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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: January 2011

It's time for the first RGWR of the year! The Top 5 hasn't changed much, but the rest of the Top 10 is seeing some new blood. This is due to events from December 2009 dropping off my 12-month list while new victors added their names last month.

Here's a quick reminder of my criteria:
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. The OWGR rates consistency over the last 2 years, so I see no reason to rank that; my RGWR says 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
The current rankings award extra credit for the 2010 Ryder Cup if you did something special there. Most Americans were Top 10 on the Tour money list; most foreign players were 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.

I assign points to tournaments like this:
  • Majors: 10 points
  • TPC: 8 points
  • WGC: 7 points
  • Prestige events: 5 points
  • Regular wins: 3 points
  • Top 5 finishes: 2 points
Although the points affect my rankings, they don't override my personal opinions.

The Chevron and Nedbank events count as "prestige" events. The reason is two-fold: Players do get world ranking points for these events, and Graeme McDowell proved in 2009 that these events can be indicative of how players may do over the next few months. I only grant points for the win, however; a Top 5 in these events is worth nothing -- relatively speaking, of course.
  1. Graeme McDowell: 4 wins (1 major, 3 prestige). Are you really surprised that G-Mac remains at the top of my list? Not only did he stare Tiger down in a one-on-one duel at Chevron, but he picked up co-POY honors on the ET with Kaymer. And I confess that he gets some extra points from me for not only deciding to play both tours this year, but for deciding to show up in Hawaii. If anybody had an excuse not to show, it was him.
  2. Martin Kaymer: 4 wins (1 major, 2 prestige). Again, no change. Kaymer hasn't played outstanding golf lately, but he played well enough to win both the co-POY and the Race to Dubai.
  3. Ernie Els: 3 wins (1 WGC, 2 prestige). After losing some momentum mid-year, Els popped back with a win at the South African Open last month. He said he "found something" that he'd been missing lately. I'd keep an eye on him leading up to the Masters.
  4. Miguel Angel Jimenez: 3 wins (2 prestige). MAJ hasn't played badly during the last couple of months, but he's only posted a Top 10 or two. Since I only count Top 5s in my rankings, he didn't get any extra points in my system.
  5. Jim Furyk: 3 wins (1 prestige). Jim hasn't played except for Chevron, and he played badly there. However, he did pick up the PGA Tour's POY award, so I'll cut him some slack. Only 5 players had 3 or more wins this year, and Jim's the only American.
  6. Lee Westwood: 2 wins (1 prestige). The new World #1 laid waste to the elite limited field of the Nedbank event, winning by 9 strokes. Added to his 6 Top 5s last year and his rapid bounceback from calf problems, he's on the verge of breaking into my Top 5.
  7. Louis Oosthuizen: 2 wins (1 major). Shrek's been recovering from ankle problems as well, and a Top 5 last month may be an indication that he's on his way back.
  8. Ian Poulter: 2 wins (1 WGC, 1 prestige). Ian's win at the Hong Kong Open in November (which could have been 3 wins, had a couple of shots fallen differently) may mean that he has also found whatever's been missing from his game lately.
  9. Francesco Molinari: 1 win (1 WGC). My last two entries may be unexpected, but I think their level of play lately warrants their addition. Francesco had a breakthrough 2010, gaining momentum as the year wore on and culminating in his WGC win in China. In addition, he posted 6 Top 5s -- as many as Lee Westwood! He's in Hawaii this week also, so we'll see whether a few weeks off has helped or hurt him.
  10. Luke Donald: 1 win. Donald makes this list on the strength of the 9 Top 5s he's posted since February -- almost one per month! Given that he doesn't have the length of players like Westwood, this is just an amazing display of precision. He's another player who's been recovering from injury... and who may be on track to break out in 2011. I'll be really surprised if he doesn't post at least one important win this year.
Now let's see if anybody can shake up these new rankings at either the Hyundai or Africa Open this week!


  1. Any predictions on who will make their way into the top 10 ?

  2. I really like Hunter Mahan, Rory McIlroy, and Dustin Johnson to get going early. I think Adam Scott has a reasonably good shot too -- he played much better last year, although I'm still looking for a bit more consistency from him first. I'd put Charl Schwartzel in the same box, since he won twice on the ET early last year then cooled off.

    Retief Goosen has started showing some life in the past month or so on the ET. I wouldn't be surprised to see him play well this year.

    And if Ricky Fowler can get that first win, he could easily make it in before the year ends. (That first one's always the hardest to get.)

  3. Looks like a good list of possibles.

    Speaking of Goosen, he's switched putters again. He's using what looks like the big Taylormade Spider. Just not what I think of when I think of Goosen.