This is a question I get asked all the time. The World Golf Rankings are probably the official judge of a players results there is, but they are far from perfect.
I remember one player saying something to the extent of the World Golf Rankings are a great judge of players 1-10 in the world, but a terrible judge of who is 78th or 79th in the world. For the most part, that is actually completely opposite.
The OWGR’s are calculated by a rolling average of the past two years, with the last year counting more. Points are awarded in each for where you finish depending on the strength of field. In addition players maintain their full points earned for a 13 week period, then the points decrease incrementally for the remaining weeks in the 2 year rolling period.
To give you an idea how they work, the here is a breakdown from the BMW EPGA Championship:
And so on…(click the link above if you care to see further breakdown.
Basically, by the OWGR’s winning is worth almost double second place. In reality, the difference between Paul Casey (-17) and Ross Fisher(-16) was one shot spread over four days. Obviously I think that pretty clearly overstates the impact of winning. Also, using only a 13 week period gives a pretty good recency bias.
Just look at the latest OWGR’s. Getting into the top ten of the OWGR’s is almost completely contingent upon scoring a few big victories. (Victories are worldwide this season)
1-Tiger Woods-2 wins.
2-Phil Mickelson -2 wins
3-Paul Casey-3 wins
4-Kenny Perry-2 wins
5-Sergio Garcia-1 wins
6-Henrik Stenson-2 wins
7-Geoff Ogilvy-2 wins
8-Steve Stricker-1 win
9-Jim Furyk-0 wins
10-Vijay Singh 0 wins(3 last year from Aug-Sept)
That is not to take away from winning, but there is more to golf than just winning tournaments. For example, just this PGA Tour season Jim Furyk and Kenny Perry have played in 11 common events. Furyk has better finishes in 6 of them.
The point of golfing is to shoot low scores. The best golfer should be able to shoot the lowest score the most consistently. The World Golf Rankings focus on recency and big bonuses for winning get in the way of that.
Here is a look at some of the discrepancies between mine and the OWGR’s:
Tiger Woods: difference between 1-2 in OWGR’s approximately the difference between 2 and 3,4. Difference between Tiger and 2 in mine, is approximately the difference between 2 and 69. Judging by the Vegas lines, this week I’d say I’m on the right track there.
Phil Mickelson: It’s the wins. Phil is slightly lower(6th) when you count wins for the strokes they are worth. Same as the two missed cuts and four finishes worse than 40.
Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk: Same boring American player. Lots of high finishes. Not many wins. That will lead to being 5 and 7 spots underrated, respectively.
Henrik Stenson: Best case of an overrated player based on the rankings. Stenson has two wins in the calender year, but also a lot of terrible results. In the OWGR’s Stenson, is carried by wins at big events, in mine the missed European Open cuts weigh in equally(after adjusting for field of course)
Vijay Singh: See Stenson, Henrik.
Tim Clark: Clark is 15 spots underrated by the rankings. This is basically the anti-Stenson, Vijay. Clark has a lot of high finishes, without a win. In fact, he owns most top-tens and most money won in PGA Tour History without a victory.
Michael Sim: Sim is ranked 82nd in the world right now, but 48th by my rankings. This is another problem with the World Rankings. The tour adjustment factor seems to be made up/skewed. You can get a high World Ranking by banging out wins in Japan or Australia, yet the Nationwide Tour, which is probably the third richest/best tour in the world in addition to being a gateway to the undoubted best tour in the world is not so lucrative. I’m not saying my Tour Adjustment is perfect, but it is at least produced by comparing results, not some hocus pocus made up number.
To be sure, my rankings are far from perfect. A win is still probably worth something that isn’t accounted for in one stroke due to the mental nature of the pressure. Course form probably means something. The tour adjustments may not be perfect. But, if you’re judging a golfer by consistently shooting the lowest scores, they aren’t a bad way to go.