What a difference a year makes.
At this time in 2003, Vijay Singh had just missed the cut at The Players Championship and was No. 7 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index.
Tiger Woods had just finished in an 11th-place tie at the Players, and was a commanding No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin ranking, with a 66.62 power rating to No. 2 Phil Mickelson’s 68.05.
Now, for the first time since the Golfweek/Sagarin ranking debuted in January 2000, someone other than Woods holds the top spot: the relentless Mr. Singh. (Rankings, p56).
The Golfweek ranking is compiled by Jeff Sagarin, the Bloomington, Ind.-based mathematician best known for his national rankings of college football and basketball teams.
The Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index was designed as a purely objective alternative to the Official World Golf Ranking. Unlike the WGR, the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index takes into account every shot taken by every player in official events, and uses the stroke differential between players as the most important factor in its calculations. The competition is tracked over a 52-week rolling period.
The World Golf Ranking assigns weights to tournaments according to prestige and strength of field, and that weighting is used to determine the point value of places in those tournaments.
The calculations for both rankings include results from nine professional tours worldwide; the World Ranking uses a two-year rolling format, with points gradually reduced over three-month segments. A player must participate in a minimum of 40 events over 104 weeks to obtain a World Golf Ranking; the Golfweek ranking requires 11 starts in 52 weeks.
“It’s actually quite amazing,” Sagarin said of Woods’ 50-month domination of the Golfweek rankings. “From a statistical standpoint, Woods and Singh are still essentially even. But from a symbolic standpoint, Woods getting displaced is quite important. It certainly should make the Masters pretty interesting.”
Singh has been stalking Woods since last August, when he began a string of 12 consecutive top 10s. His tie for 13th at the Players, one shot better than Woods, was the coup de grace. It gave Singh a 9-8-2 head-to-head record against Woods in the 52 weeks through March 28.
Singh moved into the No. 1 slot thanks to his 3,620-330-66 record against all comers in 31 events over that period. Woods was 2,223-235-59 in 21 events. (For the complete ranking of 974 players worldwide, visit http://www.golfweek.com/sagarin/.)
The Sagarin formula, which also figures in scoring differential, pushed Singh’s power rating ahead of Woods by two-one hundredths of a point, 67.42 to 67.44. Sagarin’s power ratings are calculated to be roughly equal to a typical one-round score for each ranked golfer.
The Sagarin power rating can be used to predict stroke differential when two players compete in the same field. Thus Singh, with his 67.42 power rating, can be expected to defeat No. 25 Kirk Triplett (69.42) by two shots per round.
Woods remains No. 1 in the Official World Ranking, with 13.97 points to No. 2 Singh’s 10.15. However, if the Official World Ranking were calculated over 52 weeks instead of two years, the Woods-Singh differential would be 9.70 to 9.65 in favor of Woods.