Knuth comes up with proposed world ranking changes
Feb. 22, 1999
CARLSBAD, Calif. -- Forget the debate over whether Tiger Woods or David Duval should be No. 1 in the world. The real controversy this week is who they should be playing in the first round of the Match Play Championship.
An exhaustive analysis of Official World Golf Ranking, commissioned by Golf Digest for its April issue and released Monday, shows the system does not reflect current level of play and is particularly out of sync in the lower end of the rankings.
"That's really what matters -- not who's No. 1, but who gets to play," said Dean Knuth, who spent two months on the project for Golf Digest.
The ranking system had always been somewhat of an enigma, published once a week, but no more meaningful than some of the PGA Tour's statistics.
That's no longer the case. The 64-man field for the first World Golf Championship was decided by the rankings, meaning those who barely got in -- such as Nick Faldo and Craig Stadler -- will get at least $25,000 and have a chance at the first prize of $1 million.
With that in mind, Golf Digest turned to Knuth, who spent 16 years with the U.S. Golf Association and created something even more cryptic than the rankings: the course and slope rating.
Knuth, who scored a perfect 800 on his SAT and now writes high-tech software for the military, came up with eight major flaws with the system and distributed his findings to the five major tours.
Among his findings:
1.The ranking isn't current. Because the two-year rolling system gives double points for the current year, Knuth says a victory last week is the same as 51 weeks ago. By the same token, a player gets twice as much credit for a tournament one year ago than he does for a tournament 53 weeks ago. He suggests decreasing the value by one-twelfth each month.
2.Points are unevenly distributed. Players earn points for top-20 finishes, so finishing 21st is no different than missing the cut. Knuth proposes assigning points in the same manner the PGA Tour distributes prize money.
3.The strength of field factor is self-perpetuating. A No. 1 player in the field is worth 50 weighting points, while the No. 7 player is worth only 20 weighting points to that tournament. Top players created their own strength of field. He suggests computing the strength of field over the previous five years.
4.Majors are not worth enough points. Knuth points out that someone who wins a Japanese tour event gets more points than a player who finishes third in the Masters. Majors account for 10 percent of total points given in a total year. Knuth recommends increasing the value to 15 percent.
5.The Japan and Australasian tours are getting too many points. Knuth says their value should be cut in half. Carlos Franco, ranked 44th in the world, won twice in Japan last year, but never finished higher than 40th in any of the majors. He narrowly got his PGA Tour card at Q-school, but is eligible for two $5 million world events this year.
Knuth also says European events should be worth more, and unofficial events such as the invitation-only Million Dollar Challenge and World Match Play Championship should have their value cut in half.
If his rankings had been used this week, Faldo, Stadler, Franco and Frankie Minoza would not have qualified, while David Toms, Jay Haas, Frank Nobilo and Per-Ulrik Johansson would be in.
As for the top, Mark O'Meara would have been No. 1 at the end of last year, Duval would have replaced him after his 59 in the Hope Classic, and Woods would have returned to the top after winning in San Diego.
Golf Digest plans to present the report to the International Federation of PGA Tours next week.