Who is Number One?
Posted May 11 2012, 12:20 PM by Cathy Erickson
Or maybe the bigger question is...do we really need to care? I've pondered and studied the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) a few times of the past few years. It is a Numbers Nerd's dream of points, averages, and weightings that determines who should be considered the best golfer in the world...for the week. But the thing is, it's really not about the best player "that week" because the rankings take into consideration months worth of a player's statistical finishes, weighted by the strength of field and their final position in the tournament.
I don't mean to demean the title of being the number one player on the OWGR, but as I've said before, Tiger Woods was considered the #1 player in the world during a period when he didn't play in an official tournament for months.
A part of me thinks that the best player in the world for the week should probably be the guy that wins that week...but then I realize that there are several tournaments going on throughout the world, so I guess it's just not as easy as that. And now that I think about it, I guess it should matter a little bit what a player has done over the last few weeks, too...should a guy that had 5 top five finishes in the last 5 tournaments be considered a better player over a guy that won the tournament, but missed the cut in the 4 previous events?
This could start a whole other discussion on whether winning is more important than just being good. I think it could be argued that fans and the media prefer winners over "almost winners". I think back to the 2011 season...Matt Kuchar came off of a fantastic year in 2010 (winner of the Money Title!!), but even though he made over $4 million and had 2 second place finishes and 9 top 10's, he was barely a topic of conversation in 2011 (until he won the Mission Hills World Cup with Gary Woodland).
And this could spring into a whole other conversation about the impact of the media influencing what or who we think should be important in the golf world. Usually around the time of a Major, and it happened again about a month ago, we read about "the best player without a Major". Just a few weeks ago Sam gave us a little history on the Majors and it gave me pause to think about how time and influence have created a mystique and respect for a few tournaments. I could write a whole side bar on the discrimination discussion regarding the PGA Tour choosing tournament sites and Augusta basically getting a "pass", but I'll save that for another day. I think my point is, time and history make a difference, but should they when it comes to deciding who the best is right now?
Man, I'm starting to confuse myself!
The point I wanted to make is that now that the dominance of Tiger Woods has faded, and his place on top of the world ranking has been up for grabs (can you believe it, October 31, 2010!!!), I'm not sure we've cared as much...and frankly, I think it's a good thing. I think it's fantastic that we're sort of "in the moment" when it comes to golf again. One thing I've noticed in conversations with some of my fantasy golf pals it that it's gotten harder to pick players because there are so many that could be hoisting the trophy come Sunday. I think it's helped golf fans open their eyes to the depth of talent out there now, and I think it's also providing some incentive to some of our "older" favorites to step up and announce that they aren't going anywhere just yet.
Whoops, back to my point (gee, what was it again?)...oh yes, what I wanted to say was that while I'm not sure being the number one player in the world is as relevant as it was to the fans and media as it was when TW was firmly planted there for his countless number of weeks, I think the revolving door at the top has created a renewed incentive to all of the best players around the world to try to sit on the throne, even if it's just for a brief time.
I'm not saying we should get rid of the OWGR, but I do like that the PGA Tour and Avis have rolled out a "Player of the Month" recognition determined by the fans for 2012. While still a little bitter that Steve Stricker wasn't chosen for January (Mr. Moustache Johnson Wagner got the honor), it was pretty cool to see Phil Mickelson get the nod after his great win at the AT&T in February. It's also no surprise that Bubba Watson was the fans' choice in April for winning the Green Jacket at Augusta. Now, maybe fan voting isn't exactly scientific, but I think this honor is a pretty good indicator of who is hot in golf right now...and maybe even who is the best in the world. But for the record, Rory McIlory is the number one player in the world coming into The Players Championship this week after a T2 finish last week, but with that clutch wedge shot that Rickie Fowler stuffed close on the first playoff hole at the Wells Fargo, it's hard not to say he was the best player that day.
The best part of all of this is that we're getting some great golf, some great competition, and some great winners on Tour so far in 2012. I wonder if some day we'll ponder the question, "who is the best player not to be #1 on the OWGR?" now that it seems a little more accessible.
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Filed under: Sam Johnson, Steve Stricker, Matt Kuchar, OWGR, Cathy Erickson, Majors, Rory McIlroy, PGA, Johnson Wagner, Player of the Month
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