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Is There Any Way to Fix The World Golf Rankings

By: | Tue 12 Mar 2024

I love this wonderful game of ours for all sorts of reasons. 

Who would ever have predicted that Matteo Manassero would return to the winner’s circle on the DP World Tour? He began the Jonsson Workwear Open ranked 381st in the world. He ended it in 182nd place. Not so very long ago he was outside the top 1,000. A couple more big finishes this season and he could be back in the top 50.

Austin Eckroat began the Cognizant Classic in 101st place. By winning it he climbed to 49th. With that win he secured a place at The Players Championship and will be in the field for all four majors. 

Brice Garnett began the Puerto Rico Open as the 535th ranked golfer in the world. He won the tournament and climbed to 196th.

And the point of all of this?

The world rankings offer golfers an incentive. So no matter what Jon Rahm and Greg Norman have had to say about the OWGR, trust me when I tell you that they do not really mean it. 

The world rankings matter to any golfer who makes a living through tournament play so it came as something of a surprise to me to learn that LIV have supposedly now given up the chase for world ranking points.

Norman, LIV’s commissioner, told his players: "It's now clear that the best way forward for LIV as a league and LIV golfers is not through the current ranking system. A resolution which protects the accuracy, credibility and integrity of the OWGR rankings no longer exists. The OWGR has shown little willingness to productively work with us."

This hardly sounds like a man who believes there is much chance of a peace deal being struck between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Public Investment Fund.

I am not going to pretend that the world rankings are perfect because they are quite clearly biased towards those who earn their living on the PGA Tour

While it is impossible to argue with a system that says Scottie Scheffler is the best golfer in the world (he quite clearly is), are we really saying that Eric Cole is a better golfer than Thorbjorn Olesen? Cole is ranked 38th in the world but that never won a PGA Tour title, Olesen, a regular winner on the DP World Tour, is 64th. 

Russell Henley is supposedly the 22nd-best golfer on planet Earth, while Nicolai Hojgaard is 35th. Really? Henley’s most recent win came in 2022. Hojgaard won the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai last year.

But when you look at the top 10, it is difficult to argue that they have got it too far wrong.

Rahm is currently ranked third in the world but will need to play well in the majors if he is to have any chance of staying there now that he has joined LIV. Cameron Smith has plummeted from second to 54th since defecting. And the same could happen to Rahm.

Nobody in their right mind believes that Smith is the 54th-best golfer in the world, or that there are 79 players better than Joaquin Niemann

Rahm says that the world rankings are not "a good system" but he would, wouldn’t he?

"I'm going to go back to what I said two years ago. I didn't think it [OWGR] was a good system back then," said Rahm. "If anything, the more time goes on, the more it proves to be wrong."

Jon Rahm

(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)

To be fair to Rahm, he has consistently been an outspoken critic of the rankings. 

This what what he had to say in November 2022 when the PGA Tour’s RSM Classic awarded more ranking points than the DP World Tour Championship. And he had a point. He said: "I'm going to be as blunt as I can - I think the OWGR right now is laughable. Laughable. Laughable.

"The fact that the RSM doesn't have any of the top 25 in the world and has more points than this event where we have seven of the top 25 is laughable. The fact that Wentworth [the BMW PGA Championship] had less points than Napa [the PGA Tour's Fortinet Championship] despite having players in the top 10 in the world is laughable.

"I understand what they are trying to do with the depth of field, but having the best players in the world automatically makes the tournament better. I don't care what their system says. I think they have made a mistake. I think some aspects of it might be beneficial, but I think they have devalued the value of the better players.

"Take the Tour Championship as an example: The 30 best players of the year should not be punished because it's a smaller field. Depth of field doesn't mean better tournament. I could go on and on. I think they have missed the mark on that stance quite a bit."

When LIV Golf originally applied in July 2022 - a month after its formation - the OWGR was concerned about the format. Quite rightly. It features the same 54 players all season who play 54-hole, shotgun start, no-cut events.

With LIV Golf players receiving no points from the circuit's events, many of the players who left the PGA Tour have slipped down the rankings, with Rahm one of just four LIV players who currently feature in the top 50. The others are Brooks Koepka, Tyrrell Hatton and Adrian Meronk.

Bryson DeChambeau (world ranked 189th) said it was up to those in charge of the game to find a "collective way" to rectify the issue.

He said: "We should focus on having the best players in the majors. All the governing bodies, everybody, come together, sit down and figure this out. Because we need to do this for the fans."

The majors can issue their own invitations, as has been done with Niemann, who has been given special invitations for next month's Masters and the US PGA Championship in May.

"Now they've given one player a chance before you know there will be a solution," said Rahm. "I think it's opening the door slightly. If anybody in this world doesn't think 'Joaco' [Niemann] deserves to be in the top 10 or doesn't know that he's a top player in the world, I don't know what game you're watching."

I repeat a point I have already made. Yes, Niemann is a world-class golfer but when he made the decision to join LIV he knew exactly what he was getting into.

Interestingly, the R&A have made no concessions to LIV regarding entry to The Open, although former major winners Rahm, Smith, Dustin Johnson, Koepka, DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson already have places for this year's Open at Royal Troon in July.

DeChambeau said players should be invited to the majors based on their performance in the previous year.

As the year progresses, I will be rooting for the likes of Manassero and Eckroat, who are climbing the rankings through sheer hard work and application rather than lining their pockets by taking the easy way out and then moaning about their lot.

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Tags: PGA Tour LIV Golf dp world tour

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