Opinion: PGA Tour Study Shows Disparity in Ranking Points

Sergio Garcia, of Spain, holds his trophy at the green jacket ceremony after the Masters golf tournament in 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. Photo: David Goldman / Associated Press
Sergio Garcia, of Spain, holds his trophy at the green jacket ceremony after the Masters golf tournament in 2019 in Augusta, Georgia. Photo: David Goldman / Associated Press

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida — Two tournaments on different continents illustrate why PGA Tour players are increasingly skeptical about the world ranking.

Against a field as strong as some majors, Tommy Fleetwood shared the lead after 18 and 36 holes, played in the final group and was still in the mix at The Players Championship until a tee shot into the water on the 17th hole. His three-way tie for fifth was worth 16.53 ranking points.

Earlier that day, Guido Migliozzi won his first European Tour title at the Kenya Open, which until this year was a Challenge Tour event. The strength of its field was slightly weaker than the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship on the Asian Development Tour in January.

Migliozzi received 24 ranking points, the minimum for the European Tour.

It’s like that just about every week somewhere in the world. It’s been like that for the better part of 20 years.

The Official World Golf Ranking tries to measure golfers from 20 tours around the world, from the PGA Tour to the Nordic Golf League. It’s an impossible task that the OWGR, which dates to 1986, has largely gotten right. Or at least close enough.

The question is whether that’s good enough.

“The world ranking has the first 35 to 40 correct,” said Charles Howell III, who in February returned to the top 50 in the world for the first time in 11 years. “I’m not saying I should have been there, or that any other player should have been there. I’m saying that the world ranking is so darn important that No. 40 through 100 … you’ve got to get that right.

“If world events and majors have entry based on the world ranking, then it better be an accurate, good system.”

Augusta National is two weeks away from awarding a Masters invitation to the top 50 in the world. In late May, the world ranking determines who gets in the U.S. Open (top 60) and British Open (top 50).

The PGA Tour has heard enough complaints from enough players and their managers that after meeting with the OWGR board last summer, it commissioned a study by a pair of mathematicians that revealed what many already suspected about the allocation of points around the world.

It’s not that PGA Tour events are not getting enough ranking points, but that other tours are getting too many.

According to two people in a meeting last week at the TPC Sawgrass, the tour wants the OWGR board to conduct its own analysis to see if the results are similar. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the PGA Tour has not commented publicly on the study.

The tour has a seat on the OWGR board, as do other tours.

Does it matter that winning the Kenya Open was equal to fourth place at The Players Championship? Not yet. Migliozzi moved up 377 spots to No. 199.

But it mattered to Justin Harding, a 33-year-old South African who finished in a three-way tie for second at the Kenya Open and moved up four spots to No. 48 in the world, giving him a reasonable shot at getting into the Masters.

Harding has won five times over the last 10 months – twice in South Africa, twice in Asia, once on the European Tour in the Qatar Masters.

Points are determined by who is playing any given week. The No. 1 player in the field is worth 45 points, with 37 points for No. 2 player, all the way down to two points for players from No. 81 to 100, and one point for everyone from No. 101 through 200. There is also is a “home tour” bonus.

The Players Championship had 882 points. The Kenya Open had 17 points. The field points for Harding’s five wins were 5, 7, 12, 5 and 61.

“It needs work. It needs a lot of work,” said Brooks Koepka, who speaks from the experience of having started on the Challenge Tour in 2012, worked his way to the European Tour, then the PGA Tour and eventually reached No. 1 in the world last year.

The PGA Tour already has strength in numbers.

Throw out the majors and the World Golf Championships, and the average ranking points for PGA Tour winners last year was nearly 19 points more than Europe. And it figures to get stronger. Ten years ago, the PGA Tour had 39 of the top 50 players in the world to start the year. It had 46 of the top 50 to start this year.

The concern might be making the PGA Tour so strong that it’s hard for players from around the world to advance unless they all came to America.

That’s not good for world golf.

“European players who come here are good here,” said Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain, in his third year as a PGA Tour member. “My argument would be deeper down the field. It’s more packed here. I may be a little more skeptical when you’re not playing against the best players and you’re getting lots of points.”

The OWGR board meets at the Masters and at the British Open. Any change is not likely to occur soon, as badly as some players want it.

The PGA Tour this week is in Tampa, with 37 of the top 100 in the world, including Dustin Johnson at No. 1. The European Tour is in Malaysia, which has nine of the top 100 players, none higher than No. 70.

Story: Doug Ferguson