Tiger Woods Still Number One?

by Jeff Skinner

Tiger Woods will be sitting home this week as the PGA Tour concludes its regular season with The Tour Championship. Tiger has only missed one Tour Championship and that was when he was recuperating from his knee surgery.  The 30 top FedEx Cup point earners will have to make do without the number one player in the world.  The fact that Woods missed the Tour Championship with the dreadful season he had is understandable.  The fact that he still is the number one player in the world is not.

Of course we all know that Tiger had a few distractions that caused him to have this horrible season.  He played in 12 PGA Tour events and made the cut in 11 of them but the best finishes he could muster were a pair of ties for fourth place at The Masters and The U.S. Open.  He did play well in the three playoff events he qualified for T12, T11, and T15, but without a doubt this season was a disaster for him.  So how does he still warrant the number one spot in The World Golf?  He is living on a huge lead he had built up prior to this year.

The World Golf Rankings use a formula based on the last two years of play and while 2010 was bitter for Woods, 2009 was a bit better.  From the World Rankings formula: The World Ranking Points for each player are accumulated over a two year “rolling” period with the points awarded for each event maintained for a 13-week period to place additional emphasis on recent performances – ranking points are then reduced in equal decrements (of 1/92nd of the original amount) for the remaining 91 weeks of the two year Ranking period.  Each player is then ranked according to his average points per tournament, which is determined by dividing his total number of points by the tournaments he has played over that two-year period. There is a minimum divisor of 40 tournaments over the two year ranking period and a maximum divisor of a player’s last 60 events.

Woods had amassed a huge lead in World ranking Points.  In January of 2008 Woods started the year with 20.7 average points (the main measure in the World Rankings) and Phil Mickelson was in second place with 9.9 points.   In 2009 Woods won six times and had 14 top tens on the PGA Tour but his lead over Mickelson slipped.  At the end of 2009 Woods had 14.7 points and Phil was in second again with 8.3.  Tiger’s lead has been shrinking all season but Mickelson has had a problem overtaking him. Woods currently leads Mickelson 9.22 to 8.66 and Phil could finally pass him this week.

It seems a bit strange that a player that has had such a poor season can still be sitting atop the rankings.  The problem here is that the rankings put too much weight on the prior year’s performance.  Woods has coasted on his big lead and his last win was over a year ago at The 2009 BMW.  It’s too easy to move up the rankings and once you are there it takes too long to move back down the rankings.  When Rory McIlroy won his first European Tour event he jumped from 35th place to 16th.  That seems like a fairly huge jump for one win.

The powers that be should consider making some changes in the points system to give more weight to the current year’s performance.  Granted, Tiger had earned his big lead with his dominant play but his play this year certainly does not warrant a number one ranking.  There are three or four candidates for the best golfer in the world right now.  I really don’t know who the world number one is but I sure know who it isn’t.  It’s definitely not Tiger Woods.



  1. I agree the most recent record is more significant than what happened two years ago. The old saying “A salesman is only as good as his last sale” applies to any sport or occupation.
    In all round fairness I firmly believe a recency weighted formula needs to be applied particularly in the second year. It stands to reason that a win last week is more important than a win 23 months ago hence should be awarded more points.
    I am involved in professional hore race betting in Asia and it is most necessary to implement a recency weighted factor and I don’t see golf rankings as any diferent.
    The current system is outdated and the Tour officials need to consider changes for the better for all concerned.
    Tiger who is undoubtably the best golfer to ever grace a golf course should not be number one right now. One year of mostly poor golf from a number one player should have been enough to have him dethroned.

  2. Oops I have just studied the formula again and have noticed there is a recency weighted factor in there. However it is sadly in need of modification. Tiger should not be number one at this point in time.

  3. Tiger is still number one by the formula and by his performance. Now he is just slightly number one instead of being dominantly and untouchably number one. Several golfers could have supplanted him over the last several months, but they didn’t since they didn’t play well enough. Tiger played well enough to maintain the ranking. Study the ranking point system and you will see that it is well thought out and fair. In addition, Tiger’s points are divided by a divisor of 40, the minimum number allowed, even though he has played far fewer tournaments than that over the past two year, putting him in an unfair position and making it even easier for another golfer to surpass him. No other golfer really has come to the top to be considered number one. Tiger will quickly fall down the ranking starting with the first PGA tournament next year if he doesn’t produce. For now he surely if number one and deservedly so.

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