Sports/Golf Channel analyst Peter Jacobsen along with Tour player Zac Blair both pledging $100 for every birdie Owen makes.

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Noren so impressed by Rory: 'I'm about to quit golf'

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 5:33 pm

Alex Noren won the BMW PGA Championship last year, one of his nine career European Tour victories.

He opened his title defense at Wentworth Club in 68-69 and is tied for fourth through two rounds. Unfortunately, he's five back of leader Rory McIlroy. And after playing the first two days alongside McIlroy, Noren, currently ranked 19th in the world, doesn't seem to like his chances of back-to-back wins.

McIlroy opened in 67 and then shot a bogey-free 65 in second round, which included pars on the pair of par-5 finishing holes. Noren walked away left in awe.

"That's the best round I've ever seen," Noren said. "I'm about to quit golf, I think."

Check out the full interview below: