Notable World Golf Ranking Rises and Falls of 2019
Concluding this decade in golf, 2019 has been a year of monumental stories, none more than the extraordinary triumph of Tiger Woods at Augusta National, who completed his seemingly unlikely comeback with an unforgettable victory in the Masters. We saw Brooks Koepka continue his dominance in the majors, while Shane Lowry was carried to Claret Jug glory by the Irish fans at Royal Portrush, and Rory McIlroy played arguably the most consistent golf of his career in a season littered with titles.
However, behind them, there have been many tales of growth and decline. Emerging stars made a name for themselves with the future to come, but for others, there are deep questions to answer going into the Twenties.
We have taken a glance at the latest Official World Golf Ranking - December 16th - and compared it to the final standings of 2018 to identify the names who have ascended or slumped throughout the past 12 months. Optimism and pessimism. For both of these groups, the next season is a vital one.
Notable Rises: End of 2018 Ranking / Current Ranking
Shane Lowry - 75 to 19
Having been left in tears after missing the cut at the 2018 Open, Lowry came back brilliantly to form by winning the Abu Dhabi Championship. Strong mid-season results had the Irishman considered an outside contender for the Championship's return to Royal Portrush, but few could have anticipated his performance, winning by six shots in front of a huge, atmospheric gallery, securing his first major title. Building on this next year to make a Ryder Cup debut will be his objective.
Bernd Wiesberger - 185 to 23
Faced with a lengthy spell in recovery after a wrist injury, the Austrian remarkably returned to the game and produced the season of his career, winning three times on the European Tour, including the Scottish and Italian Opens, both Rolex Series events. Having come agonisingly close to claiming the Race to Dubai, the 34-year-old has the Ryder Cup in mind.
Danny Willett - 89 to 29
Following the 2018 BMW PGA Championship, the former Masters champion had fallen to 462nd in the OWGR. It was a stunning fall, two years after his triumph down Magnolia Lane. Incredibly, he turned things around last season by winning the DP World Tour Championship, but carrying that form on, there were good showings in the U.S. Open and Open, before he returned to Wentworth and won the European Tour's flagship event. Suddenly, Willett is back where he should be.
Victor Perez - 132 to 46
Not many would have heard of the Challenge Tour graduate several months ago, but the Frenchman ended the season in breakthrough fashion, winning the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews, just a short journey from his base in Dundee. He followed that up with notable finishes in the WGC HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open to break into the elite top 50.
Robert MacIntyre - 247 to 66
The European Tour's Rookie of the Year, the hugely impressive left-hander from Oban in Scotland made a name for himself in 2019, finishing runner-up in three events - Made in Denmark, British Masters, European Open - and producing many other notable performances, including a tie for sixth at the Open Championship, ultimately finishing 11th in the Race to Dubai. The next step will be securing that maiden win on tour.
Scottie Scheffler - 1,589 to 67
Low amateur at the 2017 U.S. Open, the Texan won twice on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2019, securing his PGA Tour card for the new season. The 23-year-old has already recorded strong results on the main circuit, including three top tens, suggesting that the former Walker Cup player is one to watch in 2020.
Collin Morikawa - 2,006 to 68
Ranked as the leading amateur in the world for several weeks in 2018, the Californian enjoyed a quick breakthrough in the professional ranks, finishing runner-up to fellow emerging star Matthew Wolff at the 3M Open, Morikawa won the Barracuda Championship to signal his arrival. The 22-year-old is a name to follow as we enter the new decade.
Brendon Todd - 2,006 to 70
In one of the most remarkable career turnarounds in years, Brendon Todd was drifting down the world rankings, but a runner-up finish in the Korn Ferry Tour's Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship sparked a revival. But few could have expected what was to come in the autumn. The 34-year-old won the Bermuda Championship on the PGA Tour, and incredibly, a fortnight later, he was victorious in the Mayakoba Golf Classic. He very nearly made it three in a row, ultimately finishing fourth at the RSM Classic. Inspiring.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout - 521 to 89
Talking about inspirational stories, the young South African has overcome many challenges to succeed on the European Tour, including a later reduced suspension for taking beta blockers in his battle with anxiety, finally winning on the circuit this summer in Spain, producing a brilliant performance at the Andalucia Masters. There is more to come from the 25-year-old.
Viktor Hovland - 1,157 to 95
Low amateur in both the Masters and U.S. Open, the 22-year-old from Norway turned professional, and has already impressed with his consistent scoring. The 2018 U.S. Amateur champion is being talked up as a potential Ryder Cup player, though his immediate goals will be a little less lofty. But there is a reason to be excited by this talent.
Notable Falls: End of 2018 Ranking / Current Ranking
Jordan Spieth - 17 to 43
The three-time major champion has declined markedly since winning the Open at Royal Birkdale in 2017 - he featured in last year's article - and we saw only brief flashes of Spieth's brilliance this past season. Battling and scrambling to finish third in the PGA Championship at Royal Birkdale, in addition to top tens at the Memorial, Northern Trust and CJ Cup. But consistency is required if the 26-year-old should remain in the world's top 50, which is a startling thing to note considering the Texan's success midway through the decade.
Bubba Watson - 16 to 44
Since a resurgence during the first half of 2018, the enigmatic Watson has slipped dramatically in form and now looks set to fall out of the world's top 50. But he has been in this position before, sitting at 89th at the end of 2017. While he may be beyond his peak, the 41-year-old remains a potential contender at the Masters.
Phil Mickelson - 32 to 62
Astonishingly, the five-time major champion had been a permanent fixture within the world's top 50 for over 25 years, but that streak came to an end this autumn, despite having won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February. Approaching his 50th birthday, Mickelson has struggled on the course for months, with next year set to be an indication on whether it's a reversible decline or not.
Alex Noren - 19 to 73
Part of Europe's winning Ryder Cup team at Le Golf National, the Swede has played between the European and PGA Tour, but hasn't been able to replicate the heights of previous years, with only a single top ten in 27 events. That said, the 37-year-old has made the cut most weeks, suggesting that 2020 could be a revival of sorts.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat - 37 to 100
The popular Thai has been a regular in majors and World Golf Championships, but that status is threatened by a decline in results throughout the summer, which has seen the 30-year-old notably fall in the rankings. There have been more encouraging signs of late, so we should expect better times next year.
Branden Grace - 49 to 122
Proven winner and major contender, the South African has struggled for much of the past 18 months, but he did show promise in finishing runner-up at the Phoenix Open, and capped the year off with a third place in the Alfred Dunhill Championship. Still only 31, it's too early to suggest that he won't return to the elite, but greater consistency is needed.
Charl Schwartzel - 79 to 215
The former Masters champion had missed the majority of the past year due to a wrist injury, which has seen his ranking slump, but the 35-year-old came back to action this month, finishing an encouraging third place in South Africa. There is little doubt that he will rise again in 2020. But how far can he go? We'll see.
Alexander Levy - 97 to 272
Having once been considered a potential Ryder Cup player for the 2018 event in his homeland, the Frenchman has struggled for any semblance of form, with bright spots being rare in the midst of missed cuts. Having not played competitively since the Portugal Masters in October, there are questions for the 29-year-old to answer next season.
Chris Wood 93 - to 345
Former BMW PGA champion and Ryder Cup player, it's startling to see Chris Wood at 345th in the OWGR, but injuries and a loss of form have taken their toll. Whether he can recover from this lowly position remains to be seen, but at 32, there should still be life in the Englishman's career.
Paul Dunne 120 - to 351
It was only two years ago that the Irishman saw off Rory McIlroy to win the British Masters, but since then, there hasn't been much to celebrate. Losing his European Tour card in October, the 27-year-old withdrew from Q-School due to injury. It has been a striking decline for the young man who lit up St Andrews as an amateur in 2015.
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