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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: December 2010

This is my third attempt at ranking the players I think are currently performing the best. This month I'm looking for middle ground between the first month's totally subjective rankings and last month's point-system rankings.

A quick reminder of my 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. I think 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, and WGCs
  2. FedExCup playoffs and prestige events (like Bay Hill and Dubai)
  3. other PGA and ET events
This year, the Ryder Cup gives you extra credit if you did something special there. Most Americans are Top 10 on the Tour money list; most foreign players are Top 10 in the ET's equivalent, the Race to Dubai. I also put extra emphasis on recent form, and I make some allowance if you're recovering from injury or serious sickness.
Last month I tried assigning pointss like this:
  • Majors: 10 points
  • TPC: 8 points
  • WGC: 7 points
  • Prestige events: 5 points
  • Regular wins: 3 points
  • Top 5 finishes: 2 points
...but I wasn't completely happy with the results. The points are still affecting things this month, but I'm not going purely by points.

I also decided to count the Chevron and Nedbank events as "prestige" events. The reason is two-fold: Players do get world ranking points for these events, and Graeme McDowell proved last year that these events can be indicative of how players may do over the next few months.
  1. Graeme McDowell: 4 wins (1 major and 3 prestige). Add the high-pressure play at the Ryder Cup, adding 2 more second-place finishes in the last month, nabbing second in the Race to Dubai, and taking down Tiger head-to-head -- there's just not much question who's playing the best right now.
  2. Martin Kaymer: 4 wins (1 major, 2 prestige, 1 regular). True, he added the Race to Dubai -- a money title certainly counts in my ranking -- but he didn't do anything spectacular the way McDowell did in the last month, so he drops a spot.
  3. Miguel Angel Jimenez: 3 wins (2 prestige, 1 regular). As with last month, this was close between Jimenez and Furyk. Last month was a tie but in the meantime MAJ took ninth in the Race to Dubai, plus he got a Top 5 at Nedbank while Furyk struggled at Chevron. That was the tie-breaker
  4. Jim Furyk: 3 wins (1 prestige, 2 regular). Winning Player of the Year counts... but MAJ played better this last month, as stated earlier.
  5. Lee Westwood: 2 wins (1 prestige, 1 regular). Finished third in the Race to Dubai (despite missing several months), and added two Top 5s plus that blistering 8-stroke win at Nedbank in the last month. The world's #1 is definitely coming back from his injuries.
  6. Ian Poulter: 2 wins (2 prestige). Poulter added a Top 5 and a win this past month, and it could have been 3 wins. He also nailed down fourth in the Race to Dubai. I like the way he's playing right now.
  7. Ernie Els: 2 wins (1 WGC, 1 prestige). As mentioned last month, Ernie won the Grand Slam of Golf (an unofficial win) and added a Top 5 at Nedbank.
  8. Robert Karlsson: 2 wins (2 prestige). Robert is also coming back from "injury" -- although I'd call eye problems more serious than that. He's been playing well the last two months, getting his first Top 5 since early in the year and his second win by beating Westwood at the Dubai World Championship. He also got sixth in the Race to Dubai.
  9. Louis Oosthuizen: 2 wins (1 major, 1 regular). He did add tenth place in the Race to Dubai to his year, but not much else. Still, he does have that major and I'm still cutting him some slack for his ankle injury.
  10. Matteo Manessero: 1 win (1 regular). This is one reason I don't like to depend solely on numbers for my rankings. This rookie has made history in several ways this year -- including youngest winner in ET history -- and added three Top 3s and a win just since August. (The win and 1 second came in the last six weeks!) He's definitely one of the best players right now.
So that's my current Top 10 in the world. There was lots of competition among the two-time winners to get in the list, but the simple fact is that most of them are either not playing very well or not playing at all right now. Except for Westwood, McDowell, Poulter, Karlsson, and Manessero, nobody else is doing much to get excited about.

Although they stumbled coming down the stretch at the Chevron, I'd still look for Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy to come out firing next year. A poet might say, "one bad day doth not a season ruin." The Molinaris look a bit tired to me though; give them a little rest and I think they'll be ready as well.

The big name players -- aka "the Usual Suspects" -- need to get their acts together soon. The younger players (on both sides of the pond) seem ready to step up to the plate, and 2011 is just around the corner...


  1. Hmmmm - a ranking system that depends on opinion and prediction of future potential results ?

    Mannessero has played some good golf, no doubt, but so has Franky Molinari, and Molinari had a better overall season - good enough to get him on the Ryder Cup team - and he has won more recently in a prestige event.

  2. I'm definitely a Francesco Molinari fan -- you'll remember I said he was the only Euro Ryder Cup choice that was a no-brainer -- and I seriously considered putting him in the Top 10 this month. But he basically took the last month off, while several other two-win players did play and posted good results. (I think he decided that he needed that rest -- a good decision that will probably let him come out strong in the next few weeks.) I'll be surprised if Francesco doesn't make my Top 10 in the next month or so.

    Basically, Manessero made it for rapid improvement. Adapting to life on any tour is tough, and he's done much better than I would have expected... plus he's playing a lot right now.

  3. Just finished watching the Dave Stockton episode. Some interesting stuff there. I'm going to work on his grip and using the tees for line, target, and speed.

    I liked the drill with the second guy holding the butt end of a club against the back of the first guy's left hand, then moving back 5 or 6 inches to see if the same part of the hand, keeping the putter low and vertical.

    Could've done without Dave Marr saying "This is the signature that has signed a lot of autographs". (lol)

  4. Personally, I think the Stocktons are the best putting teachers out there (besides me, of course! ;-) because they keep things really simple. I like it even simpler, but it's hard to argue with his results.

  5. Did you notice that they put up quotes from a bunch of players who won under Stockton's coaching...but not Michelle Wie ? (lol)

  6. There's a lot of competition among teachers, especially in the short game arena. I'm not surprised at all since she's a Pelz girl now. ;-)

  7. and we've seen how well THAT'S gone. (lol) this girl is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, is she.

  8. Well, she has won one tournament using each teacher's methods. Perhaps Stan Utley could coach her to a third win... ;-)

  9. Just watched Wayne Player - yeesh - strike three. He started off the show talking about paralysis by analysis and that golf has too many thoughts and analogies...then he proceded to give at least one analogy for everything he tried to teach during the show.

    The silly cowboy shirt and tight pants, combined with the fake grin were offputting enough - but his sickeningly sweet delivery and "do you know who my father is" attitude would keep me from wanting to listen to the guy. His good instruction was outweighed by his plastic facade.

    xxx Golf Channel should be ashamed of themselves for this fraud of a "contest".

    OH ! How about the commercials for Gary Player during the show ? "Let me tell you how wonderful I am and how lucky you are to have me teaching you." When he said "...with 165 wins around the world under my belt, you KNOW that my gift of instruction is going to be something special." Thanks for playing Gary, but be serious. You just turned yourself into a snake oil salesman.

  10. In a lot of ways, I don't think the "sample shows" are a good way to introduce the contestants. Once a new teaching series gets on the air, it won't survive based on the teacher's charisma (although that will help). The series will succeed because it helps people. The sample shows are about making an impression on the audience. That won't last more than two or three episodes.

    Did you see Butch Harmon's dig at Michael Breed at the end of the 3-Tour teaching show? That kind of "personality hook" grows out of the process of doing a show as the host gets more comfortable, not as an attempt to get the show in the first place.

    My guess is that Martin Hall will get it for one very simple reason: Morgan Pressel. The fact that he coaches a successful major champion will probably be the biggest factor for most of the voters. Karen came across more as a golf fitness teacher and Wayne as a motivational teacher -- both useful approaches, but their teachings probably won't be deemed as "important" as Martin's.

    I could be wrong -- especially if people can vote more than once -- but I think that's the most likely outcome.

  11. I agree with you Court. There's no way I could watch entire episodes of Wayne Player on a regular basis. He said his emphasis is on simplifying the golf swing, but then his explanations were long and like you said Court, filled with references to the Black Knight.

    He was beginning to confuse me a little with all his analogies and when that happens, because I don't understand it, I tend to tune it out. It seemed as though the host(Steve Sands? I can't remember right now), was trying to move him along a little bit. Like, 'get to the point.'

    There was however one analogy that did make sense to me and I'll use tomorrow in practice. He talked about comparing the golf swing to a pitcher who throws sidearm. I threw sidearm from time to time when I pitched in high school, and the weight shift and finish into the front foot is something I can relate to.

    It goes back to what Mike has been teaching me about the golf swing and relating it to stuff I do naturally. I know how to shift my weight during a pitch. And as I'm swinging in my living room right now, it does feel similar or should I say familiar. Thanks Gary Player's son:-D

  12. LOL - good point on Sands.

    Mike - you're probably right that this was not a very good way to introduce these three - but how do you "introduce" two retreads and possibly the most plastic person on the planet outside of politics ?

    With these three candidates, I don't see any right way to make a good series.

  13. Dex -- A lot of what Wayne said was from Ben Hogan, including the sidearm bit. If you're interested, it's on page 97 of "Five Lessons." I think people tend to get too mechanical when they apply what Hogan said, but he's definitely got one of the most cohesive understandings of the swing that anybody has ever had.

    Hogan really is the original teacher of what we call a "connected" swing.

    Court -- Maybe the better question is whether TGC even needs another teacher with a show. I'd like to see a series where they gave each of the Golf Digest Top 100 teachers a chance to explain the basics of what they teach and who can best benefit from their techniques. That would probably help most players more, because then they could see the real differences between the teachers.

  14. It's not a matter of need - it's a matter of a lack of imagination. They can't seem to come up with any new ideas.

    They have copied just about all of ESPN's news and round table shows they can. They have tournament coverage. They have copied "reality TV" and, with the exception of letting Vince Cellini go and replacing him with Tom Abbott, have done pretty well with it. It seems that the only thing they can do with golf is instruction. Michael Breed is successful - so why not put more on ?

    Either that, or start running the old infomercials - who doesn't want to relive the golden era of "The Perfect Club" ? :-)