John Feinstein has some good suggestions for redesigning the World Golf Rankings, which clearly are broken.
Problem 1: Tournaments receiving extra rankings points by paying players up front. Solution: Take away rankings points for each player paid an appearance fee. Deduct 10 percent for each player paid up front.
Problem 2: The rankings are calculated on a rolling two-year basis. On January 1 everyone goes to zero in the rankings. The only exception to this would be in determining a player’s rank for the match play event in late February. For the purposes of the match play only, the clock on rankings begins the week after it is played each year. That way, if a player is hot in January and February, he can still play his way into the top 64 for the match play. For all other purposes the rankings begin anew each January.
Invitational tournaments, most notably the Masters – but also Bay Hill, Colonial, the Memorial – can continue to use end of the year rankings and money lists as criteria for choosing fields as they have always done.
Finally, the rankings should actually be divided into two categories: the top 25 – much like in college football and college basketball – and everyone below the top 25. The computer, again, based on that year’s play, decides the top 50, top 100 – all the categories that involve entry into tournaments.
But the top 25 is decided by a poll of golf experts: 70 people selected at the start of each year by a board (one rep from each of the major tours worldwide) that can choose ex-players (including senior players no longer competing on the regular tours), writers, broadcasters and golf officials as voters. Each Sunday night the voters will e-mail votes and the results will be released Monday morning. Each ballot will be made public – as the Associated Press does with its football and basketball ballots. No secrecy here. If you think Lee Westwood is No. 1 this week regardless of who he is playing against – fine, vote for him and stand behind the vote. At the end of each year the board will review the performance of each voter and decide if they should be invited back the next year.
Feinstein is on the right track. But I have other ideas.
First, let us have the rankings operate on a one-year, rolling basis. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the assumption that a player who who has won the previous two majors, or who finished the year in fine fashion comes into the new year as the favorite.
As for the second, I don’t think it’s necessary to penalize a tournament for having paid player appearances. Instead, let’s do some mathematical wizardry. How ranking a tournament based on the median player value? That way, even if you pay a couple of good players to compete against a field of schmoes, it will still show up as a field of schmoes. Alternately, you could get a statistician to throw out the outliers. That’s take care of the ringers problem also. If a field is composed of a bunch of average joes, a couple of superstars and a few minor leaguers, it will show up as a field of average joes. But if a tournament pays enough top players to have a real competition, it shouldn’t be unduly penalized.
As for the bit about open voting on the top twenty five, I predict chaos, corruption and resentment. Imagine being the writer who votes for Player X over Player Y and then tries to get an interview with X. Or the lobbying that’ll go on from the equipment companies. The constant changes to reflect the popular sentiment at the end of every tournament will have people frustrated. Tournament directors and sponsors will wonder why the victor of their event did not rise as rapidly as the victor of another.
Lets stick to the math, but tweak the formula.