Have the World Golf Rankings ever struck you as a little odd? There’s that sort of BCS, black box flavor to how they’re calculated. Yes I get that there’s a formula but that’s not necessarily all that reassuring. Standings based on won-loss records or earnings? I get those. Standings based on a calculation that cranks out a different leader if some gearhead changes the weighting for one factor? Not so much.
Now of course the rankings are more newsworthy these days now that a certain somebody is no longer sitting at the top. But in another way this reshuffling at the top of the deck feels like one of those periods of turmoil in a country’s history during which kings are dying and getting assassinated at a frantic clip. It’s King Lee, no now it’s King Luke, no hold on waiting in the wings is young Prince Rory.
And yet in a way this ranking system is entirely appropriate for our game since it mimics the ranking system we really care about: our handicaps. Previous performance exerts its influence for what seems like an interminable time. You could be playing some really sucky golf and yet those good rounds of days gone by still dictate that you play at a certain index or enjoy what feels like an undeserved lofty spot in the world rankings. See how I did that? Bet you never thought you’d have something in common with Tiger did you?
And while we’re on the topic of rankings, how do people feel about competitions like the FedEx cup that rate performance over an entire season? If I’m a player I think it’s great. It’s a chance to win some more dough. In a way it’s like double-dipping or working for really great tip money since your FedEx points are based (in a way) on the money you’ve won already. If I’m a fan it gets lost in the shuffle. But it does raise an interesting question. To the extent that it measures performance over the course of an entire season the FedEx cup rewards consistency over the transitory flash of brilliance. And which of these do we admire more? I’d suggest that as fans we like the flashes of brilliance but that as players ourselves we respect, admire and envy consistency. And so in a way I feel sort of bad about not getting into the FedEx stuff in a bigger way since it recognizes the epitome of the kind of golfer we’d all like to be.