The World Golf Ranking is getting a facelift: What you need to know

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Jon Rahm has been the World No. 1 for a total of four weeks.

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The Official World Golf Ranking is getting a facelift. After three years of internal discussions, an analytically-focused approach is set to deliver a more bias-free ranking than ever before. 

The OWGR board announced the move Wednesday morning, which will go into effect in August 2022, starting with an omission of bias within the current system. 

“Through the use of assigned values in its strength-of-field calculation, which includes tour minimums, flagship tournaments, and the home tour rating, there was some level of bias in the system,” said Billy Schroder, OWGR Technical Committee member. “Which means that there was some level of performances that were either being undervalued or overvalued.”

While the board did not delve into specifics, much has been made of the current system’s bias against PGA Tour players, including a popular 2012 report from Mark Broadie and Richard Rendleman, Jr. The new adjustments to the system are set to address such biases.

Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy have been perennially ranked in the top 10 throughout their careers. Getty Images

Updating the system is not exactly a novel decision. As chairman Peter Dawson pointed out in a video conference Tuesday, the OWGR has been adjusted no less than 17 times in its history. The new system, which will debut August 14, 2022, will have new figures involved, like Strokes Gained World Rating, Performance Points and Field Rating. The figures and their impact are each explained below. 

  • Strokes Gained World Rating: a number based entirely on the actual scores in stroke-play events worldwide over a rolling, two-year period. This number will be weighted to include an emphasis on the most recent scores during that two-year period, much like the current system does for recent performances. 
  • Performance Points: a number that correlates directly to a player’s Strokes Gained World Rating, that is used to determine how much world ranking value they bring to a given event. 
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  • Field Rating: The total sum of performance points from an event’s field of players. This number will determine how many ranking points are distributed to players at the end of a given event, as is customary in the current system. 

Confused? That’s okay. In short, the best players in the world will have the highest Strokes Gained World Rating and will carry with them the highest number of Performance Points to the events they play. Therefore, those events will benefit from having a higher Field Rating. High Field Ratings imply strong events, more world ranking points distributed and more impact on the Official World Golf Ranking. The OWGR board does not expect major changes among the top 10 players in the current system, but could see ranking changes of two to five spots for those closer to 50th in the ranking. 

The aforementioned bias was based in the current system awarding a minimum number of points distributed for various tours across the world. For example, the European Tour’s “flagship” event, the BMW PGA Championship, would always dish out a certain minimum number of ranking points, regardless of who was in the field. That minimum has been eliminated. The updated system will also take into account how players are currently playing, with an emphasis on each event and each round. In other words, Dustin Johnson winning by eight will be worth more to his world ranking than it ever has before. In the past, DJ winning the Masters by one would have been just as valuable to his ranking as an 8-stroke win. 

Schroder included on important example of that, just from this past weekend’s WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational. Cam Davis finished 60th at five over, while Si Woo Kim finished 65th at 13 over. The current system awards no difference between those performances, but the updated system would punish Kim more for finishing in last and for his inability to break par the entire event. Also included in the update is that every player who makes the cut will be rewarded with some ranking points. The current system did not reward every player who made the cut. 

A fully analytical approach would simply consider Strokes Gained to be the ultimate law of the land, but the OWGR board was keen to maintain the value of what they called “commonly accepted golf norms.” Things like how professional golf culture puts a premium on winning, and how four events are considered the “pinnacle of the game”: the Masters, the U.S. Open, the Open Championship and the PGA Championship. 

This new system will also help add significance to the lower portions of the world ranking, outside the Top 100. As the OWGR board included in its FAQs, “SG World Rating is made possible by the interconnectivity of professional golf. In a given two-year period, there are approximately 2,800 rounds in which 8,600 players post 250,000 scores. With so many rounds in common, professional golfers are interconnected at and through all levels of play.”

As Schroder pointed out, there are currently “thousands of players tied for 1,882nd position with zero ranking points.” The new system will certainly provide substance to that part of the ranking that didn’t exist before.

Still confused? That’s okay. Click here for a thorough FAQ section, created by the OWGR board itself.

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