2004: Our Opinion - Revamp the system

The dust has settled at La Costa, where Tiger Woods got the best of Davis Love III in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Subsided, too, is the grumbling over the Official World Golf Ranking.

At least for a week or two.

Questions about the World Ranking are sure to resurface during The Players Championship, when Tour members gather for their annual meeting with commissioner Tim Finchem. A number of players, including Paul Azinger, who called the World Ranking “brutally inaccurate,” have been critics of the system.

The Official World Ranking (then known as the Sony Ranking) was little more than a marketing tool until 1999, when the International Federation of PGA Tours and golf’s four majors adopted it as a criteria for entry into the game’s elite events.

Thus the topic might make headlines the week before the Masters should John Daly (currently No. 64) reach the top 50 and earn a spot in the field at Augusta. It certainly will be debated among European players during the run-up to the Ryder Cup Matches. This is the first go-around for a convoluted points system that combines the European Tour Order of Merit and the World Ranking to determine the first 10 spots on the European side.

To its credit, the World Ranking formula has been tweaked several times since it was introduced by IMG in 1986. A proposal to adjust the formula so it doesn’t penalize players who compete more frequently than others is to be reviewed when the Federation meets during the British Open.

What will always dog the Official World Ranking, however, is a perceived conflict of interest. The same entity that devised the system, IMG, also represents most of the world’s top players and runs many tournaments worldwide. “Proprietary interest” in the World Ranking has been transferred to a newly incorporated entity based at European Tour headquarters, but the fundamental flaws remain.

Here’s a proposal that might solve the problem: Adapt a system similar to college football’s Bowl Championship Series, which uses a variety of ranking systems and polls to determine who plays for the national championship.

We acknowledge that the BCS system has more than its share of critics. When it comes to selecting two teams out of 63 for a championship showdown, the BCS is loaded with imperfections. In golf, however, we’re talking about a system that determines the top 50 or 64 from a cast of thousands. The order of the top 20 isn’t all that important, but where a professional golfer ranks among the next 80 can have serious career consequences.

Golfweek has a vested interest in a BCS-type system for golf. We believe our Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, which is based on head-to-head competition over one year, is the most objective and accurate ranking in the game. It certainly would merit inclusion in a BCS-like system, which also would take into account the Official World Ranking, tour money lists, a computer-generated “hot index” and some method of player input.

At the very least, a system that employs a variety of ranking components would end charges of bias. It would be more complicated, but no one could argue that it wasn’t impartial.

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