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The U.S. Open is Coming Soon!

U.S. Open on Television

I do not blog for a living (some of you might say that that’s a good thing).   Yes, this is a business that I do on my free time, but of late my free time has been scarce.  Last Thursday I had knee surgery for something long overdue, a torn meniscus in my right knee.  It went well and I am recovering, and with that recovery comes some down time from my primary job that will free me to contribute as I watch this year’s U.S. Open on the couch.  I am really excited about the positive that brings to this down time from playing golf and other activities.

I love the U.S. Open

The first golf professional tournament (and only) I have ever attended was the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black.  Watching the players up close is worlds away from seeing them on TV.  It was a great experience, albeit wet and muddy.  Katie and I stayed in Manhattan and rode the “U.S.Open Train” in every day for the event.  I am targeting next year’s U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco to visit once again.  I live relatively close to Congressional, but alas, priorities of life have superceded my presence there this year.

U.S. Open Story Lines

The story lines are many, to include the absence of Tiger (please let’s not dwell on this!), the rise of Luke Donald, the continuing battle for number 1, and the growing cadre of players who have closed the talent gap since Tiger’s fall and Phil’s apparent issues with performing.  Who is the favorite?  You have to like Steve Stricker and Luke Donald whose games are well suited for a U.S. Open set up.

Talking about story lines, let’s not forget Ken Venturi and his win at the U.S. Open at Congressional in 1964.  He prevailed even through his heat exhaustion and the warnings from his doctor.  It’s going to be another hot one this year, figuratively and in reality.  More later on the U.S. Open as the week goes on…

Official World Golf Rankings

This week Luke Donald lost in a 3-hole playoff to Brandt Snedeker at The Heritage Classic (Harbor Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, SC).  Congratulations Brandt!  Had Luke Donald won, he would have secured the Number 1 Ranking in the world.  But, since he did not win, Lee Westwood secured that position on the merits of the win this weekend at the Indonesian Masters.  Listening to the PGA channel this morning while driving to work, there was a lot of discussion about Westwood’s rise in the rankings and how that could happen.  How is it that Lee Westwood, playing against a much weaker field in Jakarta, Indonesia, can move to the number one spot?  This brings to my mind questions regarding the formula used for figuring out the rankings in general. 

I have been contemplating this for awhile, since Tiger dropped from the top spot.  Face it, while he was on top, no one cared how they figured out the numbers – it was readily apparent that he was number one.  Now it is not so clear who the top figure is, but apparently it’s Lee Westwood according to the Official World Golf Rankings.   Also, all of a sudden a bunch of European players have risen to the fore, how has that happened? 

tigerSo, how do they figure out where a golfer falls in the rankings?  First, check out this website of the Official World Golf Rankings as find out: http://www.officialworldgolfranking.com/about_us/default.sps?iType=425

It lays out the numerical values of wins (and placings) of certain tournaments around the world associated with certain Tours.  Majors are afforded the largest and so on.  But, are the numerical values correct?  If you play a lot of second and third tier events around the world, plus place well in few PGA events, and place well in perhaps a Major or two there’s a good chance you can do well and place yourself fairly high in the world rankings.  Remember my question above about the numbers of European players rising to the fore?  Is the European Tour as strong or deep week in and week out as the PGA Tour?  I don’t think so.  It would seem to be in the interests of a European Tour player to stay on that tour and garner points in the rankings “more easily.”  Why?  Well, take a look at this excerpt from Wikipedia:

“A professional golfer’s ranking is of considerable significance to his career. For example, a ranking in the World Top 50 explicitly grants automatic entry to three of the four majors and three of the four current World Golf Championships; see table below. Starting in 2012, a ranking in the top 70 will grant automatic entry to the Tournament of Hope, a fifth WGC event to be launched that year.[7] Also, ranking points are the sole criterion for selection for the International Team in the Presidents Cup and one of the qualification criteria for the European Ryder Cup team. The rankings are also used to help select the field for various other tournaments.

Tournament Automatic entries
The Masters Top 50
U.S. Open Top 50 through 2011
Top 60 from 2012[8]
The Open Championship Top 50
PGA Championship (Top 100)see note
WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship Top 64 (sole criterion)
WGC-CA Championship Top 50
WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Top 50
WGC-HSBC Champions Top 25
Tournament of Hope (from 2012) Top 7

Note: The PGA Championship does not have an official automatic entry based on the Official World Golf Ranking but has invited those in the top 100 for the last several years. It makes note of its strong field by referencing the number of top 100 ranked golfers entered in its press releases. [1] [2]

The rankings are well known to those who follow men’s professional golf and feature prominently in media coverage of the sport. When Vijay Singh temporarily ended Tiger Woods’ record run as world number 1 in 2004 it was one of the most reported golf stories of the year.”

The formula is there for examination for anyone who cares to go through the “gozintas.”  Listening to Nick Faldo, he has suggested that Majors be given even greater weight than they have now.  If that were true, I would imagine that Martin Kaymer would probably still be number one.  I wouldn’t venture a guess where the shuffling would occur below that, but I am sure it would.  I personally believe the Majors should be given more weight, Faldo’s comments are on target.  Granted he is a multiple Major winner whose number one status was a topic of discussion back in his day:

“On a few occasions the ranking system has caused discussion about whether it has produced the ‘right’ World Number One. This usually occurs when the number one ranked player has not won a major championship during the ranking period, while a rival has won more than one – notably at the end of 1990, when Nick Faldo remained ranked just behind Greg Norman despite winning three majors in two years. On that occasion, as detailed in Mark McCormack’s “World of Professional Golf 1991” annual, it was also the case (but less immediately apparent) that Norman had won 14 events during the ranking period to Faldo’s 10, and when the two had competed in the same tournament, had finished ahead of his rival 19 times to 11. In April 1991, a quirk in the way the rankings treated results from previous years meant that Ian Woosnam, who had never won a major, took the number one spot from Faldo on the eve of the latter’s attempt to win the Masters for a third year in succession; as if justifying the ranking system, Woosnam – and not Faldo – won the tournament.”  Wikipedia

So, there may be some personal issues involved with his commentary, but I still think he is right.

Who is number one is not really that important to me.  I think what needs to be taken care of is the possibility of players “playing the system” to garner the much rewarded top 50- 70 spot in order to get automatic invite to the most prestigious tournaments.  How come Westwood wasn’t at Harbor Town this week?  If he were truly number one, you’d think he’d want to play against the best in the world week to week.  It seems he may have gamed the system a bit, don’t you think?