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Notable World Golf Ranking Rises and Falls of 2018

By: | Mon 17 Dec 2018 | Comments

It’s been a highly competitive year across the spectrum of the men’s professional game, a fact perhaps most notably illustrated by the world number one spot switching hands on nine occasions. There have been several notable rises during the past 12 months, including the dramatic comeback of Tiger Woods, but also the success of many younger golfers such as Bryson DeChambeau, Aaron Wise, Matt Wallace and Eddie Pepperell. However, on the other side of the spectrum, there will be a degree of soul searching for the likes of Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Thomas Pieters and Martin Kaymer who slipped down the standings in 2018.

We have looked through the latest Official World Golf Ranking – 16th December – and compared it to the final list of 2017 to pick out some of the most notable players who have ascended and slumped throughout this year. Which, for you, has been the most impressive or shocking?

Notable Rises: End of 2017 Ranking / Current Ranking

Brooks Koepka - 8 to 1

Having missed the early months of the year – including The Masters – due to a serious wrist injury, the powerful American stunned the golf world by winning both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, rapidly establishing himself as one of the major stars of his generation. Victory in the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges saw him reach the summit of the rankings, a position he will look to maintain in 2019.

Bryson DeChambeau – 99 to 5

Much is made of the 25-year-old’s unique approach to the game, but it has proven to be extremely effective. Having been fairly quiet in the aftermath of his maiden PGA Tour title at The Greenbrier, DeChambeau’s runner-up at the Arnold Palmer Invitational was a sign of things to come, as he enjoyed a breathtaking season with triumphs in The Memorial, two FedEx Cup Playoffs, and the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. He is now among the truly elite players in golf.

Tony Finau – 40 to 10

Golf’s Mr Consistency didn’t win in 2018, but impressed with the quality of his performances, despite bizarrely dislocating his ankle during the Par 3 Contest at Augusta National. Recording strong finishes in both the U.S. Open and Open, Finau was runner-up in the Genesis Open, Northern Trust, WGC HSBC Champions, and Hero Challenge, which carried him inside the world’s top ten.

Francesco Molinari – 21 to 7

It was an astonishing summer for Molinari. Winning the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth was the start, followed by an agonising runner-up at the Italian Open. That was the sign of things to come, when he made his breakthrough in the United States with a dominant victory at the Quicken Loans National, before making history at Carnoustie when he saw off a star-studded leaderboard to claim the Claret Jug and his first major at The Open Championship. That wasn’t it, however, as he produced a perfect, talismanic display at the Ryder Cup, winning each of his matches alongside Tommy Fleetwood to spearhead Europe’s success at Le Golf National.

Tiger Woods – 656 to 13

Entering 2018, was Tiger's latest comeback going to finally see the 14-time major champion rekindle the memories of the past? From where he was and the many obstacles that were overcome, it was a remarkable story. Finishing in a tie for second at the Valspar Championship and contending at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the signs were positive for Tiger, but it was at Carnoustie when he stirred nostalgia by reaching the summit of the leaderboard at The Open on the back-nine, before falling back into sixth place. He soon made another major charge at the 100th PGA Championship, shooting a final round of 64 to finish second behind Brooks Koepka. There was more to come, however, as he won his 80th PGA Tour title in extraordinary scenes at the Tour Championship. Incredibly, Tiger is back, and will head into 2019 as a genuine contender. Few could have seen that coming 12 months ago.

Bubba Watson – 89 to 17

The two-time Masters champion had slipped away in recent times, but shot dramatically back to form in 2018, winning the Genesis Open at Riviera, WGC Dell Technologies Match Play, and Travelers Championship, restoring himself back into the world's top 20 and could be a strong outside bet for another major title at Augusta National in April.

Eddie Pepperell – 133 to 35

Having regained his tour card at Qualifying School in 2016, the Englishman has progressed since and enjoyed his breakthrough this year by winning the Qatar Masters for his maiden European Tour victory. Consistent performances in the subsequent months, including strong performances in the Scottish Open, Open and Portugal Masters pointed to greater things to come when he won the British Masters at Walton Heath. More than just a great follow on Twitter, Eddie is now fulfilling his significant potential on the golf course.

Matt Wallace – 127 to 44

Spearheading the exceptional success of English golfers on the European Tour, Matt Wallace won three times at the Hero Indian Open, BMW International Open, and Made in Denmark, which placed him in the reckoning for a Ryder Cup wild card pick, albeit missing out in favour of the experienced heads who excelled at Le Golf National. Now inside the world's top 50 with a Masters debut secured for 2019, we can expect Wallace to continue making his surge up the rankings.

Lucas Bjerregaard – 188 to 45

Winner of the Portugal Masters in 2017, the 27-year-old Dane has continued to make strides after winning the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews, seeing off the challenge of Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood. This hugely impressive player will be one to watch on the European Tour in 2019.

Aaron Wise – 223 to 51

Rookie of the Year on the PGA Tour in 2018, the 22-year-old won the AT&T Byron Nelson in May, which secured his spot in the Masters next year. Posting consistent results later in the season, the South African-born American player is on the verge of breaking into the world's top 50. 

Tom Lewis – 370 to 78

Winner of the Silver Medal in the 2011 Open, Tom Lewis enjoyed a remarkable beginning to his professional career after securing the title at the Portugal Masters. However, his career didn't maintain that striking trajectory, but he stunningly regained his form again, winning the Bridgestone Challenge on the Challenge Tour just weeks before tasting success for a second time in the Algarve to show that at 27, he's back and there is more to come from Tom Lewis in 2019.

Cameron Champ – 1057 to 95

Much has been said about the 23-year-old, who emerged at the 2017 U.S. Open when he led the driving distance stats. Winning on the Web.Com Tour in the summer, Champ progressed onto the PGA Tour in the autumn, making an almost instant impact by winning the Sanderson Farms in truly impressive fashion. Further saw top ten finishes saw him underline his status as one of the most exciting young players in the game, and it will be fascinating to see that continue in 2019.

Oliver Wilson – 1,821 to 173

The Englishman's Alfred Dunhill Links victory in 2014 remains one of the most unexpected and meaningful in recent years, but it wasn't the breakthrough that summoned in a fresh era for Wilson. Falling off the European Tour and failing to regain his card, retirement was considered a year ago, but the 38-year-old shot dramatically back to form in the summer Winning August's Swedish Challenge and October's Irish Challenge on the Challenge Tour, the former Ryder Cup player narrowly missed out on securing his status on the main circuit, but a but third place finish in the South African Open during December has qualified him for The Open at Royal Portrush, signalling better days ahead for Wilson.

Notable Falls - End of 2017 Ranking / Current Ranking

Henrik Stenson – 9 to 25

Having been a staple of the world's elite top ten for several years, it was a comparatively lean season for the Swede, who battled an elbow injury that curtailed his form. Nonetheless, Stenson recorded top ten finishes in both the Masters and U.S. Open, was a key part of Europe's successful Ryder Cup team, and finished 2018 strongly with positive results in Asia. For the 42-year-old, the question is whether he can restore himself to the heights of 2016 when he lifted the Claret Jug.

Hideki Matusyama – 5 to 27

Following his WGC Bridgestone victory and runner-up in the U.S. Open, many expected this to be the year when the Japanese star would enjoy a major breakthrough that has been long predicted, but despite a solid beginning to the season, it was a hugely disappointing campaign for the 26-year-old who has slipped from fifth to 27th in the world, with much to ponder as he looks to restore himself as a contender in 2019.

Jordan Spieth – 2 to 16

The Texan has achieved many remarkable feats in his career to date, but this was perhaps his most inexplicable year. Few could have imagined a season with victory, missing the Tour Championship, and slipping outside the world's top ten. However, strikingly, he was a factor in two majors, producing a spectacular charge at the Masters in April, and leading The Open at Carnoustie after 54-holes before slipping down the leaderboard. It will be intriguing to see if the newly married 25-year-old can rediscover the form and consistency that has seen him claim three major titles.

Thomas Pieters – 36 to 71

Great things were expected after his Ryder Cup performance in 2016, but it hasn't quite clicked since for Thomas Pieters. It wasn't a year bereft of decent weeks; there were top ten finishes at the Scottish Open and PGA Championship, not to mention his World Cup of Golf triumph alongside Thomas Detry for Belgium that could perhaps signal more to come. But the 26-year-old will enter 2019 well outside the world's top 50, sitting way short of where his considerable ability should be.

Jason Dufner – 41 to 115

Sinning winning Jack Nicklaus' Memorial Tournament in 2017, it has been a miserable time on the golf course for the former PGA champion. During the 18 months since that success at Muirfield Village, his solitary top ten finish came at May's Players Championship, and his ranking has consequently tumbled. Now 41, it's for Dufner to prove that his best days are not in the past.

Jhonattan Vegas – 44 to 123

Having been part of last year's International Team of the Presidents Cup after victory in the Canadian Open, the 34-year-old endured a hugely disappointing season, with his single top ten finish being etched at the limited-field Tournament of Champions during the first weekend of 2018. Improvement is drastically required for the big man from Venezuela. 

Martin Kaymer – 70 to 172

The likeable German sits well outside the world's top 100 players for the first time since he ascended into the professional game over a decade ago, following an injury-impacted season that has also seen him part ways with long-term caddie Craig Connelly. However, there have been flashes of the magic that won the PGA Championship in 2010 and U.S. Open in 2014, with a runner-up at the BMW International Open and top five at the Turkish Airlines Open, although consistency has been hard to find. Nonetheless, at just 33, there should remain positive years ahead for Kaymer, but he desperately needs a strong 2019.

Bernd Wiseberger – 39 to 175

Now back from injury, the Austrian will be targeting a quick start to the year after a season that was largely spent in recovery, falling from a comfortable position inside the world's top 50 to 175th. That's a challenging starting place, but one that the 33-year-old will be intent on improving on quickly when the European Tour resumes for its desert swing in the Middle East.

Bill Haas – 56 to 200

Former winner of the FedEx Cup, Bill Haas had been a consistent performer on the PGA Tour for the best part of the decade, but he has been without a top ten finish since April and failed to qualify for the Playoffs. Tragically, the 36-year-old was involved in a car accident in February that saw the driver, Mark Gibello, killed. Bill was a passenger. It's a year that he will be glad to close the book on, with better days hopefully ahead in 2019.

Wesley Bryan – 67 to 281

His rise from trick-shot star on YouTube to PGA Tour winner in 2017 was an inspiring tale, but the past year has largely been a struggle on the golf course for Wesley Bryan. Since making his debut at the Masters, cuts made have been rare, failing to make the weekend in any of his last nine events on the circuit. Falling strikingly down the rankings, the 28-year-old is on a slide that needs to be quickly addressed.

Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography

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