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Friday, March 2, 2012

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: March 2012

February threw the RGWR a bit of a curve. Many players dropped tournaments off the back end of my rankings -- only 12 months, you'll remember -- yet relatively few picked up even a Top5 to offset the loss. Even my #1 changed last month! Because of these surprises, I have a few of my own to add this month.

So here's what the RGWR criteria look like:
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 -- 2 wins separated by 6 months don't carry the weight of 2 wins back-to-back -- 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 point value, 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 field strength of a regular PGA or ET event.

I'm not counting the Grand Slam of Golf as a win in my rankings. 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 a win there into consideration in my rankings, much as I do money title or scoring awards. Other limited-field events (up to maybe 24 players or so) are counted as wins if the player also has an official win on the "big tours" but they only get a single point. The OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup (the 2-man team event) counts in this category.

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, although the point totals (and even the number of wins) a player has affects my rankings, they don't override my personal opinions. It's my ranking system, after all:
  1. Rory McIlroy: 3 wins (1 major, 1 other), 9 Top5, 32 points. Maybe he hasn't taken over the OWGR #1 yet, but he tops my RGWR. Although he hasn't added any more wins, he has added Top5s. He's only been out of the Top5 once in the last 3 months!
  2. Lee Westwood: 3 wins (1 prestige), 6 Top5, 19 points. Lee also jumps ahead of poor old Luke. The fitter and stronger Mr. Westwood has also been adding Top5s to his totals. He, like Rory, added 2 more last month and both had a chance to win the WGC-Accenture.
  3. Steve Stricker: 3 wins (2 prestige), 1 Top5, 15 points. No new stats in February, but Stricks does have the Hyundai Tournament of Champions from January.
  4. Luke Donald: 3 wins (1 BMW), 9 Top5, 36 points. Mr. Donald lost ground this month. While I understand the reasons, the fact is that the 3 men ahead of him have played better than him in the last couple of months.
  5. Bill Haas: 2 wins (2 prestige), 4 Top5, 19 points. That win at Riviera was a big one, especially since it came against Phil and Keegan. He also picked up a Top5. Not too shabby, Bill!
  6. Phil Mickelson: 2 wins (1 prestige), 2 Top5, 12 points. A win at Pebble and a T2 at Riviera gets Phil the Thrill back into the RGWR. Welcome back, Lefty -- we missed ya!
  7. Paul Lawrie: 2 wins, 3 Top5, 12 points. Lawrie is resurrecting a career that many thought was only a flash in the pan. His win in Qatar was impressive.
  8. Sergio Garcia: 2 wins (1 prestige), 3 Top5, 14 points. Did you realize El Nino started his year with 2 Top5 finishes in February? This continuation of his improved performance late last year earns him a spot among the RGWR greats.
  9. Kyle Stanley: 1 win, 2 Top5, 7 points. My first surprise entry pulled off one of the feelgood stories of the month. After crashing and burning at Torrey Pines, Stanley came right back the next week and pulled off an upset of his own.
  10. John Huh: 1 win, 3 points. My other surprise came out of Q-School and walked right into a victory in only 5 starts. Something that impressive deserves some recognition!
Players to watch:
  • I continue to believe in Keegan Bradley. Although I didn't put him in my rankings this month, he picked up another T2 in a playoff against the Bill & Phil Show. I'm going to be watching him hard as the Masters nears.
  • Mark Wilson: Will he keep up this head of steam? He didn't last year, but I like it when players continue to put themselves in position to do it.
  • John Huh: Despite the nickname, Huh's not a question mark anymore. He's 2-under at the Honda, even after last week's hoopla. Could he be another Keegan Bradley-type story?

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