Explanation of the World Golf Ranking System

By Brian Hill
Lee Woods surpassed Tiger Woods for the No. 1 ranking in 2010.
Lee Woods surpassed Tiger Woods for the No. 1 ranking in 2010.

The official World Golf Ranking system rates the relative tournament performance of male professional golfers worldwide. The rankings give golf fans something to debate--whether their favorite players’ rankings are correct. For the professional golfer, earning the world No. 1 honor, or even being in the top10, represents a career highlight.

Participation

The rankings are based on performance in the official events held by the most significant professional golf tours around the world. The PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Japan Golf Tour, the PGA Tour of Australasia, the Sunshine Tour and the Asian Tour participate in the rankings. The European Challenge Tour and Nationwide Tour, which are the official developmental tours from the European Tour and PGA Tour, also are included in the rankings, as are the Canadian Tour and the OneAsia Tour.

Origin

The official rankings began to be published in 1986. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews devised the system as a more equitable way to select players to be invited to the British Open. The rankings were inspired by an earlier unofficial ranking system developed by sports agent Mark McCormack, whose clients included Arnold Palmer. McCormack published his rankings from 1968 to 1985 in his book “The World of Professional Golf Annual.” Today, the rankings are issued weekly.

Points System

Players are awarded points based on the position they finish in the tournament. In the four major championships--the U.S. Open, the British Open, the Masters Tournament and the PGA Championship--the winner is awarded 100 points, second place earns 60, third place earns 40, and the scale slides down to 1 1/2 points for anyone completing the final round. The winner of the Players Championship earns 80 points. Winners of regular events on the European and PGA tours earn a minimum of 24 points. Winners on the Australasia and Japanese tours earn 16 points. The rankings are used by the four major tournaments to select the players who automatically qualify. In addition, the rankings are used to help select the members of the Ryder Cup team.

Calculations

The rankings are based on performance over a two-year period. The ranking shows a player’s average points per tournament, his total points earned divided by the number of tournaments he has competed in. The system places greater emphasis on performance over the last 13 weeks of the 104 weeks of the ranking period by deducting a fraction of points earned each week longer than 13 weeks ago. A player who won a major championship 18 months ago begins to lose the value of that accomplishment in the current rankings.

An Elite Club

Between 1986 and August 2010, only 12 players held the world No. 1 ranking. Tiger Woods has earned the title for more than 600 weeks--by far the most. The next highest total is 331 weeks by Greg Norman. Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam, Nick Price, Vijay Singh, Fred Couples, David Duval, Ernie Els, Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman have also been world No. 1.

About the Author

Brian Hill is the author of four popular business and finance books: "The Making of a Bestseller," "Inside Secrets to Venture Capital," "Attracting Capital from Angels" and his latest book, published in 2013, "The Pocket Small Business Owner's Guide to Business Plans."

Photo Credits

  • Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
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