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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Rolex World Rankings Get Interesting

Well, it looks like I don't have much time -- we've got severe weather right on top of us and I'm going to have to shut down the system here. I just thought I'd note something interesting that's happening with the ladies right now.

In fact, it's not too much different from what the men saw last month.

Photo of Suzann Pettersen from LPGA.comAt Lorena's tournament this past weekend Suzann Pettersen got her sixth 2nd-place finish of the year... and leapfrogged all the way up to #2 on the Rolex World Rankings. She's about half a point behind leader Jiyai Shin and three-tenths of a point ahead of #3 Cristie Kerr.

As I said, this isn't too much different from the Lee Westwood story... except Lee had a win in 2010. Suzann doesn't. And I don't mean she hasn't won on the LPGA Tour -- Suzann hasn't won anywhere in the world in 2010. Her last win was last November at the Ladies Irish Open on the LET; her last LPGA win was the CN Canadian Women's Open in September 2009.

How consistent do you have to play to move up the rankings like that? It's not like the women have been playing badly -- it's been just the opposite, as you know if you've been following this blog, Mostly Harmless, and Hound Dog LPGA, just to name a few. And this despite battling a chronic hip problem!

I mention this because Suzann isn't eligible for most of the LPGA awards this year... she doesn't have enough rounds. But wouldn't it be funny if she managed to snag #1 in the world without getting any of the other accolades?

Just thought it was worth mentioning and worth watching over the next month as the LPGA year comes to a close... and as I close down my system to avoid the storms. (Although I don't think that will affect her rankings.)

10 comments:

  1. we're back to the calendar again. rankings are a 2 year process. the other awards are annual.

    oh wait...she only has 1 win in 2 years and a boatload of seconds and top 10's.

    yep - the rankings make no sense. Shin has 5 wins and 26 top 10's in 2 years. Kerr has 3 wins and 25 top 10's. Tseng has 4 wins (2 majors) and 22 top 10's.

    Being #2 isn't being #1, but it's too darn close. The formula is screwed up if winning doesn't matter. Wins have to count for more, and as long as we're going to call them majors, they need to count even more than a regular win - and they need to show in the rankings.

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  2. Well, technically it's two wins in two years, since the LET win counts in the rankings.

    Again, it comes back to this idea that the World Rankings (be thay male or female) rank consistency higher than wins. Wins do count more points, but not enough to override what they consider "inconsistent play."

    In-Kyung Kim, for example, jumped a point in her ranking average with her win, which was enough to leap her from #9 to #7. Pettersen gained .6 of a point for her 2nd, leaping her from #5 to #2. But that's not the whole story.

    The rankings are much more spread out once you drop below #6 -- if Kim had been #5 like Pettersen, she would have nearly caught leader Jiyai Shin, whom Suzann is still .5 of a point behind. Also, Inky has played 48 tournaments versus Suzann's 42, so Suzann got a bit more "mileage" from her points.

    And, just looking at 2010, Suzann only has 3 LPGA finishes worse than T16, while Inky has 8.

    I understand what you're saying -- I don't think wins count enough either, which is why the RGWR for the men requires them to win in order to be in them -- but I think the real trick is who wins the tournament when Suzann comes in 2nd, and where they stood before. Suzann didn't make this jump until she came in 2nd and was sufficiently better than the ladies she jumped. #2 Tseng didn't even show up, so she lost .1 points and fell all the way to #4. #3 Choi finished T7 and actually gained a half-point... but both she and Tseng had that against 53 tournaments (vs Suzann's 42), so they lost ground relative to Suzann.

    And Kerr finished T4, gaining .16 points to her average; she didn't lose much ground because she only had 46 tournaments.

    My point is that if Kerr, Choi, or Tseng win, they probably take over #1 and Suzann moves to #4, maybe #3 and this discussion never happens. I think the Constructivist put his finger on it when he said the Top 6 in the rankings are just playing phenomenal golf right now, so much better than everyone else that it's skewing our ability to measure it accurately.

    I dislike the term "parity," but it's the only word I can think of right now that's anywhere close. It proabably won't last, but it's fun to watch while it does.

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  3. Any explanation of the system seems to show how weak it really is.

    I agree - parity isn't the right word - mostly because it conveys a picture of a lot more than 5 or 6 players world wide who are in this battle. It's a plateau that only a handful are playing on right now...but it's a bigger plateau than it has been most of the last almost 20 years with Annika and Lorena.

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  4. I'm not sure the system's that weak, Court -- it's just that attempting to use a single point value to measure a variety of different stats like "wins" and "margin of win" and "field strength" and "finish position" and "consistency" and who knows what else is neither the easiest or best way of ranking players.

    For example, is Kerr's 12-stroke win at the LPGA Championship more impressive than Creamer's 4-stroke win at the US Women's Open (with a comparatively tougher setup) or Tseng's Open win (with bad weather)? Which is worth more -- a win over a large field with a variety of player ranks or a win over a small field of elite players? And how do you convert that to points?

    I just don't think there's a way to get a system that everybody would agree is fair. No matter what you do, it's a compromise.

    I'm not defending the existing system; I just can't imagine how to change it so it would work.

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  5. The thing about the wins is this - they were all in the field and playing the same course. Kerr being lights out for four days was an amazing performance, but if she was truly that much better than everybody else (the way Tiger Woods went about proving himself after lapping the field at The Masters), then she would have continued beating up on the other women. But the truth is, she was unbeatable...that week - not unbeatable period.

    I'm not a big believer in style points - especially in golf. They aren't a very good indicator...which kind of throws a bone to the consistency point. Hmmm. Argued myself into a corner.

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  6. At least Manny Pacquiao isn't waiting in that corner. ;-D

    But I think you proved my point... I don't think it's a bad system, it's just hard to properly rank so many aspects using only points. The only real alternative would look like a D&D character sheet, and I'm not sure that's any more useful.

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  7. Well reasoned, valid points from both of you.

    The problem could partly be because the ranking systems wasn't really designed to select the top golfer. It was designed to provide some objectivity to decide the "last golfer in the field." Look at how much variation we have between the various computer rankings used by the BCS in college football.

    When you look at the discussions at Hound Dog and Mostly Harmless, no one (including me) is arguing that Ji Yai Shin is the best golfer because she leads the Rolex Rankings. I think you put the results out and make your best arguement based on your own criteria and agree to disagree. But then, I wouldn't want to decide who gets the last spot in the LPGA State Farm Classic.

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  8. I agree, SM. The women are playing such good golf right now that who's best (or worst) just depends on what stat you happen to be looking at.

    And forget the Rolex for a few minutes -- I think you could argue Shin is the best of the women right now in the same way most of us argue that Tiger is the best male golfer, even though he isn't playing like it right now. She seems to be the most all-around talented, consistent, and mentally tough, but her year was somewhat derailed by that emergency appendectomy -- nevertheless, she still managed 4 worldwide wins. That just defies logic, but the fact is we aren't surprised by it... and I think that lack of surprise is why we all believe she's the best right now.

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  9. The crazy thing is that Shin's play after the appendectomy was better than her play before. She came back more focused and stronger than ever. Tiger just came back, but without his mojo.

    Still not ready to mention them both in the same breath especially since she hasn't dominated yet and you it is still early in her career. While you can make an arguement for Tiger as G.O.A.T. you can only make the arguement that Shin is the best woman golfer now.

    And I just now noticed, but the only award that Pettersen is ineligible for is the Vare Trophy. That is the only award that has a minimum round requirement. You know the last time someone was that high in the Rolex Rankings without a win (I know Pettersen had 2 wins last year that are in the back-end of her 2 year Rolex window) was Michelle Wie before the 35 event minimum. And speaking of Wie, I read on xxx Golf Channel that, because of her injury, she was probably going to miss the LPGA Tour Championship but play the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters the following week.

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  10. About Pettersen... true, but she isn't close enough to win either POY or the Money Title. That's what I meant -- that she wasn't in contention for most awards, and not eligible for the one at which she did have an outside chance -- but bad sentence construction on my part reared its ugly head. Usually I catch that kind of thing but, as I said, I was rushing because bad weather was coming. At least I know my readers are paying attention! ;-)

    I hadn't heard about Wie, but it's just another one of those things that makes you say "hmmmm..." Appearance money, perhaps?

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