Out of Bounds: World rankings are, like golf, purely selfish

Since US PGA, the player who has gained the most points of all is actually Marc Leishman

Dustin Johnson has been world No.1 for 35 straight weeks. Photograph: Getty Images

Dustin Johnson has been world No.1 for 35 straight weeks. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The world rankings don’t lie about who is the best player on the planet. Except sometimes.

Okay, it’s hard to argue with Dustin Johnson’s position atop the pile - he has been No.1 for 35 straight weeks - over the season-long campaign, but current form at a stage of the season where players are taking out their wheelbarrows, as Ernie Els once put it, to load it up with cash would suggest his is a more perilous position than we may have believed.

In fact, DJ has amassed fewer points (so far) throughout 2017 than Jordan Spieth (417.83 to 428.51) but the evidence base since the final Major of the season, the US PGA, would indicate it is far more than a two-man affair in upward trending.

Since the US PGA, the player who has gained the most points of all is actually Australian Marc Leishman, although his total points haul in that time period is skewed somewhat by the massive amount (72.0) that was on offer for winning the BMW Championship (the penultimate event of the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup).

Leishman - points wise - has been the biggest gainer in the period since the PGA, but others to have outshone Johnson perhaps offer a greater guide to future challengers to Johnson and Spieth for the top spot: they are Tyrrell Hatton (arguably the hottest player on the planet after his back-to-back wins in the Dunhill Links and the Italian Open on the European Tour), Xander Schauffele, the rookie of the year on the PGA Tour, and Jon Rahm.

That two of the up-and-coming men in terms of the world ranking projections are European is certainly encouraging with regards to next year’s Ryder Cup. But that’s beside the point. The world rankings are, like golf, purely selfish.

Where there is life, there is hope. The world rankings reward results

While Leishman - with 104.9 world ranking points in the post-US PGA period - has garnered the most points since Justin Thomas lifted the Wannamaker Trophy at Quail Hollow, it is the manner in which Hatton (92.9 in that same period) and Schauffele (88.55) have stepped up to the plate which has made the end-of-season a far more interesting place than it might have been.

Where both Hatton and Schauffele have come from is also intriguing in mapping their upward trajectories. In Hatton’s case, he was ranked 1,417th in the world in February 2012 while Schauffele was ranked 1,618th in the world as recently as July 2015.

All of which goes to show that form and results are well reflected in the world rankings. And, perhaps, will provide some hope to Tiger Woods, the man who has featured atop the world rankings longer than anyone in the sport’s history.

Woods was the No.1 for a remarkable 683 weeks through his career, most recently occupying the top spot in May 2014. The past few seasons have been injury-plagued for Woods, who this week was ranked at 1,164th. If and when he does make his competitive reappearance, he has a mountain to climb to get back to the heights of old. But where there is life, there is hope. The world rankings reward results.

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