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Pope Of Slope

McCormack Defends Rankings

March 18, 1999

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Ten of the world's 12 top-ranked golfers are contesting the Bay Hill Invitational starting Thursday.

On Wednesday, Mark McCormack, founder of the controversial world rankings, rose to defend the statistical measurement.

The rankings, constantly attacked by many of the players since their inception in 1987, have taken on increasing importance over the past few years.

They are now used to help determine the fields in three of the four major championships, as well as two of the three new World Championships events.

Some players claim it is impossible to properly compare players on different tours around the world, while others have argued that the rankings are biased either for or against various tours.

Most recently, numerous players expressed disbelief that Tiger Woods remains No. 1 ahead of David Duval, even though Duval has won more tournaments during the past 18 months.

McCormack, chief of the powerful International Management Group and chairman of the governing board of the rankings, has not been deaf to the criticism.

Indeed, the rankings have been tweaked over the years. For example, they are now calculated over two years, rather than the old three-year time span.

But there have been suggestions that the time frame should be reduced even further, to just one year, in which case Duval would be No. 1, rather than No. 2.

On this issue, McCormack could not disagree more.

"Had there not been a two-year ranking, Greg Norman (out injured for seven months last year) would not have qualified for the 1999 Masters," said McCormack.

"I think there is nobody that would say that Greg Norman isn't among the top 50 players in the world today, and if we had a one-year system, he wouldn't be there.

"The two-year ranking stemmed from the sport of tennis (where rankings are calculated over just one year). Years ago, Bjorn Borg was by far the No. 1 player in the world and he retired at age 26.

"A year later he was totally off the rankings. He was zero and there were something like 500 players ahead of him. If at that moment Bjorn Borg had stepped back on the court, he would have been much better than 500th in the world."

McCormack was speaking at the announcement that a trophy in his name would be presented to the player who held the top spot for the longest period each year.

Woods was presented the inaugural award for 1998, and he said: "We all have our own little egos and it is neat to be able to compare ourselves with players we don't get to see everyday."

U.S. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who was at the press conference, indicated he was happy with the rankings: "The rankings are a very sound structure, basically, to measure players from around the world."

It was only a few years ago that the PGA Tour officially endorsed the rankings, so Finchem has little choice but to publicly support them these days.

Even so, many PGA Tour players have little respect for the rankings, believing that they do not adequately reflect the strength of the U.S. PGA Tour.

� 1999 Reuters Limited.

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