Golf365 Analysis: Who’s the real No 1?

Features

The cream rose to the top in the world of golf last weekend as both the events on the European and PGA Tours were won by the highest-ranked player in the field.

World No.1 Justin Rose cemented his position at the top of the charts with victory at the Farmers Insurance Open in California and World No.5 Bryson DeChambeau scored a superb win in the Dubai Desert Classic to…… stay at No.5.

Oh!

There seems something not quite right about the latter. That was DeChambeau’s fifth worldwide win in his last 17 starts. And he got more world ranking points for that Dubai victory than he did for his win at the PGA Tour’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open so it wasn’t as if a European Tour win didn’t register much.

Here’s the current state of play:

Official Top 20

1/ Justin Rose 10.2918
2/ Brooks Koepka 9.0332
3/ Dustin Johnson 8.0543
4/ Justin Thomas 7.7979
5/ Bryson DeChambeau 7.7604
6/ Jon Rahm 6.3832
7/ Xander Schauffele 6.3147
8/ Rory McIlroy 6.0167
9/ Francesco Molinari 5.7584
10/ Jason Day 5.3585
11/ Tony Finau 5.3579
12/ Tiger Woods 5.1767
13/ Tommy Fleetwood 5.1025
14/ Rickie Fowler 5.0785
15/ Patrick Reed 4.9296
16/ Marc Leishman 4.5302
17/ Patrick Cantlay 4.4033
18/ Bubba Watson 4.3218
19/ Webb Simpson 4.2367
20/ Jordan Spieth 4.1286

Of course, those who know that the Official World Golf Rankings are worked out on a sliding scale over two years are less surprised that DeChambeau didn’t move up. The four players above him – Rose, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas – have plenty of points in the bank so aren’t easy to pass.

Bryson DeChambeau – still only fifth in the world?

And yet it niggles. If you get involved in a ‘who’s the hottest player on the planet?’ debate, DeChambeau would surely poll a large chunk of the vote. Should that not be reflected better in the world rankings?

If we’re left unsatisfied, are there other measures which offer a truer reflection of his trophy burst over the last six or seven months?

The obvious point of call amongst golf number geeks are the Sagarin rankings.

The main difference between Sagarin and OWGR is that the former are calculated over one year rather than two.

The exact mechanics are complex but this is a decent definition: Jeff Sagarin’s rating system is based on a mathematical formula that uses a player’s won-lost-tied record against other players when they play on the same course on the same day, and the stroke differential between those players, then links all players to one another based on common opponents. The ratings give an indication of who is playing well over the past 52 weeks.

A more accurate measure of recent form then? Here’s how they compare to the official rankings.

Sagarin Rankings

1/ Justin Rose (-)
2/ Bryson DeChambeau (+3)
3/ Justin Thomas (+1)
4/ Dustin Johnson (-1)
5/ Rickie Fowler (+9)
6/ Tony Finau (+5)
7/ Tiger Woods (+5)
8/ Brooks Koepka (-6)
9/ Webb Simpson (+10)
10/ Jason Day (-)
11/ Tommy Fleetwood (+2)
12/ Jon Rahm (-6)
13/ Rory McIlroy (-5)
14/ Patrick Cantlay (+3)
15/ Patrick Reed (-)
16/ Emiliano Grillo (+32)
17/ Marc Leishman (-1)
18/ Louis Oosthuizen (+7)
19/ Phil Mickelson (+10)
20/ Paul Casey (+2)

DeChambeau’s second place certainly seems a truer reflection but there is plenty of strange sprinkled in there too. Fowler at 5? Emiliano Grillo (World No.48) above Leishman? And where on earth are Francesco Molinari and Xander Schauffele?!

Is Emiliano Grillo getting a raw deal in the official rankings?

But what about a thermometer check over an even shorter period. After all, plenty can happen in a year.

As DeChambeau’s ‘false’ ranking was the starting point, let’s use his victory in June’s Memorial Tournament – the first of his five recent wins – as ground zero and compile a list of world ranking points gained since the start of that week (Week 22 in 2018) to compile a new list. Here’s how the current OWGR top 20 would re-order.

World Rankings points since Memorial 2018

1/ Bryson DeChambeau 359.73
2/ Justin Rose 333.18
3/ Brooks Koepka 332.29
4/ Dustin Johnson 240.27
5/ Xander Schauffele 238.88
6/ Tony Finau 222.40
7/ Francesco Molinari 211.70
8/ Justin Thomas 188.24
9/ Tiger Woods 183.56
10/ Tommy Fleetwood 170.18
11/ Jon Rahm 159.32
12/ Rory McIlroy 138.49
13/ Patrick Cantlay 129.83
14/ Marc Leishman 123.42
15/ Patrick Reed 117.23
16/ Webb Simpson 105.98
17/ Bubba Watson 97.13
18/ Rickie Fowler 92.03
19/ Jason Day 86.81
20/ Jordan Spieth 40.28

If looking beyond this top 20….

Gary Woodland would slot in at 12 with 150.95
Matt Kuchar would slot in between Cantlay and Leishman with 126.47

Yay! At last, DeChambeau hits No.1! It’s very tight between ‘The Scientist’, Rose and Koepka but that seems fair enough given their outstanding play/achievements over the period.

Flaws? One obvious point to raise is that there’s a big difference between how many tournaments everyone’s played. Obviously, using this measure, the more you’ve played, the more chance you’ve had to accumulate points.

Here’s how many times the top 20 (+ Woodland and Kuchar) have teed it up starting from Memorial week:

20 Tommy Fleetwood
19 Patrick Reed, Gary Woodland
18 Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau
17 Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Marc Leishman
16 Justin Rose, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay
15 Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar
14 Francesco Molinari, Webb Simpson
13 Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth
12 Tiger Woods

Observations?

Does Tommy need more time off?

Tommy. Have a rest! Tiger’s limited schedule is understandable but Rickie and Jordan need game-time.

What do we do with all this info?

It’s hard to say. Hopefully it provides some ammunition in a debate and maybe it’s useful for betting and fantasy purposes.

There is certainly no perfect measuring system but, if I’m a Sagarin fan, I’ll be backing Grillo at 66s to win this week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open rather Rahm at 7/1!

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