Along with victories, money and scoring average, another way to measure the strength of a golf season is total world ranking points. Tiger Woods won that category, too, but just barely over Henrik Stenson. A closer look reveals it was not really that close.
Woods earned 488.75 points this year, only 3.65 points ahead of Stenson. Adam Scott was third, more than 100 points behind.
The difference, however, is that Woods played only 19 tournaments that awarded world ranking points. Stenson played 31 tournaments. Woods earned an average of 25.7 points for every tournament he played, compared with 15.6 points for Stenson.
This is nothing new for Woods. He tends to play the toughest courses against the strongest fields. He also helps to make the field strong as the No. 1 player in the world. And while he doesn’t play often, he plays well when he does tee it up.
“Most of my events I play in the majority of my career have been on the more difficult venues, and against the better fields,” Woods said this month. “And now that we have not just the majors and The Players, but we also have the World Golf Championships … and also the playoffs at the end of the year, you’re getting the top players to play together more often. And I’m very proud of my overall record, especially in the bigger events.”
Here’s another way to look at it — the 19 tournaments worldwide Woods played this year offered an average of 72.7 points to the winner.
All of this made perfect sense to Ian Poulter, a student of the world ranking.
“How many events has he played, 19?” Poulter said. “So he’s got four majors, three World Golf Championships (Woods skipped the HSBC Champions), four FedEx playoff events. If you look where he plays, they are all the events where the top players are playing. You would theoretically say he’s got a good chance to earn a lot of points. But he has to play well.”
And that he did.
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MORE ON THE RANKING: The top 28 players in the world ranking at the end of 2012 were PGA Tour members this year, which made the gap between the PGA Tour and the European Tour even wider in measuring strength of field.
The average reward for PGA Tour winners was 56.2 ranking points, compared with 43 points on the European Tour. That includes the majors and World Golf Championships for both tours. Remove those eight big events, and the average was 47.3 points for PGA Tour winners compared with 33.1 points on the European Tour.
Except for the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, which gets a bonus as the flagship event, the strongest field on the European Tour was in Abu Dhabi (54 points). The PGA Tour had nine events with a stronger field. The Barclays and Deutsche Bank Championship led the way, offering 74 points each. That’s to be expected because they start off the FedEx Cup playoffs. Of regular events, the Memorial gave 70 points to the winner.
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KERR BECOMES MOTHER: Two weeks after the LPGA Tour season ended, Cristie Kerr became a mother for the first time. (Read full story here)
Mason Kerr Stevens was born Dec. 8. Kerr and her husband, Erik Stevens, had the child through surrogacy because of what Kerr said were “personal medical complications precluding us from traditional pregnancy.”
“We would like to send out a special thanks to all the people who helped make this miracle happen,” Kerr said.
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POULTER THE PEACOCK: The putt turned out to be meaningless, though Ian Poulter didn’t know that when he stood over a 15-foot par putt on the 18th hole at Royal Birkdale in the 2008 British Open.
In a final round of whipping wind at Royal Birkdale, he was two shots behind Padraig Harrington, who still was a couple of holes behind him. Poulter had reason to believe that a par for a 69 might be good enough to win. Alas, Harrington hit 5-wood into 4 feet for an eagle on the 17th to secure a four-shot win.
But it was Poulter’s reaction to the moment that showed the peacock in all his glory.
Poulter was talking about his ability to make big putts — mostly in the Ryder Cup — a few weeks ago at Sherwood Country Club when he recalled that par putt. He was sizing up the situation when he called his caddie, Terry Mundy, over to him.
“I can remember calling Terry in from the other side,” Poulter said. “He hadn’t read a putt all week, and I’ve asked him to come in. He says, ‘What do you want?’ I said, ‘Do you remember when you were a kid on the putting green and said I’ve got a putt to win the Open?’ He says, ‘Yeah, all the time.’
“I said, ‘I’ve got it right here. Now bugger off.'”
Poulter said Mundy was shocked to be summoned, and even more to realize that Poulter called him over during such a big moment only to tell him that story.
“And then you go and hole it,” Poulter said. “There’s a number of instances in the mind when the hole gets bigger, and everyone around you doesn’t affect you. You’re not thinking of missing it. That’s why people miss putts. They worry about, ‘What happens if I miss it?’ Even if that’s for a millisecond that’s enough. They’ve sown the seed. I didn’t even contemplate the consequences of missing it.”
He didn’t. But he still had to settle for the silver medal, which remains his best result in a major.
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PICKING THE PAIRINGS: The PGA Tour already alters the pairings to create marquee groups for the opening two rounds. Now it is letting the fans get involved.
In voting that will end next Monday, fans can go to the tour’s website to vote who should be paired with defending champion Dustin Johnson at Kapalua for the Tournament of Champions that starts Jan. 3. The choices are Masters champion Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker.
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DIVOTS: Michael Kim, the NCAA player of the year from Cal, will make his pro debut at Torrey Pines. Kim grew up in Del Mar and attended Torrey Pines High School. He earned his Web.com Tour card at Q-school this month. (Read the full story here) … The PGA Tour Latinoamerica has added tournaments in Panama, Guatemala and Mexico for the 2014 schedule, which will have 16 events in 10 countries. … Darren Clarke has a three-year deal to be the pro and global ambassador at The Astbury. It’s the first golf course designed by KK Downing, founding member of the British heavy metal band Judas Priest.
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STAT OF THE WEEK: Four players have at least $11 million in career earnings on the PGA Tour without ever having won a tournament — Briny Baird, Brian Davis, Jeff Overton and Brett Quigley.
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FINAL WORD: “I never said I’d beat Tiger every time. If you didn’t believe you could beat somebody or win the golf tournament, then don’t go out and play, it’s as simple as that. Tiger believes every time he goes out there that he’s going to beat you, right? And if you believe he’s going to beat you, then he’s going to beat you.” — Greg Norman.