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Rank And File

The PGA Tour uses a computer to decide who the best golfer in the world is, and, surprise, Tiger Woods comes out on top.


Anybody who follows the sport on even a casual basis knows that Tiger Woods is the best golfer on the planet.

Computers, not surprisingly, strongly support the assessment as well.

Woods, whose recent victories at the U.S. and British Opens made him, at 24, the youngest player to win the four major championships, this week achieved the highest score since the Official World Golf Ranking system was instituted in 1986.

His total--an average of points accumulated in the past two years--grew to 27.27 points, more than twice that of No. 2 Ernie Els. Woods has been atop the rankings for 52 consecutive weeks, and 122 weeks in total, a mark topped only by Greg Norman's 331 weeks at No. 1

To illustrate his dominance of the world rankings, the difference between his total and Els' 11.82 ranking is 15.45 points. The difference between Els and the 75th-ranked player in the world--Brad Faxon at 2.29--is 9.53 points.

The world ranking system started in 1986 as the Sony World Golf Ranking. It is endorsed by golf's four major championships (Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship) as well as the six professional tours (PGA Tour, PGA European Tour, Southern Africa PGA Tour, Japan Golf Tour, PGA Tour of Australasia and the Canadian Tour) that make up the International Federation of PGA Tours.

The Tour, The Asian PGA Tour and the European Challenge Tour also participate.

The Official World Golf Ranking establishes its list by awarding points to golfers competing in each of the tournaments played on each of the aforementioned tours. Points are awarded according to the players' finishing positions in each tournament. And, the stronger the field, the more value that tournament holds, point-wise.

Winners of each of the four majors receive 50 points (the highest amount given any tournament), and just a fraction of a point is awarded to any player who completes the final round. Twelve points represent the minimum award given to the winner of an official U.S. PGA Tour event, with points only given to players finishing in 27th place and higher. Points for each player are accumulated over a two year "rolling" period, with the points awarded in the most recent 52-week period doubled.

Each player is ranked according to his average points per tournament. To qualify for a ranking, a player must compete in a minimum of 20 tournaments for each 52-week period.

So, after all that, you get a simple truth: Woods is No.1.

But there is more to the Official World Golf Ranking than bragging rights. It determines, in part, who plays in the Masters and British Open, who qualifies for such lucrative events as the WGC (World Golf Championship) Andersen Consulting Match Play, and who gets asked to the prestigious invitational tournaments, such as the Bay Hill Invitational and the MasterCard Colonial.

The world's top 87 players qualified for this week's PGA Championship at Valhalla.

Although the Official World Golf Ranking is the industry standard, it has competition.

The Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index was launched in January and employs different though equally complex methods to rank professional golfers, with you-know-who residing alone at the top.

Golfweek/Sagarin is certainly an imposing combination. Golfweek is a highly regarded weekly golf publication, and Jeff Sagarin's well-known NCAA football rankings serve as part of the criteria for determining the teams chosen for the season-ending Bowl Championship Series.

In addition, his college basketball rankings help the NCAA Selection Committee fill out its field for the National Championship Tournament each spring.

The two have teamed-up to create a compelling and ambitious "head to head" international golf ranking system derived from a software program written by Sagarin.

On a weekly basis, the system compares and ranks nearly 4,000 players on golf's major world Tours based both on every score they shoot over a 52-week period and on the strength of the field against which each golfer plays.

It relies on what Sagarin calls "the principle of connectivity," and it works this way.

Let's say a member of the Japan Golf Tour plays in a tournament on the U.S. PGA Tour. The Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index can now compare and rank all of the players on both the Japan Golf Tour and the U.S. PGA Tour because every player on either Tour now has a "connective" competitive link via this one visiting golfer.

Now suppose this hypothetical player from the Japan Golf Tour also has competed in an event on the PGA Tour of Australasia, and at least one golfer from that Tour plays in a tournament on the Canadian PGA Tour. The Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index now has the data it needs to compare and rank every player on the U.S. PGA, the Japan Golf Tour, the PGA Tour of Australasia and the Canadian PGA Tour, again, thanks to this one visiting competitor from Japan.

The Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index calculates and assigns a numerical "Power Rating" for every player, which closely correspond to the player's literal stroke average per round. Presently, Tiger Woods holds a 'Power Rating" of 66.44, while second-ranked David Duval has a rating of 68.15.

This implies that over a four-round tournament, Woods would beat Duval by approximately eight shots, an almost incomprehensible margin.

While both The Official World Golf Ranking and the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index have their individual strengths, both can deepen golf fans' enjoyment of the game by allowing them to follow the ups and downs of their favorite players on a weekly basis.

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