Much like an investor in a hedge fund to whom the Black Box strategy of investing and the 2% administrator/20% shared profit fees make them wonder whose interest is really being served in this investment, the average golf fan scratches his head when he tries to make sense of the list of the 50 top players in the world as determined by the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR).
As you can read in this Golf World article by Mike Stachura there is a built in set of biases that make the Official World Golf Rankings anything but objective. The points are pre-weighted based on a tournament’s subjectively judged and assigned importance by the gurus of the OWGR. As he says in the article this approach is, “making a methodology based on a pre-weighting of those tours open to charges of randomness and even political favoritism”.
The system was created by Mark McCormack, the original super agent who ran IMG and his agenda was clearly to promote the game through the players from his camp. Of his effort McCormack said it is the “answer to the grill room question. I have it all now, the gall, the system and the conviction and am prepared to defend this first statistical presentation of who is the best, regardless of where they play, how much money they win, what their stroke averages are, and all normal ways of judging golfers”. Now that sounds objective to me.
The system became “official” when it was embraced by the five major tours in 1997 and it’s methods have been tweaked regularly to make it more credible. But the statistical methodology is still secretive and subject to the same biases so obscure players playing in obscure events benefit from higher rankings than guys who are much more household names to regular golf fans. In effect the OWGR’s real purpose seems to be as “an effective marketing tool for global golf”.
This article discusses a proposal from two Ivy League professors, Mark Broadie and Richard Rendleman who would like to see the rankings based on more standard statistical models. They argue their approach would remove the biases and present a more understandable and credible ranking of the best players in the world. Considering how important a top 50 ranking is to a player’s income flow this would be a welcome change to the tour players.
A more objective approach to the OWGR would put it’s purpose back to answering the simple grill room question and put the marketing of global golf back in the hands of the Madison Avenue crew where it belongs.
If you want a little less sophisticated but equally intriguing approach to resolving the problems of the current Official World Gold Rankings read this article on J.S. Elliot’s Fantasy Golf Report website.
He would like to see the rankings be based solely on the head-to-head play of the best players in the world so it is all about their performance at the Majors, the World Golf Championships, and The Players Championship. There is logic to this approach because most fans would agree that surviving the pressure cooker created by these events is the appropriate measure of who is the best player in the world.
Fantasy Golf Report