World Rankings Are Overblown
I am so tired of hearing how no man wants to be Number One in the world of golf. Every week we hear that Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood, Luke Donald or others can all grab the top spot if they win a certain event or finish at a certain spot. Yet when they don’t pull it off, they are somehow choke artists who can’t finish the job. The pressure resumes this week as the press declares Donald “has another shot at World No. 1” at the Zurich Classic!
Then, when someone gains the top spot by default (lately always Westwood) because someone else didn’t get there, that person doesn’t deserve to be there. The fact is that no one’s career is predicated on how many weeks someone was topping the charts. The king of the world rankings, Tiger Woods, certainly couldn’t care less how often he was the world’s top player nor do we know off the top of our heads how often he was on top. But we all know he has fourteen major wins and is four shy of Jack Nicklaus’s record.
The world rankings were first introduced by the R & A as a means of determining who to invite to the British Open. They are primarily used today to determine who gets into specific events around the world and who doesn’t. No one gets a trophy for being No. 1. Therefore, maybe we should stop trying to pick at the golfers within the system.
Constant analysis of the rankings is systematically altering the world’s view of Lee Westwood and Luke Donald as guys that are virtual shams. The rankings DO NOT identify the best golfer at the time. It instead rewards the most consistent top golfer at the time and there is a big difference. I would contend that the top golfer at a specific point in time is usually the guy who won the tournament with the most depth that week or was the one who has been on an impressive streak of top fives for a string of a month or so.
For instance, Gary Woodland could very well have been the best golfer in the world for about two weeks in March when he had a win and a sixth place finish yet no one in their right mind would really consider him No. 1 in the world rankings (for the record, he has risen from outside the top three-hundred to forty-six this week). The same can be said for Nick Watney in that same general time frame who also had a win and four other top tens in five straight tournaments. Heck, Mark Wilson was No. 234 on January 2nd and has won twice already. Is anybody ready to anoint him No. 1? Of course not, because he isn’t the best player in the world.
To me, the best players in the world are remembered more for their wins around the world rather than a ranking. That said we shouldn’t put undue pressure on guys like Donald or Westwood because they can’t rise to the occasion on a specified week to become No. 1 or can’t maintain their status on top consistently either. It isn’t a knock on their ability at all and would be a shame if they were remembered solely as choke artists based on world rankings. If one wants to remember them as choke artists for not winning enough, that’s fine.
Tiger Woods is probably still considered the best player in the world right now although he hasn’t done anything in over a year. If I gave you a choice between Tiger Woods and any other player of your choice this week, I’m guessing you would put your money on Woods. Most people think Woods has been the unprecedented No. 1 in the rankings since he first took over in June of 1997. Actually, between that first appearance on top and when he lost it most recently (October 2011) he relinquished the position ten times to Norman, Els, Singh, and Duval. He held onto it from June of 2005 for five years uninterrupted but well after his great season of 2000. In other words, he was anointed the best long before he put the clamps down on the World Rankings and that came from his major wins.
So let’s back off on the pressure applied to Westwood, Kaymer, and particularly Donald and instead enjoy the same parity that makes the NCAA Tournament, NHL playoffs, and the NFL so entertaining. Instead let’s gain some perspective on the long history of golf and try not to create the best week in and week out.
About Richard: Richard Mandell runs Richard Mandell Golf Architecture in Pinehurst, North Carolina (www.golf-architecture.com). Educated as a Landscape Architect at the University of Georgia (he is licensed in both North and South Carolina), Richard has close to two decades’ experience in designing new golf courses and renovating existing ones. Richard may also be the only golf architect in the world who is a certified arborist. He co-hosts a weekly golf radio talk show in Pinehurst and continues to teach a class on Golf Architecture at North Carolina State University which he started in 1997. Mr. Mandell also wrote the award-winning book, Pinehurst ~ Home of American Golf - The Evolution of a Legend (International Network of Golf Book of the Year – 2007).
Richard Mandell has been a Golf Content Creator for the Washington Times Communities since October 20, 2008