2004: World Ranking revision in works

Pacific Palisades, Calif.

The first World Golf Championships event of 2004 is under way at La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, Calif., with the world’s top players slotted to play a five-day match play event. What determined which top players would vie for the $1.2 million winner’s check? The Official World Golf Ranking.

And as usual, when players begin thinking about world rankings, the subject can be controversial.

“I tell you what you need to do – leave them like they are, just don’t use them to exempt the fields,” Paul Azinger said. “It’s brutally inaccurate. It used to be we knew what we were choking for. Now, you take two weeks off and you move up 10 spots. It’s a bad system. The World Ranking encourages you to skip (events); it encourages you to play less.”

Many players agree with Azinger. The Tour has heard the refrain so often it is working on a proposal that will address at least some of the perceived problems by the players in the way the rankings are calculated.

The proposal would keep the current 40-event minimum divisor over two years, but also incorporate a maximum divisor of a player’s best 50 events over two seasons – a move intended to keep players who play more frequently (say, a Vijay Singh) from being penalized. The majors and The Players Championship, or the flagship event of an international player’s home tour, would automatically count toward the 50. Singh actually has more World Ranking points than Tiger Woods (592.06 to 527.78), but his points are divided by 58 events while Woods’ points are divided by 40.

“We think it will encourage players to play more,” Andy Pazder, director of administration for the PGA Tour said of the proposal. “We sense a perception amongst some players that those who play a heavy schedule are somehow disadvantaged by the World Ranking system, and we think a system that counts your best 50 would allay that perception.”

The Tour plans to present its proposal at the World Golf Ranking board meeting held during The Players Championship in March. The Players Championship is one of several

significant events on the PGA Tour along with the four majors and WGC events that use ranking points to determine at least a portion of its field.

The board likely will refer the proposal to the 10-member Technical Committee, which will review the proposal and possibly make a recommendation at the British Open in July. Upon receipt of a recommendation by the Technical Committee, the board can implement the change by a majority vote. The last time the board agreed to a significant change to the ranking (the decision to reduce points by one-eighth every 13 weeks), a two-year notice period was required before the change was implemented.

“My experience has been that significant changes to the system take time for review and study because obviously the accuracy of the World Ranking is extremely important,” Pazder said.

The World Golf Ranking, established by IMG’s Mark McCormack in 1986, will never make everybody happy, because unlike, say, tennis, it ranks players competing on different tours across the globe.

“Obviously it’s pretty good at the top,” said former U.S. Open winner Corey Pavin. “I think where it gets tricky is when you start talking about 50th, 25th, 70th type players . . . that’s when it can be very critical with the World Golf events.”

The proposed changes will not address Pavin’s concerns nor Azinger’s, as the OWGR still will be used to determine who gets into fields of the game’s biggest tournaments.

“Who cares beyond No. 1?” Azinger said. “Have a World Ranking, use it to market your players – that was what it was intended for, anyway. IMG created it to market Greg Norman, the best player in the world. It was a brilliant idea, and then all of a sudden (PGA Tour commissioner)

Tim Finchem decides we’re going to use it to exempt players (into) world golf events. Wait a minute . . .”

Woods, the player everyone is trying to catch, was unfazed by the proposal.

“I don’t care either way,” Woods said. “If you play your best, play consistently, you’re going to get rewarded.”







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