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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: January 2012

December is typically a quiet month for golf, although we did get the Race to Dubai winner and a few other tournaments without full fields. (The 2 European Tour events and the JBWere are exceptions, of course.) Added to the usual drop-off of tournaments from a year ago, we find a little bit of shuffling in the rankings before the 2012 season can even get underway.

So be amazed as I present to you 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, 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 points, 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 strength of field of a regular PGA or ET event.

I'm not counting the Grand Slam of Golf as a win in my rankings. (I didn't give Ernie points for it last year either.) 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 that win into consideration in my rankings, much as I do money title or scoring awards.

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, the point total (and even the number of wins) a player has affects my rankings but doesn't override my personal opinions:
  1. Luke Donald: 4 wins (1 WGC, 1 BMW), 10 Top5, 4 awards, 45 points. While Luke only added a Top5 from the Dubai tournament, he picked up (by my count) 4 awards -- 2 money lists and 2 POYs. Those awards added 4 more points to his total.
  2. Rory McIlroy: 3 wins (1 major, 1 other), 7 Top5, 28 points. Rory makes a huge leap this month on the strength of his UBS Hong Kong Open win -- one of the 3 "legit" tournaments of the month -- and the fact that somehow his unofficial win in Shanghai, which I put in my spreadsheet a month ago, didn't add into last month's totals.
  3. Lee Westwood: 3 wins (1 prestige), 4 Top5, 15 points. Why does Rory jump ahead of Lee, you may ask. Simple -- Rory had a "legit" win, while Lee only added a limited-field event (Sun City).
  4. Alvaro Quiros: 2 wins (1 prestige), 2 Top5, 12 points. He won the biggest "legit" tournament of the month in Dubai.
  5. Keegan Bradley: 2 wins (1 major, 1 prestige), 0 Top5, 1 award, 15 points. Keegan also has the Grand Slam of Golf and Shark Shootout on his resume, as well as adding the Rookie of the Year award.
  6. Martin Kaymer: 2 wins (1 WGC, 1 prestige), 4 Top5, 20 points. This was a tough one -- Kaymer or Poulter at #6? I finally went with Martin because his WGC win in November carried more weight than Ian's JBWere win in December.
  7. Ian Poulter: 2 wins, 1 Top5, 8 points. Ian is a new entry this month. The JBWere isn't a "official" win (defined as a PGA or ET win -- no offense meant to the Australasian Tour) but it's a "legit" win (defined as a full-field event). Hopefully this bodes well for Poults going forward.
  8. Charl Schwartzel: 2 wins (1 major, 1 prestige), 4 Top5, 21 points. Charl added a couple of Top5s over the last 2 months, showing that he may be getting back on form.
  9. Sergio Garcia: 2 wins (1 prestige), 1 Top5, 10 points. Sergio hasn't played since his back-to-back in October, but that's a nice way to finish your year. I suspect Sergio has found he needs an off-season after all, and I've got no problem with a guy taking the holidays off.
  10. Thomas Bjorn: 3 wins (1 prestige), 1 Top5, 13 points. Thomas hasn't done much since September, but he's still got 3 wins so I'm keeping him in the Top 10... for now.
Players to watch:
  • Keep an eye out for Gary Woodland and Keegan Bradley at the Hyundai this week. The course should fit them well and, with Woodland coming off the World Cup and Bradley off the Shark Shootout, I imagine they're both ready to go.
  • Louis Oosthuizen is defending at the African Open this week. He's way overdue to start winning again, and a couple of Top5s late last year indicate he may be on the upswing.

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