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Friday, August 31, 2012

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: September 2012

I'm a bit surprised that August didn't shake things up any more than it did. We had a WGC event, a major, and the first FedExCup playoff event (a prestige event)... and yet I see primarily the same players, albeit with a bit of shuffling. A number of the top players of recent months lost events from August 2011, so I had 2 players with 4 events, 4 players with 3 events, and a surprisingly large number of two-timers.

That made this month's rankings more difficult, as I had fewer clear winners. Technically, there was only 1 ET event in this ranking period, as they included the Bridgestone and PGA among their tournaments while not scheduling against the other PGA events. (Presumably they were allowing their top players to acclimate over here, to give them the best chance of winning those big events.) As a result, many of this month's rankers were chosen by criteria other than wins.

As usual, 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. Rory McIlroy: 4 wins (1 major, 1 prestige, 1 other), 9 Top5, 37 points. Rory's "bad patch" seems to be over. (Ya think?) His runaway win at the PGA drove him back to the top of my rankings in nearly every possible way -- he added a major as well as adding to his total wins and Top5s, he won in the last month, and he topped the OWGR as well. It's hard to do more than that in such a short period of time!
  2. Tiger Woods: 4 wins (3 prestige, 1 other), 4 Top5, 24 points. Tiger's stats remain unchanged this month, but he won within the last 2 months and he has more wins than anybody but Rory. Luke Donald still beats him on points and Top5s, however.
  3. Webb Simpson: 2 wins (1 major, 1 prestige), 4 Top5, 23 points. Webb's 2011 Wyndham win fell of his total this month. However, I'm still giving Webb a bit of a pass, simply because of his new baby. That's going to play all kinds of havoc with your practice time and, all things considered, he's not playing badly. (I'm not holding a missed cut at Bethpage against anybody in this ranking.)
  4. Luke Donald: 3 wins (1 BMW, 1 prestige), 6 Top5, 32 points. Luke is simply FLAT, compared to the stats I focus on. I think Luke tries too hard at this time of the year, what with all the majors and big tournaments that happen over the summer. But he's got 3 Top10s in his last 4 starts, so there's no way I can say he's playing badly -- he's still better than most players on a week-to-week basis. Everybody's entitled to a lull in their normal level of play, so I'm letting Luke take a brief breather without major penalty.
  5. Sergio Garcia: 3 wins (1 prestige), 5 Top5, 21 points. Sergio reenters the RGWR with his win at Greensboro and his Top5 at the Barclays. He's been shockingly consistent lately -- just look at all those Top5s! -- but Luke stays ahead of him purely because he's got the BMW win, plus one more Top5. Luke hasn't won as recently, however, so Sergio could easily leapfrog him next month if he keeps playing this well.
  6. Lee Westwood: 3 wins (2 others), 8 Top5, 21 points. Although Lee has been a bit flat recently, I'm chalking that up to the distraction of relocating to the USA. He still picked up another Top5, so I'm looking for better things from him soon.
  7. Paul Lawrie: 2 wins, 3 Top5, 12 points. Lawrie might seem an unusual choice, since both of his wins are on the ET. As I've said before in this blog, I don't buy the argument that ET events are "easier" -- if they were, Americans would actually win some of them! They're just different. Lawrie's play has been getting better and better over the last 6 months and, now that he made the Ryder Cup, I think we may be seeing him over here occasionally.
  8. Zach Johnson: 2 wins (1 prestige), 2 Top5, 12 points. No change for Z-Man this month, but he's won recently enough to still hold a spot.
  9. Keegan Bradley: 1 win (1 WGC), 3 Top5, 14 points. Keegan is here, despite having only one win, because he showed me some serious improvement this month. He won Bridgestone, then followed up with a Top5 in defense of his PGA title. Given that he's been fairly flat over the last 3 or 4 months, he's making a nice return to form.
  10. Ernie Els: 1 win (1 major), 4 Top5, 18 points. Ernie remains in this spot solely because he has the other most recent major. I guess this long stretch of important tournaments is getting to everybody; once past Keegan, I found no player with a distinct advantage in even Top5s. I'm willing to give Ernie a grace period of a couple of months to celebrate. He's currently 17th in FedEx points, so he's on target to make it to the Tour Championship. Given the problems he's worked through this year, that should count for something!
Players to watch:
  • Do you realize that John Huh is 23rd in FedEx points? I picked him last month as a "Player to Watch" and I still like him. He could make it to the Tour Championship in his rookie year!
  • Likewise, Scott Piercy is 22nd. He didn't make the Tour Championship last year... but this year it might be a different story.
  • Seung-Yul Noh also remains on my "Player to Watch" list from last month. He's currently 53rd in FedEx points. I wouldn't write him off yet, either.

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