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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: November 2010

This is my second attempt at ranking the players I think are currently performing the best. This month I'm working on a ranking system that's a bit more scientific than last month.

A quick reminder of the original criteria I used in October's rankings:
I focus on the last 12 months of play -- that's long enough to see some consistency but short enough to be current. Every player in the RGWR won at least once on either the PGA or European Tour. I think if you're a top player, you've won somewhere recently. My priority list (based on quality of field) looks like this:
  1. majors, TPC, and WGCs
  2. FedExCup playoffs and prestige events (like Bay Hill and Dubai)
  3. other PGA and ET events
This year, the Ryder Cup gives you extra credit if you did something special there. Most Americans are Top 10 on the Tour money list; most foreign players are Top 10 in the ET's equivalent, the Race to Dubai. I also put extra emphasis on recent form, and I make some allowance if you're recovering from injury or serious sickness.
This month I've actually tried to quantify those wins by assigning points. The list looks like this:
  • Majors: 10 points
  • TPC: 8 points
  • WGC: 7 points
  • Prestige events: 5 points
  • Regular wins: 3 points
  • Top 5 finishes: 2 points
Majors are worth about 3 times as much as a regular win. The TPC has the quality of field but not the glamor of a major, and a slightly better field than a WGC. I decided Top 5s were almost as hard to get as wins, so I gave them a couple of points as well. You might be surprised to find that Luke Donald leads this stat with 9, while Rory McIlroy and Francesco Molinari each had 7; however, none of them made the rankings. (Donald was #9 last month. Assigning points changes things.)

And before you ask, I made the decision to consider Euro and PGA events on an equal footing; with so many Euro players in the Top 10 of the OWGR (and those players playing a lot over there), I just can't justify the "weaker fields" argument anymore. It's the Euros who are posting the most Top 5s... and they're not just against Euro fields.

I decided I'd better define a "prestige" event. In addition to the FedEx events, I looked at venue and purse. These may change as I get a better feel for this (especially the Euro events) but here are the current prestige events by course or name (some of these tournaments change names a lot):
  • US: Kapalua, Torrey Pines, Riviera, Pebble Beach, Bay Hill, Quail Hollow, Colonial, Aronimink, Canadian Open, and the Byron Nelson invitational.
  • Euro: Abu Dhabi, Celtic Manor, Valderrama, Dunhill Links, Scottish Open, Open de France, Omega Euro Masters, and BMW PGA Championship.
And since quite a few players aren't playing right now, I've had to put a bit more emphasis on the main season this time. So here are the Top 10 in the November RGWR (please forgive the funky formatting; I couldn't get the numbering correct otherwise:
  • 1. Martin Kaymer: 4 wins (1 major, 2 prestige, 1 regular) and 27 points. There really isn't anybody even close to this fine piece of German engineering right now.
  • 2. TIE:
    • Miguel Angel Jimenez: 3 wins (2 prestige, 1 regular) and 15 points. Only two players have 3 wins, but the Mechanic won 2 prestige events and matched Furyk in Top 5s, plus played well at the Ryder Cup.
    • Jim Furyk: 3 wins (1 prestige, 2 regular) and 11 points. Furyk does have the Chevron World Challenge from last December; although that's not an official win, it's an individual win (unlike the Ryder Cup).
  • 4. Graeme McDowell: 2 wins (1 major and 1 prestige) and 17 points. This was a close one; Oosthuizen has actually played more consistently than McDowell in stroke play events, but Graeme's prestige win and performance in the Ryder Cup put him over the top.
  • 5. Louis Oosthuizen: 2 wins (1 major, 1 regular) and 21 points. I had Louis tied for 10th last month because he hasn't done much since the Open. However, as I did with Westwood, I'm cutting him some slack for injuries apparently sustained from that tractor he bought with his winnings.
  • 6. Ernie Els: 2 wins (1 WGC, 1 prestige) and 18 points. Ernie also won the Grand Slam of Golf, although it was only 4 guys... but since 2 of them are ahead of him on this list, that should count for something.
  • 7. Dustin Johnson: 2 wins (2 prestige) and 14 points. Quite frankly I'd like to drop Dustin about 2 spots, but he had 2 high-profile wins and showed some serious character and resiliency.
  • 8. Lee Westwood: 2 wins (1 prestige, 1 regular) and 18 points. Last month I forgot that Lee won the Dubai World Championship in December. Add that to nabbing #1 in the OWGR, plus that great showing at the WGC this past weekend... I'd like to put him higher, but this time it's about numbers and this is the best I can give him.
  • 9. Edoardo Molinari: 2 wins (1 prestige, 1 regular) and 18 points. And that doesn't count his World Cup win with Francesco last December or making the Ryder Cup. And he has five Top 5s on top of it all! Just a great performance this year.
  • 10. TIE:
    • Justin Rose: 2 wins (2 prestige) and 14 points. Rose edges Stricker in quality of wins, but really didn't do much else this year.
    • Steve Stricker: 2 wins (1 prestige, 1 regular) and 14 points. He played much more consistently than Rose and had that great Ryder Cup... plus he won the Shark Shootout last December.
Not what I expected, and I'm not sure I care for this dependence on numbers, but I see some value in it. I may tinker with it for next month, but this is how it stands right now.

At least it's something to think about. Maybe numbers should only be one part of the equation. I definitely think we should keep our eyes on Luke Donald, Francesco Molinari, and Rory McIlroy over the next few months. Although they only had one win each (ok, Francesco had that World Cup with Edouardo, Rory finished T3 at the Open because of an 80, and all three were at the Ryder Cup where Luke went undefeated), they had some impressive point totals this year:
  • Luke Donald: 1 regular win, 21 points
  • Francesco Molinari: 1 WGC, 21 points
  • Rory McIlroy: 1 prestige win, 19 points
Look for these guys to start winning big over the next few months.


  1. you're down to 2 points after a top 5 finish. kind of limits the ranks of the ranks, doesn't it ?

  2. I thought about that, Court. But as I see it, the keys here are that:

    1) I'm not measuring a lot of different things -- basically, I'm concerned with wins and Top 5s, not "consistency" as defined by the OWGR. Think of this as a completely different way of viewing the players. My basic concept -- that you have to win just to have a chance to get in my rankings -- is very different from most ranking systems. That means that the vast majority of players don't even have a rank in my system.

    2) It still let me get the range of points I wanted between majors and regular events. Making a major worth just over 3 regular events seemed to be a fair measure.

    I still left room for two other possible ranks: If you win on a tour other than the PGA or ET, those wins could count for 2 points, giving them the same weight as a Top 5 on the main tours; and you could get one point for winning one of the awards like the Vardon Trophy. Those haven't been implemented yet.

    Even with this limited point system -- assuming you feel the general weighting of the points is reasonable -- the points themselves raise some questions that I think contribute to arguments over ranking systems.

    Take Luke Donald as an example: Despite only having one win -- and that a lower-ranked win -- he has 21 total points. That's more than either Jim Furyk or Miguel Angel Jimenez, both of whom have 3 wins. Does this mean Donald played better, despite not having the wins?

    Obviously ranking systems automatically take consistency into account -- it's just a question of how you want to define that consistency.

  3. so what do you tell the guys who are outside whatever ranking number you end up with at the end of the season ? "sucks to be you" ? :-D

    Let's say this is a one year ranking system ("this is a one year ranking system") - after the first week (and you have to decide which week you start from - the European Tour season starts in November of the previous calendar year) - after one week, you have five players in the rankings...unless there are ties that add more names (for example - a four way tie for 3rd).

    I'm wondering how many players will be in the rankings by the end of the year - it sure won't be a very long list.

  4. Yep, I tell them it sucks and if they want it to make my list they better pick it up! I'm not trying to rank every player, just pick the 10 (plus ties) who played the best over the last year. Let the OWGR keep track of everybody else. ;-)

    And I do use one year -- the last 12 months -- so this month's rankings went from November 2009 (after the 2009 WGC-China) until the present. I'm always taking the last 12 months. If Furyk's win at the Chevron World Challenge last December had been official, he would have had four wins instead of three. I'm still trying to figure out how I want to handle things like Chevron or the Shark Shootout or the World Cup, which aren't official tour events.

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