The world golf ranking system MUST be flawed if Luke Donald is still the No. 1 ranked golfer in the world.  Unfortunately, over its 26 years of existence and changes, golf’s player ranking system has never received the level of scrutiny of college football’s BCS ranking system.  Maybe now it should.  There’s a huge difference in these ranking systems however…….the BCS includes the subjectivity of voters (i.e., selected poll standings), whereas the world golf ranking system is ALL “math”- absolutely no voting involved!   Therefore, it should be relatively easy to get it right.  After all, a guy who is 0 for 40 in the major championships……really NEVER in contention down the stretch in any of them……..should clearly NOT be ranked as the BEST player in the world!  


Nothing against the 34-year old Englishman who played his collegiate golf at Northwestern; but in his 12 years as a PGA Tour pro he’s won only five times plus seven European Tour wins, and his best ever major finish has been a T3 (2005 Masters and 2006 PGA Championship).  In his career, he’s also finished second 12 times and third 9 times.  By far, his biggest victory to date was the WGC Match Play Championship…..a 3 & 2 win over Martin Kaymer 17 months ago.  I’ll also concede that Donald (again last year) won BOTH the PGA and European Tour’s money list and Player of the Year, the only player to have ever accomplished that feat.  He does tend to do well in world tournaments with the largest purses, but earnings are NOT included in the ranking system.  Last year, Donald won twice on the PGA Tour and twice on the European but missed the cut in the British Open, with his best major finish a T4 in the Masters.  This season he’s won once so far (Transitions Championship in March with a fairly weak field), T32 in the Masters, and missed the U.S. Open cut.  Does it make any sense for the No. 1 ranked golfer in the world to have missed the U.S. Open cut just 5 weeks ago? 


Basically, the world golf ranking system can be very simply explained as follows.  Any golfer that plays on any of the six professional Tours (PGA, European, Japanese, Australian, Sunshine (South African), and Asian) are eligible for points which are awarded based on finish.  The point values are based on which Tour (PGA Tour is highest), strength of field (based on world golf ranking), and prestige of the particular event (e. g., THE PLAYERS’ Championship at TPC Sawgrass is weighted more than the John Deere Classic).  A major winner (Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, or PGA Championship) earns the most points…….100 points for 1st, 60 points for 2nd, 40 points for 3rd, and so on.  Comparatively, Open Championships of Australia, Japan, and South Africa award 32 points for a win.  In cases of co-sanctioned Tour events, the point levels for finish from each Tour are averaged and rounded up to the nearest whole number.  Points are accrued on a two-year rolling cycle.  Points earned over the most recent two-year period are decreased in weight so that a player’s most recent tournament finishes (last 13 weeks) are more heavily weighted in their average point total per tournament, which becomes their ranking.  Rankings are issued every Monday, following the completion of the previous week’s tournaments from around the world. 


The table below indicates the Top 10 Ranked Golfers in the World, which includes points earned from last week’s British Open.  You can go to for the complete current rankings.


Top Ten World Golf Rankings

(As of July 23, 2012)




Avg. Points


Luke Donald



Tiger Woods



Rory McIlroy



Lee Westwood



Webb Simpson



Adam Scott



Bubba Watson



Jason Dufner



Matt Kucher



Justin Rose



Incredibly, a T5 British Open finish kept Luke Donald at the top of the world golf rankings.  Hard to believe, this is the 54th week (not all consecutive) that he’s held the top spot.  Tiger Woods, with a British T3 and three wins this season barely jumped over 2011 U.S. Open champ Rory McIlroy into the No. 2 slot.  Amazingly, Lee Westwood (now 0 for 58 in the majors) only slipped to 4th despite a T45 British finish.  2012 major champions Webb Simpson (U.S. Open) and Bubba Watson (Masters) sit at 5th and 7th, respectively.  Notice too that even with his heart-breaking 2nd place finish, Adam Scott jumped from 13th into 6th.  I’m sure he’d much rather have his hands around the Claret Jug though.  Not shown in this table…..with his victory at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s, Ernie Els leaped from 40th to 15th

All the numerical details of the world golf ranking system have obviously not been laid out here, but it’s still easy to fundamentally grasp how the current system works.  However, TWO aspects have to change


  1. A one-year (maybe 15-month) rolling cycle should be utilized instead of a two-year cycle.  Two years is just too long of a period of time over which to score performance, and a lot can change suddenly especially when rankings are issued on a weekly basis.  The most recent two months (not 13 weeks) can be weighted more heavily too.


  1. Because the major championships are so prestigious and so elusive, points awarded for each finish position in these tournaments should be doubled.  Further, I believe at least some consideration should be given to DEDUCTING points for missing the cut in majors.  Likewise for their prestige, individual Ryder Cup and President’s Cup performance should be rewarded with “bonus” points (perhaps 10 points for each win, 5 points for each tie). 


The last 16 majors have been won by 16 different players, yet six of the current Top Ten players in the world have yet to win one.  There’s my proof for elusiveness!  Interestingly too, there have been 121 players in golf’s history to win only ONE major in their career (and just 15 of these 121 are still active on the PGA Tour….. trying to capture their second major). 


Golf is not like other sports where some of the BEST players don’t always win the Super Bowl or World Series.  In golf, like it or not, the BEST players in history (and today) are judged directly by how they performed in the majors.  The all-time best players in golf are defined by how many major championships they have won.  Luke Donald is a very solid player, unarguably one of the better players currently, but definitely not THE best!  


Let’s please re-visit the World Golf Ranking System.




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