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Friday, July 6, 2012

The Ruthless Golf World Rankings: July 2012

There's been a revolution at the top of the RGWR! Even I didn't quite realize how much when I did my weekly update earlier in the week -- I had to change it when I did this month's full ratings. It's easy to forget how many different winners we'd had during 2010 and 2011 until everything over 12 months old dropped off and the "big boys" stepped up. Some of those "big boys" are familiar names while others are newer names. This month's ranking is pretty much all players I suspect will be setting the pace for a while. But I've labeled a few of the newer entrants as "big dogs"; I suspect they have more staying power than the other noobs. (Do I really have to label guys like Luke, Rory, and Tiger as "big dogs"?)

Here's a review of 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 -- 2 wins separated by 6 months don't carry the weight of 2 wins back-to-back -- 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 point value, 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 field strength of a regular PGA or ET event.

I'm not counting the Grand Slam of Golf as a win in my rankings. 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 a win there into consideration in my rankings, much as I do money title or scoring awards. Other limited-field events (up to maybe 24 players or so) are counted as wins if the player also has an official win on the "big tours" but they only get a single point. The OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup (the 2-man team event) counts in this category.

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, although the point totals (and even the number of wins) a player has affects my rankings, they don't override my personal opinions. It's my ranking system, after all:
  1. Luke Donald: 4 wins (1 BMW, 1 prestige), 6 Top5, 35 points. Luke Donald is once again the "toppest dog" in the ratings. Rory's major dropped off last week -- I forgot that little detail! -- and now Luke's array of wins is both larger in number and more impressive. Oh yeah, he's still Numero Uno in the OWGR as well.
  2. Rory McIlroy: 3 wins (1 prestige, 1 other), 8 Top5, 25 points. If you compare Rory this month to Rory last month, you'll see just how much weight the RGWR gives to majors. Rory's bad patch of play didn't help him either. But he's still #2 in the Race to Dubai (Luke's a pitiful 10th this year), so I wouldn't worry about him too much.
  3. Webb Simpson: 3 wins (1 major, 1 prestige), 4 Top5, 26 points. At the beginning of the week I had Tiger as #3 and Webb as #3a because they were so close. However, I forgot one of Webb's other wins was a prestige FedExCup event. That, coupled with such a recent major, was actually enough to put him ahead of Tiger on points. Webb is officially one of my new "big dogs" on Tour.
  4. Tiger Woods: 4 wins (3 prestige, 1 other), 3 Top5, 22 points. I gave Tiger the advantage early in the week simply because he had won so much in a mere 2 months. (That wasn't just because he's Tiger; I did the same with Sergio last year and Branden Grace earlier this year.) Don't forget that Tiger had the World Challenge win back in December; since he won regular events this year, that one now counts. One of his Top5s was a runner-up at Honda. And he's now leading the FedExCup race. You can see why he and Webb are so close.
  5. Jason Dufner: 2 wins (1 prestige), 3 Top5s, 14 points. Although he cooled off a bit -- it was inevitable, wasn't it? -- the Waggler didn't just vanish the way some of our other winners have. He still picked up a runner-up at Colonial this past month. And he's still #2 in FedExCup points. He's another of my new "big dogs."
  6. Lee Westwood: 3 wins (2 others), 2 Top5, 19 points. I know it doesn't sound like much compared to where he was a couple of months ago, but Lee seems to be coming out of a funk. He won another ET event this past month and he's 3rd in both the Race to Dubai and the OWGR.
  7. Branden Grace: 3 wins, 4 Top5, 18 points. Branden's good play is finally getting him into some majors, and he's STILL #4 in the Race to Dubai. That, plus his 3 wins this year, is still good enough to keep him in my rankings.
  8. Rickie Fowler: 2 wins (1 prestige), 4 Top5, 14 points. These next two guys are neck-and-neck, and both have the potential to become "big dogs" although I don't think they're quite there yet. Rickie's 2 wins, both won head-to-head with Rory McIlroy, along with his Top5s in May, make him one of the hotter players. He beats out my #9 player by virtue of having more Top5s.
  9. Matt Kuchar: 2 wins (1 TPC, 1 other), 2 Top5, 13 points. I'm a little bummed out by Matt's lack of Top5s. I expect a "big dog" to be in the hunt more often, even if he doesn't always close it out.
  10. Dustin Johnson: 2 wins (1 prestige), 3 Top5, 14 points. This last position was hard to decide, and it's a side-effect of the re-emergence of some sleeping giants. Several players have about the same number of points, Top5s, and wins; there are even several with prestige events. Bubba isn't here because, in my opinion, he hasn't played enough post-Masters to validate the position. (I applaud him for his choice; if I had that new baby, I'd be AWOL too. But we're talking about rankings, not being a good dad.) I give it to DJ simply because he's managed to get into the mix with competitive numbers despite being sidelined with injuries for much of the year.
Players to watch:
  • I'm looking toward the Open Championship now, and I'm really liking what I see from Lee Westwood. He's played well in both of this year's majors, even though he never really factored in them. But if you combine that with the fact that he's the only big name to have won on the ET recently, I think you have to like his chances.
  • Don't overlook Justin Rose. Although he's been a bit erratic here in the States, he's leading the ET's Race to Dubai and he's #9 in the OWGR. I'm sure that's a function of trying to make sure he makes the Ryder Cup... but that also bodes well for him at the Open.
  • And I still believe in Jason Day. He's up and down right now, but I think he's close to getting things together.

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