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Friday, December 31, 2010

The Year-End Review: Glass Half-Full

As my last post of the year, I wanted to take a look at the condition of the PGA Tour... yet to do so I really need to look at the game in general. Though some may argue the point, the PGA Tour is still the main tour in the world and its condition is viewed as representative of golf in general. I decided the easiest way to do this overview was simply to look at the OWGR, since most of the "gloom and doom" I've heard concerns the lack of American talent.

I simply compared the first OWGR rankings of 2010 with the last OWGR rankings of 2010. That's simple enough, don't you think?

Ironically, #21 Robert Allenby and #22 Zach Johnson are at the same positions they started the year, and with nearly the same point averages. So we can use them as a yardstick, so to speak, and focus on the Top 20 in the world. This is where most of the action has been.

The first table shows the "The Dependables." These are the guys who finished the year as they started -- in the Top 20. Names preceeded by ** were Top 10 starting the year, while * means they were Top 20.

# Jan 3, 2010 Dec 31, 2010
1 Tiger Woods ** Lee Westwood
2 Phil Mickelson ** Tiger Woods
3 Steve Stricker * Martin Kaymer
4 Lee Westwood ** Phil Mickelson
5 Jim Furyk ** Jim Furyk
6 Padraig Harrington Graeme McDowell
7 Henrik Stenson ** Steve Stricker
8 Paul Casey ** Paul Casey
9 Rory McIlroy Luke Donald
10 Kenny Perry ** Rory McIlroy
11 Ian Poulter * Ian Poulter
12 Sergio Garcia * Ernie Els
13 Martin Kaymer Matt Kuchar
14 Geoff Ogilvy Dustin Johnson
15 Sean O'Hair Francesco Molinari
16 Stewart Cink * Retief Goosen
17 Ernie Els Robert Karlsson
18 Ross Fisher Edoardo Molinari
19 Retief Goosen Hunter Mahan
20 Lucas Glover Louis Oosthuizen

This other table shows fallers and risers. Players marked with * in the January column fell out of the Top 20 this year; players marked in the December column rose into the Top 20.

# Jan 3, 2010 Dec 31, 2010
1 Tiger Woods Lee Westwood
2 Phil Mickelson Tiger Woods
3 Steve Stricker Martin Kaymer
4 Lee Westwood Phil Mickelson
5 Jim Furyk Jim Furyk
6 * Padraig Harrington * Graeme McDowell
7 * Henrik Stenson Steve Stricker
8 Paul Casey Paul Casey
9 Rory McIlroy * Luke Donald
10 * Kenny Perry Rory McIlroy
11 Ian Poulter Ian Poulter
12 * Sergio Garcia Ernie Els
13 Martin Kaymer * Matt Kuchar
14 * Geoff Ogilvy * Dustin Johnson
15 * Sean O'Hair * Francesco Molinari
16 * Stewart Cink Retief Goosen
17 Ernie Els * Robert Karlsson
18 * Ross Fisher * Edoardo Molinari
19 Retief Goosen * Hunter Mahan
20 * Lucas Glover * Louis Oosthuizen

If you look at the actual OWGR charts, you'll see that the positions don't tell the whole story. Sure, Tiger lost over 6.5 points, Phil lost nearly 1.5, and Stricker nearly .6, but almost everybody else's average went up considerably. Westwood's #1 at year-end is more than a full point higher than Phil's #2 at the start. Kaymer improved nearly 3 points, McDowell over 3.5 points. Furyk gained .75 points and Casey nearly .65 points, yet both merely held their position. McIlroy's average actually improved by nearly .8 points, yet he lost one position. Poulter gained a full point although his position didn't improve either.

Overall, the level of play around the world went up this year... and that includes the PGA Tour. Eleven of our Top 20 stayed the same, while 9 new members joined the club.

Did the Americans lose ground? No -- we had 7 in the Top 20 last year, and 7 this year. Granted, instead of 4 of the Top 5, we now have 4 of the Top 7, but #7 is .6 points ahead of where #5 was when the year started. Is that a "loss"? I'd say that's a matter of opinion. And the 3 noobs we gained -- Kuchar, Johnson, and Mahan -- were responsible for 5 wins (one a WGC), as well as the money and scoring titles.

Then add Phil's major, Stricker's 2 wins, and Furyk's 3 wins (plus the FedExCup trophy and Player of the Year) to the total. That's hardly a "poor showing" by the PGA Tour!

So I have to conclude that golf in general -- and the PGA Tour in particular -- is in great shape going into 2011. With Tiger apparently ready to make another run at #1, Westwood and the Euros ready to make him work for it, and the American players (along with the rest of the world's players) all set to make sure they aren't lost in the shuffle, I think we're all going to have a blast in 2011!

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