by Jeff Skinner
As Lee Westwood tees it up this week at the Ballantine’s Championship is South Korea the debate on the validity of his number one world ranking continues. John Feinstein is one of the most vociferous critics of the Official World Golf Rankings and how they allocate points to the players.
Feinstein lists his issues with the system and offers his plan for a new way to decide the top players in the world on Golf Channel.com. While some may not think the rankings mean much, they do. The players certainly can trade their rankings for increased endorsements and most tournaments use the rankings as a means of determining their fields. The more highly ranked players in the field the more points a player earns for a win. And that is one of Feinstein’s complaints. “Problem 1: Tournaments receiving extra rankings points by paying players up front. Solution: Take away rankings points for each player paid an appearance fee. Deduct 10 percent for each player paid up front.
Problem 2: The rankings are calculated on a rolling two-year basis. On January 1 everyone goes to zero in the rankings. The only exception to this would be in determining a player’s rank for the match play event in late February. For the purposes of the match play only, the clock on rankings begins the week after it is played each year. That way, if a player is hot in January and February, he can still play his way into the top 64 for the match play. For all other purposes the rankings begin anew each January.
Feinstein is right: a two year period of results is much too long to be relevant and a player shouldn’t be given extra points to play in a tournament where there is no real competition.
He suggests his system of informed people in the game, ex-players, writers, broadcasters and officials that would vote each week, much like the AP College football and basketball rankings. I am not sure what should be done to overhaul the rankings but I am sure the game has outgrown this system that was devised 24 years ago.
More players travelling the world playing in tournaments for their appearance fees have made this system obsolete. If all the best players played on a single tour it would be easy but that’s far from the case any longer.
Feinstein is the leading advocate for a revolution in the rankings and he even proposed that the number one player in the world has to be a major winner. I can understand that logic, after all, winning majors is how history remembers players, not world ranking.
Here are my top five in the world right now, Old School Criteria: Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer, Phil Mickelson, and Lee Westwood. If you throw out the old school thinking and use a one year timeframe and a “what have you done lately” formula, here are my “newest” top five: Charl Schwartzel (he did win the biggest tournament of the year), Graeme McDowell (a US Open and Ryder Cup count for plenty) Luke Donald (simply playing better than anyone now) Mark Wilson (two wins on the biggest tour in the world count for something) and Martin Kaymer (major wins carry a lot of weight).
Any way you slice it the world rankings do more than just rank players, it gives us all something to argue about.