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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: December 2011

The PGA Tour was fairly quiet during November. Other than the World Cup winners, no American player gained any points this past month. Kuchar and Woodland each got 1 point, as their World Cup win counts as an "other win." I should probably explain this more clearly.

I've been using this category since last December, but had forgotten to add it to my points list below. That omission has been rectified with this ranking. It generally only affects events won on tours other than the PGA or ET. You'll remember that Jhonattan Vegas suddenly appeared in the RGWR with 3 wins earlier this year. That was because he had two unofficial wins against good fields in South America. They didn't count until he won on the PGA Tour.

Note that Greg Chalmers is now in the same boat; he has two very nice wins in Australia this month, but neither is an official PGA or ET event. However, the fields at the Australian Open and the Australian PGA were extremely strong due to the Presidents Cup. If Greg also wins the JBWere Masters, starting December 15, he will have successfully captured the Australian Triple Crown in a single year -- a feat only accomplished once, by Robert Allenby -- and I will give him credit for 3 wins, official or not!

Of course, the European Tour is still in full swing with a couple of big tournaments, all to determine the winner of the Race to Dubai.

So (drumroll, please) here are the RGWR 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 (PGAT), BMW PGA (ET), and WGCs
  2. FedExCup playoffs and prestige events (like Bay Hill and Dubai), the latter often determined by the history and difficulty of the course
  3. other PGA and ET events
I put extra emphasis on recent form, and I make some allowance if you're recovering from injury or serious sickness. Also, remember that I count Top5s as a separate category from wins; if you see a player has 3 Top5s, those are seconds through fifths only.

I assign points to tournaments this way:
  • Majors: 10 points
  • TPC & BMW PGA: 8 points (yes, I'm calling them equals!)
  • WGC: 7 points
  • Prestige events: 5 points
  • Regular wins: 3 points
  • Top 5 finishes: 2 points
  • Other wins: 1 point
I give full credit (not in points, but they carry the same weight as "official" victories) for wins on the "minor" tours like the Nationwide and Australasian Tours provided the winner has a current win on the PGA or European Tour. These wins will count only as "regular" wins and not "prestige" wins, no matter how prestigious they may be for their tour, because they generally don't have the strength of field of a regular PGA or ET event.

I'm not counting the Grand Slam of Golf as a win in my rankings. (I didn't give Ernie points for it last year either.) I've decided that 4 players isn't a large enough field to give it the weight of a win against a larger field. However, I do take that win into consideration in my rankings, much as I do money title or scoring awards.

And because of a strange quirk on the ET site, I've decided I have to specifically state that a tournament win can only count once. Therefore, to avoid possible confusion, I'm just telling you that the RGWR says you can only win a tournament once at a time.

As usual, the point total (and even the number of wins) a player has affects my rankings but doesn't override my personal opinions. I should note that only one player in the RGWR changed from last month, but there has been some jostling for position among them:
  1. Luke Donald: 4 wins (1 WGC, 1 BMW), 9 Top5, 39 points. Luke hasn't played anywhere since the Disney tournament because his wife Diane was expecting their newest little girl, but his play was good enough to win the Arnold Palmer Award (for the PGA money list), both the Vardon and Nelson Awards (for aggregate and adjusted scoring average), and POY. Did I mention he's still #1 on the OWGR by nearly 3 points? Well, after losing his father and welcoming little Sophia Ann within 3 days of each other, I expect him to show up sometime this month to solidify his place in the Race to Dubai.
  2. Lee Westwood: 3 wins (1 prestige), 4 Top5, 19 points. Lee was pretty quiet last month. But after announcing his intention to take up PGA membership again, I don't expect that to last long.
  3. Thomas Bjorn: 3 wins (1 prestige), 1 Top5, 13 points. No change for Thomas this month.
  4. Keegan Bradley: 2 wins (1 major, 1 prestige), 0 Top5, 15 points. Plus Keegan has the Grand Slam of Golf on his resume. Word is that he's bummed over not getting picked for the Presidents Cup team, so I expect a serious push for the Ryder Cup team next year.
  5. Charl Schwartzel: 2 wins (1 major, 1 prestige), 3 Top5, 19 points. Charl moves up on the added strength of his Joberg Open win as Rory took a tumble in his ranking (that's explained later). Charl also picked up another Top5 and played pretty well at both the Presidents Cup and the World Cup. Look for him to win some more soon.
  6. Sergio Garcia: 2 wins (1 prestige), 1 Top5, 10 points. My nominee for World Comeback Player of the Year holds his spot from last month, as no one (other than Greg Chalmers, discussed above) has really shown improved form lately.
  7. Nick Watney: 2 wins (1 WGC, 1 prestige), 3 Top5, 18 points. Another month without change for Watney. What's going on, Nick?
  8. Darren Clark: 2 wins (1 major), 0 Top5, 13 points. No change for Darren either, but he does have that major plus one other official win.
  9. Martin Kaymer: 2 wins (1 WGC, 1 prestige), 4 Top5, 22 points. Kaymer is the sole new entry this month. His November WGC win in China, coupled with his improved play (resulting in more frequent Top5s than most of the other players I considered) indicates that his game may finally be back on track after that disastrous attempt to change his swing for Augusta.
  10. Rory McIlroy: 2 wins (1 major, 1 other), 7 Top5, 25 points. Rory drops because although the limited-field Lake Malaren Shanghai Masters (which wasn't sponsored by any tour) was played against a good field, his play in "official" events since has left me a bit disappointed. I'm giving him credit for beating a good field there and for his major; otherwise Webb Simpson, Simon Dyson, or Alex Noren -- all players who have won multiple official events since Rory won the U.S. Open -- would have taken this spot. Rory's poor performance in the final round of the World Cup didn't help his case either. I understand missing a short putt, but to miss several indicates he's distracted right now. Show me something this week in Hong Kong, Rory!
Players to watch:
  • I am very impressed with the resurgence of Martin Kaymer in the last month or so. He's not listed to play in the UBS Hong Kong Open this week, so I can only assume he plans to make his final run at Luke Donald in the Dubai World Championship.
  • Tiger Woods. What else can I say? After the improved form he showed in his last couple of events, the Chevron World Challenge just got a whole lot more interesting.
  • And I like the way Simon Dyson has been trending. Keep an eye on him.

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