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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: April 2011

April's RGWR is a week later due to the ladies playing their first major last week. However, this allowed me to include the Masters results in this ranking, perhaps making it it a bit more up-to-date.

And that's important, because things are changing in the RGWR. The 4 wins each of Kaymer and McDowell now separate them from the pack, as the only other player with more than 2 wins is Jhonattan Vegas. However -- and this is equally important -- the leaders benefit from having gotten their wins later in 2010. Except for Kaymer's 2nd at the Accenture and McDowell's 2 Top 5s in January, neither has played particularly well in 2011. That means they may be riding on past glories, which can get you a quick trip to the bottom of the RGWR!

So let me once again give you my standard description of RGWG 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
As usual, although the points affect my rankings, they don't override my personal opinions. So here's my post-Masters round-up:
  1. Martin Kaymer: 4 wins (1 major, 2 prestige). Kaymer's runner-up at the Accenture is still the best showing of the big boys lately. After all, he wasn't the only one to get the boot at the Masters. He'll figure out Augusta soon enough.
  2. Graeme McDowell: 4 wins (1 major, 3 prestige). Graeme hasn't played well enough lately to hold his spot in the OWGR's Top 5, but he's still got more wins than anybody but Martin. A little downtime is understandable.
  3. Jhonattan Vegas: 3 wins. Jhonattan's been a bit flat the last couple of months, but he's still played better than most of the big names. And he's won in more than one country.
  4. Louis Oosthuizen: 2 wins (1 major). Louis lost one of his three wins last month, but his win at the Africa Open in January is recent enough to make him someone to watch. And his Open Championship will probably keep him in the RGWR for at least three more months. Louis is ahead of Charl simply because Louis had 3 wins in 12 months and Charl had no more than 2.
  5. Charl Schwartzel: 2 wins (1 major). Needless to say, his Masters win kicked him up in my rankings. He tends not to play as well during the summer, so I'll be interested to see if this big win changes that.
  6. Luke Donald: 2 wins (1 WGC). Yeah, I've been singing his praises since late 2010... but I've been right, haven't I? The Accenture is easily the biggest of the WGCs, and his T4 at the Masters just continues his good play. Right now he's still my favorite for the U.S. Open -- despite criticism of his driving -- but I'll have to weigh his play against another new entry to this month's RGWR before I pick in June.
  7. David Horsey: 2 wins (2 prestige). Are you in shock? Do you even know who he is? He won the 2010 BMW International Open and the 2011 Trophée Hassan II, both highly-regarded tournaments on the ET. If he keeps playing this well, it won't be long before everybody knows him.
  8. Alvaro Quiros: 2 wins (1 prestige). Quiros has the whole package, plus he's starting to post Top 5s the way Luke Donald does. With his length, that makes him a dangerous player.
  9. Adam Scott: 2 wins (1 prestige). Adam Scott is the new entry in my U.S. Open Favorites list. I'm really impressed with how he's rebuilt his game over the last year or two and, with that T2 at the Masters, I think he may be ready to break out the way Donald has.
  10. Bubba Watson: 2 wins (1 prestige). Bubba still makes too many mistakes to rank higher in the RGWR. But this is a guy who's been rebuilding himself, even while working through the death of his dad. If he keeps on his current track, he's got serious potential.
  11. Jonathan Byrd: 2 wins (1 prestige). J-Byrd's been a bit flat since his win at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions; I think that's understandable after the drama of his wins. (Remember the playoff hole-in-one last year?) He did post a T10 at the WGC-Doral -- another big stage -- so we'll see how he does the rest of the year.
Guys to watch over the coming months:
  • Both of the Molinari brothers -- Eduardo already has 2 wins and Francesco won the WGC-China.
  • Gary Woodland has posted a win or Top 5 each of the last 3 months and was T24 (-2) at his first Masters.
  • Jason Day. 'Nuff said!
  • Rory McIlroy. And no, this isn't a pity pick. He's been playing pretty steady over the last year and in a few weeks he'll recognize the biggest lesson of this past weekend -- namely, that his "collapse" didn't touch anything that's important to him. Mark my words: He's going to be very dangerous at the Open this year!


  1. I was heartbroken for Rory on Sunday and my £200 sweep that was looking good for 3½ rounds. I hope you're right that he'll be dangerous at the Open but I think maybe Luke Donald might be the man to step forward for that one.

    I find it strange that Tiger isn't amongst your 'Guys to watch'. Is it because he is considered a default 'guy to watch'? His play was very ominous on Sunday. Personally, I would not be surprised if he grabs one of the remaining Majors this summer.

  2. Let me preface this by restating what I said earlier this year: I expect Tiger to be better than before when this swing rebuild is complete. It looks to me like the Foley swing goes back to his original swing that won the Masters by 12 shots in 1997 and improves on it by eliminating the excess movement.

    But that's long-term and my "Guys to Watch" list is short-term.

    Tiger turned the corner on his full swing sooner than I expected. (I mentioned that in both my Saturday and Monday posts.) But I think the difference between the front 9 and back 9 Sunday was purely confidence -- when you tighten up, your touch and aim on and around the greens leaves you.

    In other words, he had the same problem Rory had -- he wanted it so bad that he tensed up and destroyed his timing. For Rory it resulted in a duck hook, for Tiger it was a poor short game and putting.

    Since Tiger himself says putting problems have cost him several wins over the last few years, I don't see this ending overnight. For a control freak like Tiger -- especially one who hasn't won in 18 months -- it may take some time before he can loosen up enough to regain a smooth stroke. And unlike years past, there are a number of players who do trust their games enough to stay loose when they face Tiger.

    If he gets his stinger working in time he might contend at Royal St. George's, but I don't look for him to have a real chance at a major before the PGA. They tend to just set up a good course without tricky greens and let the scores fall where they may, so Tiger's improved ball-striking may be enough to overcome his putting problems there.