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Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: August 2012

I'll be honest with you. Right now, compared to the Olympics, golf seems really boring. The "dominant" players in the game just don't seem to be stepping up the way I'd like, even though we're right in the middle of the "stretch run" with the last major, the playoffs, and the Ryder Cup ready to start. I certainly understand that the golf season seems endless these days, but everybody talks about peaking for the main events... and I'm just not seeing it. As it is, players like Branden Grace (with 3 wins, no less!) and Rickie Fowler drop from the rankings this month because their production has dropped off so much.

I'm in hopes that things will pick up with our last major of the year waiting in the wings.

Once again, 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 -- 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. Tiger Woods: 4 wins (3 prestige, 1 other), 4 Top5, 24 points. Tiger jumps to the top of my rankings this month purely on numbers. While I don't feel that he is quite yet playing like the RGWR #1, he has more wins than anyone else in the list and has a win in each of the last two months. Unlike the OWGR, I don't reward consistency as much as winning and Top5s (especially the recent ones)... and Tiger clearly leads the field in that category.
  2. Webb Simpson: 3 wins (1 major, 1 prestige), 4 Top5, 26 points. Webb's been AWOL from the Tour over the last month, but I'm not going to penalize him for spending time with the wife and new baby. He moves up to #2 in the RGWR because he is the only 3-time winner among "the big boys" with a major, and his current pursuers aren't catching up even though they're playing and he isn't.
  3. Luke Donald: 3 wins (1 BMW, 1 prestige), 7 Top5, 34 points. Luke Donald dropped one of his wins last month so he falls slightly behind Tiger's pace. However, he continues to add Top5s and he's still Numero Uno in the OWGR. To be honest, I still feel that he's playing like the #1 player in the world. (Just look at his point total -- 8 better than the next highest!) He could reassert himself with a win either this week or next... or both!
  4. Rory McIlroy: 3 wins (1 prestige, 1 other), 8 Top5, 25 points. Despite Rory's "bad patch," his stats remain unchanged from July. That just goes to show how well he played over the last year.
  5. Zach Johnson: 2 wins (1 prestige), 2 Top5, 12 points. Zach is a new entry this month. He got a late start this year but he's playing better than many of the guys who have been in my rankings for a while.
  6. Jason Dufner: 2 wins (1 prestige), 3 Top5, 14 points. No change this month, yet Jason continues to get into contention. I suspect it's just a matter of time before he starts closing some of these close calls.
  7. Lee Westwood: 3 wins (2 others), 7 Top5, 19 points. I listed Lee's Top5s wrong last month (I accidently misread my stat sheet as 2 instead of 7), but there's been no change and he really hasn't played that well -- or that bad, compared to most of his typical competitors. I admit to giving him a bit of a pass simply because he's played so well for so long and I suspect his inability to get over the hump in the big tournaments is messing with his mind a bit.
  8. Ernie Els: 1 win (1 major), 4 Top5, 18 points. I'm giving Ernie this one on effort. While everybody else seems to be spinning their wheels, Ernie has simply buckled down and done the work. His final round at the Open was arguably one of the best rounds played this year. And while I know he's not played particularly well in the couple of weeks since, I suspect he's looking to next week's major... and Kiawah Island just might set up well for him.
  9. Bernd Wiesberger: 2 wins, 3 Top5, 12 points. Wiesberger has two wins this season and has qualified for the PGA Championship next week. I like his chances.
  10. Scott Piercy: 2 wins (1 prestige), 2 Top5, 12 points. Piercy has really stepped up his game in the last month or so, so I choose him above other players with similar records who aren't playing so well.
Players to watch:
  • With this year's PGA Championship being played at Kiawah, I think several of the Euros will have an advantage in the links-like conditions. One of those is the "Thunder Bear," Thorbjorn Olesen. Olesen's good play on the ET lately, plus the solid round he shot while playing with his admitted idol Tiger Woods, makes me think he may be the big surprise at the season's last major.
  • Don't overlook Seung-Yul Noh either. He's been solid all year long, making 19 out of 23 cuts, 3 Top10s and 10 Top25s, and he's currently 38 on the FedExCup standings.
  • And here's a name for you: John Huh. He seems to run in spurts, and I think next week is an excellent time for him to have another one.

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