An Alternative To The Official World Golf Ranking
By mustang6560 on 4/30/12
The Official World Golf Ranking, which was introduced in 1986, might be one of the most disliked aspects of professional golf.

The system, in theory, is easy to understand. The player ranked number one is better than the player ranked number two and the player ranked number two is better than the player ranked number three (and so on and so on). However, the system is difficult to comprehend on a week-to-week basis, especially since the top spot is as volatile as the Pacific Ring of Fire.

With his solo third place finish at the Zurich Classic, Luke Donald regained the top spot in the OWGR over Rory McIlroy. Two weeks ago, Rory jumped Luke in his off week because Luke finished outside the top 25 at the RBC Heritage. And depending on how each player finishes at the Wells Fargo Championship this weekend, the two could flip flop again.

While no ranking system is perfect, two Ivy League professors may have developed a more accurate alternative to the OWGR.
Broadie and Rendleman say that the current system employed to rank the world's golfers rests on a foundation of unexplained, built-in biases that award ranking points in a random and sometimes circular fashion. One startling result, according to their research: Among the top 200 players listed in the OWGR, the average PGA Tour player is ranked 36 positions worse than he should be relative to players on other tours.

Not surprisingly, they have produced an alternative system -- using what's called a fixed-effect statistical model (see sidebar, page 40) -- they say will eliminate the bias. The Broadie-Rendleman "skill rank" would better determine the relative ability of a player on the PGA Tour versus a European Tour or even a OneAsia tour player. Using a tabulation that factored in common opponents and common venues, the skill rank would rate all tour players based on the comparative strength of their scores in each tournament. The key contrast to the existing system is that it would not pre-weight points based on a tournament's subjectively judged, assigned importance.
The OWGR is endorsed by the four major championships - the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open, and the PGA Championship - and the International Federation of PGA Tours, so the system is not going anywhere anytime soon. However, it seems the people in charge of the system are not opposed to making a few tweaks.
The PGA Tour's Ty Votaw, executive vice president of communications and international affairs, says the PGA Tour is looking at the Broadie/Rendleman study. "We feel the insights Dr. Broadie and Dr. Rendleman presented are very interesting and worth further study, and based on the results of the peer review of the professors' work, we will share that paper with the OWGR Technical Committee for analysis," he wrote in an email to Golf World.
I do not know enough about the system to provide much of a critique, however, it's weird that Tiger Woods received 44 OWGR points for winning the Chevron World Challenge back in December, which is not sanctioned by a professional tour. He moved up 31 points as a result of the win.

What do you think about the OWGR?

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Keith Allison

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[ comments ]
legitimatebeef says:
Dislike is a strong word. Disinterested, apathetic, indifferent...more apt descriptors. For this golf viewer at least.
Duke of Hazards says:
Interesting article, and analytics and math are always good, but I'm not sure that I totally agree with an OWGR system based solely on comparitive statistics. This new study seems to think that a 5th place finish in a U.S. Open should be worth more than a win on a small tour (Japan tour, for instance).

While there may be some merit to the argument based on strength of field, I think you still have to factor in the subjective value of a player 'Winning' a tournament, considering all the extreme pressure, nerves, etc that a player faces down the stretch, regardless of venue.

Furthermore, if they devalue the points for a win on the smaller, foreign tours, then no one is going to want to play them, and you eliminate the occassional interest of a Rickie Fowler or Lee Westwood travelling abroad to play a small tour event and the multiple positive effects that result.
Mr_X says:
I am with beef on this one. I have no interest in the OWGR. I want to play golf. I don't care how the pros rank next to one another or why. Don't get me wrong, the pros are fun to watch. They have great skill! But I only watch golf tournaments when it's raining so hard that my course is closed.
GBogey says:
I think the only use for the OWGR is the WGC tournaments for which you need some sort of ranking to determine the field. Otherwise disinterested and really don't understand the pro's focus on becoming #1. I thought the goal was to win the most tournaments if you don't win finish 2nd, finish 3rd, etc. Win the most tournaments and the ranking will come to you. My guess is that for most of the time that the rankings have existed you knew who was #1 without looking at the rankings.
Banker85 says:
I always thought this was true that is why i never really valued Euorpean players by the rankings because they seem to have an advantage in the fact the other tours (not PGA) are so weak. The players should get a premium for playing on the toughest tour.
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