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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: November 2011

Although "parity" has been the word of choice this year, I think that's unfair. Quite a few players have distinguished themselves with multiple wins, consistent play, and in some cases continued improvement. Although the PGA Tour is entering the silly season, the European Tour is not. There's still some important stuff to be determined in the world of golf... and perhaps the November RGWR will help you make some sense of it all.

And as usual, here are the RGWG 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
I give full credit for wins on the "minor" tours like the Nationwide and Asian 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:
  1. Luke Donald: 4 wins (1 WGC, 1 BMW), 10 Top5, 41 points. Luke Donald should have put to rest any rumors that he isn't worthy to be #1 on the OWGR. Two wins on each side of the Atlantic (more worldwide wins than anybody not named Yani Tseng), then that amazing show at Disney where he locked up the money list and scoring titles, plus a shot at winning the Race to Dubai as well. That major will be coming soon.
  2. Lee Westwood: 3 wins (1 prestige), 6 Top5, 23 points. Lee still isn't winning the big ones -- Rory beat him again this weekend -- but he's still someone to watch. All he needs is a couple of putts at a crucial time...
  3. Thomas Bjorn: 3 wins (1 prestige), 1 Top5, 13 points. No change for Thomas this month, but he has a win within the last two months and is one of only 3 men with 3 or more wins, so he doesn't lose ground. He also has 4 wins in the last 2 years, which may indicate this is more than just a spurt of good play.
  4. Keegan Bradley: 2 wins (1 major, 1 prestige), 0 Top5, 15 points. Keegan's Top5s all dropped off but he did win the Grand Slam of Golf. I'm giving him some props for that; he might have dropped a place this month otherwise.
  5. Rory McIlroy: 2 wins (1 major), 8 Top5, 29 points. Although Rory lost to Keegan at the Grand Slam of Golf, he did win at the Shanghai Masters. That event may not have been sanctioned by any tour, but it did have a stellar field -- including Lee Westwood, whom he beat again. Welcome to the Top 5, Mr. McIlroy!
  6. Sergio Garcia: 2 wins (1 prestige), 1 Top5, 10 points. Some of you may question this high debut, but Sergio is my nominee for World Comeback Player of the Year. While his 2 wins and 1 Top5 may seem pedestrian compared with the players beneath him in the rankings, he got them all in one month! He won the first going away and the second on a tough course where only 5 players finished under par and he had to fight for the win. Add that to the personal and professional comebacks he's been making this year -- he truly seems to have made personal changes during this time -- and I have to award him this spot. Welcome back, Sergio!
  7. Nick Watney: 2 wins (1 WGC, 1 prestige), 3 Top5, 18 points. No change for Watney this month, but he picked up another Top5 more recently than the players below him.
  8. Charl Schwartzel: 2 wins (1 major, 1 prestige), 2 Top5, 17 points. Another month with no change, although he did make a run at Keegan during the Grand Slam of Golf.
  9. Darren Clark: 2 wins (1 major), 0 Top5, 13 points. No change for Darren either, and a poor showing at the Grand Slam of Golf.
  10. Adam Scott: 2 wins (1 WGC, 1 prestige), 2 Top5, 16 points. And no change for Adam. Most of the multiple winners are in the same boat; the recent winners tend to be getting their first wins of the year.
Players to watch:
  • Given his play during October, Sergio Garcia has to be high on the watch list. The ET's site isn't quite up-to-date so I don't know if he plans to play in the WGC-China this week -- his second win qualified him to play -- but there are other events to be played over the next couple of months.
  • Anthony Kim had a resurgence against Rory in Shanghai last week. Will it last? I don't know, but he's way overdue for some good finishes.
  • And Tom Lewis got his first win in October in only his third appearance as a pro. I'm going to be giving him some special attention at the WGC this week. It's his first pro event against ALL the big names, and I expect him to do well.
Luke Donald bowed out of the WGC-China because he and Diane expect their baby this week. It'll be interesting to see how soon he gets back and how he plays once he does.

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