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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Understanding the Women's Rolex Rankings

Obviously I'm elated over having been right for a change -- in this case, about which women stood to gain the most in the world rankings at State Farm this weekend. I updated the Limerick Summary to include Cristie Kerr's win -- the first American win on U.S. soil in over a year, I think -- but it occurred to me that many of you may be as confused as I am about how the rankings actually work. (This is a problem when talking about the men's rankings, as well.)

So I thought I'd take a post to see if I can make some sense of them -- for you and me both! Since I had posted last week's Top 10 on Saturday, it made sense to use them for a comparison. You can check the Rolex site to see the rankings (clicking on "Overview" at the top gives you some cool graphical info about the rankings), but this site at keeps a running list of PDFs for each week's rankings. Forgive me if this post seems to ramble a bit; the things that affect the rankings are complex, and I'm having to guess at some of the details. But I think it'll make some sense by the end of the post, so hang with me for a bit.

Remember that tournaments over the last 13 weeks are given more weight in the rankings; although the LPGA hasn't played a lot of tournaments this year, other tours have. Players playing in those events may have added "more heavily-weighted" points while older events (2 years ago) have dropped off. And of course, the tournament 13 weeks ago drops to 14 (lesser weighting). You can see all those things happening this week as well.

This list shows the new Top 10 in the Rolex World Rankings as of June 14, and it lists the player name, new point average, old point average, how much their position changed (if any), the total points gained (or lost) this week, and how they finished at State Farm:
  1. Jiyai Shin 9.25 (9.24) (-6.72) (didn't play)
  2. Ai Miyazato 8.7735 (9.04) (-5.74) (missed cut)
  3. Suzann Pettersen 8.7725 (8.88) (-4.89) (didn't play)
  4. Cristie Kerr 8.50 (7.43) up 1 position (56.63) (WON)
  5. Yani Tseng 8.45 (8.57) down 1 position (1.9) (T11)
  6. Anna Nordqvist 7.43 (6.62) (28.29) (T2)
  7. Michelle Wie 6.55 (6.58) (-1.13) (T52)
  8. Karrie Webb 6.48 (6.54) (3.81) (T11)
  9. Na Yeon Choi 6.39 (5.87) up 1 position (26.92) (T2)
  10. Angela Stanford 6.29 (6.46) down 1 position (-0.9) (T23)
No new players entered the Top 10; Kerr and Tseng switched places, as did Choi and Stanford. I'm going to make an effort to explain the point changes as I understand them, so you can see what happened. A couple of important notes: Everybody gained one more event in their ranking total this week except Pettersen and Choi, who stayed the same (Pettersen didn't play, Choi lost a 2-year-old event that this week replaced) and Shin, who lost one event by not playing. And only the players who finished in the Top 11 at State Farm gained points; everybody else lost points!

The biggest surprise to me was that Shin actually gained .01 points by not playing. The reason turned out to be a simple one -- last week she was figured on 60 events, this week it's only 59. An old event dropped out, and apparently she hadn't played as well at that one.

Miyazato got hammered for missing the cut, and Pettersen simply lost some of her "weighting" as each of her tournaments got a week older. I showed their rankings to 4 decimal places so you would see why they aren't tied at second place, as the identical 8.77 rankings listed on the Rolex site would lead you to believe.

Kerr did indeed leapfrog to #4, gaining over a full rating point for her win -- more than anyone else in the Top 10. She was helped by Tseng's slight drop. Finishing outside the tournament's Top 10 may have hurt Tseng in the rankings, but I wondered if her first major -- the 2008 McDonalds LPGA Championship -- fell off the back end this week. Ironically, Kerr's Top 10 at McDonalds would have dropped off also, but she wouldn't have lost nearly as many points as Tseng did.

After looking at the rankings for May 31 (two weeks ago), I believe the 2008 McDonalds dropped off then -- the number of tournaments for both players decreased by one week in that week's ranking. So I'm forced to the conclusion that Tseng's victory at the 2010 Women's Australian Open dropped from the heavily-weighted 13-week calculations, and that lowered her points. Kerr's consistency seems to have leveled out her points somewhat, so she's avoided the big swings that cause the drops.

Nordqvist, my other big mover to watch, also moved up a lot with her T2 -- nearly a whole point. If her jump looks outrageously large compared to the others (especially Choi, who also finished T2), bear in mind that her rank was based on fewer tournaments than any other player (32 this week); even Wie has 34. Nordqvist has really played better than anybody else, given how few tournaments she's played.

Wie's T52 didn't hurt her much, perhaps because she had fewer tournaments and mixed results (hence a smaller point average per event). Just for the record, she had a T54 here last year.

Webb's T11 didn't drop her much -- only .06 points -- but it just looks worse, given that Choi moved up over a half point with her T2. Webb has returned to exactly where she was in the rankings 2 weeks ago -- same number of tournaments, total points, and ranking.

Note that, for the same T2 finish, Choi gained .52 points while Nordqvist gained .81 points. As mentioned earlier, that's because Choi is ranked for 51 events vs Nordqvist's 32. (Remember, Choi was ranked for 51 events both weeks.)

Finally, Stanford got hammered for her finish. She has about the same number of tournaments as Webb, but finishing twice as far down (T23 vs T11) cost her 3 times as many points (.06 vs .19). I went back and checked her at 13 weeks and at 2 years to see what tournaments might have dropped off, but didn't find any particularly good tournaments... so I figure the drop must be primarily due to points awarded for this finish.

I hope that helps you understand a little about how the World Rankings seem to work. They're not quite as random as they first appear; the biggest factor seems to be how many tournaments you've played in, followed by your finish relative to the field AND your finish relative to the 13-week-old tournament that loses weighting. (Those last two appear to be closely related, and that weighting period must count for A LOT.)

Looking ahead... the rumor is that Paula Creamer plans to come back at the ShopRite LPGA Classic this week. She may be rusty, but she also has only 39 events on her ranking, NONE of them in the last 13 weeks. If she plays well enough to post two or three good finishes, she could make a big jump from her current #13 in the rankings. (She's also dropping some Top 10s off the 2-year mark; I don't know how much that will affect her.)

Things haven't changed for Kerr or Nordqvist. Both tend to play well in big events, and there are two majors in the next 4 weeks. Of course, the same is true for Shin (questionable after her appendectomy this week), Miyazato, Pettersen, and Tseng. Big players show up for big events, so we may see some big changes in the rankings over the next month.


  1. Uh-huh - claiming to make sense out of the Rolex thing you're going to tell us is that there actually IS an answer that won't get you in trouble when a woman asks if these pants make her look fat...or which dress to wear. :-D

  2. And if you don't know that the answer to "do these make me look fat?" is an emphatic "NO!", then you have more pressing problems than the Rolex Rankings! ;-)

  3. Uh-huh - and then one of her girlfriends lets her know that those pants aren't looking so good - then YOU get in trouble for not being honest. Face it - there's just no way to win.

  4. I never said anything about lying... but I was playing one-on-one. You didn't say anything about team play!

    In team play, you simply never answer the question. You dis the pants because the color is wrong for her (stressing how good she looks in another color), or suggest a dress because she should accent her fine legs, or just wink and suggest you dislike anything less revealing than her birthday suit.

    If you don't know your lady well enough to know what she needs to hear so she'll feel good about herself, it's no wonder you don't understand the Rolex Ratings! ;-)

  5. You are TRULY...a master ! (cue the theme to "The Last Dragon"

  6. (strikes a Karate Kid pose and strains voice making a high-pitched squeal before collapsing... paramedics administer treatment for hernia)

  7. Whew - glad you knew "The Last Dragon". I was afraid I was sounding like Sum Dum Goy.

  8. Sum Dum Goy -- wasn't he Jackie Chan's teacher in the original "Drunken Master"? 8-D