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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: February 2011

Tomorrow is Groundhog Day. Like its namesake, most of the big names haven't come out to be seen much if at all, and several other players have stepped up their games in their absence. As a result, unlike the movie of the same name, February's RGWR is not just the same old thing.

As usual, here's a quick description 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. 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, and WGCs
  2. FedExCup playoffs and prestige events (like Bay Hill and Dubai)
  3. other PGA and ET events
I put extra emphasis on recent form, and I make some allowance if you're recovering from injury or serious sickness.

I assign points to tournaments like this:
  • Majors: 10 points
  • TPC: 8 points
  • WGC: 7 points
  • Prestige events: 5 points
  • Regular wins: 3 points
  • Top 5 finishes: 2 points
Although the points affect my rankings, they don't override my personal opinions.
  1. Martin Kaymer: 4 wins (1 major, 2 prestige). Kaymer edges McDowell this month because he's the most recent winner of the two. Of course, Kaymer also got 2 end-of-year awards to G-Mac's 1.
  2. Graeme McDowell: 4 wins (1 major, 3 prestige). These two are still so close! G-Mac has Kaymer beat on Top 5s, 4 to 2. Still, it's hard to go wrong with either of these two guys.
  3. Louis Oosthuizen: 3 wins (1 major). A huge leap from Shrek, courtesy of his win at the Africa Open in mid-January. That, coupled with a Top 5 in December, tells me he's recovered from his ankle injury and possibly a force to be reckoned with over the next few months.
  4. Ernie Els: 3 wins (1 WGC, 2 prestige). Ernie really hasn't done anything yet this year, but he did win in December... and he also won the Grand Slam of Golf last October (only three other players, but they were all major winners). That, added to his performance over the last 12 months (he's got that WGC win), barely keeps him ahead of the next player... although it was close.
  5. Jhonattan Vegas: 3 wins. I'm giving the newly-crowned "Jhonny Vegas" credit for his Nationwide win (since many PGA players play those events) and the Venezuela Open, where he beat several major champions. He's got a win and a T3 in only three starts as a rookie. And he's done all that in a mere six months! He deserves this spot... and if Ernie hadn't won in December, I'd have made Vegas fourth.
  6. Miguel Angel Jimenez: 3 wins (2 prestige). This was a tough one. MAJ and Furyk have been going head-to-head for a few months now, but Jimenez is playing better. He added yet another Top 5 last week.
  7. Jim Furyk: 3 wins (1 prestige). Jim hasn't really played well since the FedExCup playoffs... then again, he hasn't played much, period. The POY award is worth something, though, and he's still in the 3-win elite. Unless he starts playing well in the next month or two, he'll be dropping off this list.
  8. Bubba Watson: 2 wins (1 prestige). Now it gets a little tougher. We've got several players with 2 wins, and it's a bit tricky to judge between them. I'm giving Bubba the edge because he's shown some fairly steady improvement over the last year and, unlike most players who took a lot of time off, he's gotten off to a really good start with a prestige win.
  9. Lee Westwood: 2 wins (1 prestige). Westwood won the Sun City event in December and has 5 Top 5s over the last year... plus he's still #1 on the OWGR. He drops this far because he hasn't played all that well in January. I expect a little more from #1.
  10. Jonathan Byrd: 2 wins (1 prestige). Granted, J-Byrd didn't do much for most of 2010. But two wins in four months -- including the Hyundai Tournament of Champions -- makes him one of the hotter players among the 2-timers.
A few names I'm going to be watching over the next few months are Anthony Kim, who seems to have finally gotten past his wrist injury; Phil Mickelson, who came close at Torrey and seems both healthy and eager; and Bill Haas, who stumbled Sunday but is playing really well so far this year.

Now let's see if any of the big boys finally intend to come out and defend their honor this coming month... or if they just see their shadow and crawl back in their holes!

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