OWGR to introduce biggest changes in 35-year history of men’s rankings

by | Aug 11, 2021 | 0 comments

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Bernie McGuire

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It is the biggest change in the now 35-year history of the men’s Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) with the governing body announcing major improvements to rankings from August next year.

As of the 8th of August 2022, each player in the OWGR system has a Strokes Gained (SG) World Rating based on their actual scores in stroke-play events adjusted for the relative difficulty of each round played over a rolling two-year period.

A player’s SG World Rating determines the number of Performance Points the player brings into a tournament. The sum of the Performance Points for all players in the field determines each tournament’s Field Rating, which equals the total Ranking Points to be distributed at the conclusion of the event. Players with 10 or fewer recorded scores in eligible tournaments will contribute 0.1 Performance Points to the event, while players with fewer than 50 recorded scores in eligible tournaments can each contribute a maximum of 10% of an event’s Field Rating.

As the pinnacle of men’s golf, the Masters Tournament, Open Championship, U.S. Open Championship, and U.S. PGA Championship are rated separately, with each Major Championship awarding 100 First Place Points and onwards according to the OWGR Points Breakdown. The PLAYERS Championship will award 80 First Place Points, and all other tournaments will award Ranking Points according to the Field Rating, with a maximum of 80 First Place Points.

Peter Dawson, former CEO at the R&A and now Chairman of the OWGR Board, hosted a press conference that also included Professor Steve Otto, OWGR Technical Committee and R&A Executive Director along with Billy Schroder OWGR Technical Committee and PGA Tour International Relations along with OWGRs Chair of the Technical Committee, with Dawson prefacing the official announcement.

“Some of us are old enough to remember back in 1986 the rankings were originated by Mark McCormack and Tony Greer and I think since its inception, the Official World Golf Ranking has come to serve our sport extremely well,” said Dawson.

“It’s become widely used throughout the world of men’s professional golf. It began just covering six eligible tours, and now over the years that number has expanded to 23. In the 35 years since it began, the system has had to be modified on no less than 17 occasions. Sometimes these modifications have been very minor and sometimes a bit more radical, but they’ve all been directed at catering to this expansion and at increasing the accuracy of the rankings.

“Now, despite all of these well-considered improvements, and believe me, they were well-considered, the OWGR governing board felt that the time may have come for an in-depth review of the rankings, and in 2018 it commenced a process of coordinating an independent analysis to ensure that the system was meeting OWGR’s key objectives of producing a transparent, credible and accurate ranking based on the relative performances of the players. Now, that’s pretty easy to say but perhaps not very easy to do. What is the best way to compare the performances of players competing in far-flung corners of the world, perhaps rarely meeting head-to-head in the same events?

“Many experts were consulted. We had mathematicians, statisticians, sports analytics specialists and so on. They worked with the OWGR technical committee and other internal project groups, and the considerable enhancements resulting from this exercise and accepted by the governing board are what we are announcing.”

  • HOW THE UPDATED RANKING SYSTEM WORKS

As of the Ranking issued on the 14th of August 2022, Ranking Points derived from each tournament’s Field Rating are distributed according to the OWGR Points Breakdown to all players making the primary cut and completing the tournament.

  • IMPLEMENTATION TIME LINE – 8th August 2022

All tournaments from this day forward will utilise the modernised Field Rating calculation and Ranking points distributed to all players making the cut with the 14th August 2022 to be the first Ranking utilising the updated system.

  • WHY DID THE RANKINGS NEED TO CHANGE?

Since its inception, OWGR has continually evaluated its adherence to its mission to produce a transparent, credible and accurate ranking based on the relative performances of players. While the Ranking has served men’s professional golf exceptionally well, analysis has revealed that by modernising two components of the system, the Ranking could provide significantly greater accuracy while differentiating performances (i.e., rank) of all 5,000+ players included in the system.

  • WHAT HAS CHANGED?

OWGR’s Field Rating calculation has been modernised so that fields will be evaluated based on the skill level of every player in the field, rather than just those in the field among the current Top-200 of the Ranking. With this enhancement, Minimum Point Levels, Flagship Tournaments and Home Ratings are no longer needed, removing the bias that can result from their use.

Additionally, all players making the cut will receive Ranking Points according to the Points Breakdown.  The other primary components of the OWGR system will remain the same.

  • WHY DID OTHER COMPONENTS OF THE SYSTEM REMAIN THE SAME? (e.g., 2-year period; average points; divisor)

Each component of OWGR serves a purpose in delivering a Ranking that is accurate, credible and justifiable. Altering other components of the Ranking (e.g., 2-year period; average points; divisor) would have had a negative impact on the suitability of the Ranking.

  • HOW MUCH OF A CHANGE IN THE RANKING IS EXPECTED BETWEEN THE PREVIOUS SYSTEM AND THE UPDATED SYSTEM?

As top players often compete against each other, the Top-10 is likely to remain the same, while the Top-50 is likely to change by 2-5 players. Implementation will only impact future events and previously earned Ranking Points will not be affected. Therefore, changes in the Ranking will be gradual, taking two years to be fully realised.

  • WHY ARE SOME TOURNAMENTS / TOURS AFFECTED BY THE CHANGES MORE THAN OTHERS?

The previous version of the system used several assigned values (e.g., Minimum Point Levels), resulting in a bias in the system. By adopting modern analytic techniques, OWGR can accurately evaluate the Field Rating of all eligible tournaments through mathematically justifiable methods. The impact on tournaments/Tours relative to each other is a result of the move to a more accurate system and underscores the reason OWGR is updating its system.

  • WITH SOME TOURS AND TOURNAMENTS AWARDING FEWER POINTS THAN PREVIOUSLY, IS OWGR CONCERNED ABOUT A POTENTIAL NEGATIVE IMPACT ON GLOBAL PLAYER PATHWAYS?

As many of the game’s best players have risen through the ranks to compete on its biggest stages, a thriving global golf ecosystem is important to OWGR and to the organisations represented on its Governing Board. Therefore, a comprehensive impact analysis was conducted by the OWGR, with reviews internal to each organisation being held to ensure players have appropriate opportunities to advance. Also, OWGR is developing mechanisms that will assist in identifying top worldwide players. These mechanisms will be provided to Majors and Tours for potential inclusion in tournaments and Tour eligibility.

  • HOW IS THE RELATIVE DIFFICULTY OF EACH ROUND AND SG WORLD RATING CALCULATED?

To account for round difficulty—including differences in field, course and scoring conditions—a widely accepted statistical modelling calculation known as fixed effects regression simultaneously uses all scores in a two-year period to standardise all rounds relative to one another, providing the appropriate adjustment value necessary.

A round with highly skilled players and challenging scoring conditions played on a difficult course will have scores adjusted down, while a round with lesser skilled players and more benign scoring conditions played on an easier course will have scores adjusted up. The adjustment value is unique to each round and is applied to all scores within that round. Each player’s adjusted scores are then averaged and presented relative to all other tracked players.

  • HOW WILL THE PERFORMANCE POINTS FOR EACH SG WORLD RATING BE DETERMINED?

Each SG World Rating has a corresponding value of Performance Points determined by the Performance Curve. To calculate the curve, each player’s posted scores over a two-year period are used in a series of simulated events to determine the average Ranking Points expected per skill level (SG World Rating), which are then plotted to create the Performance Curve.

  • WHY NOT MAKE A RANKING BASED SOLELY ON PLAYERS’ SG WORLD RATING?

If every player’s SG World Rating were used for a ranking system (i.e., the player with the best SG World Rating would be ranked first in the world, the player with the second-best would be ranked second, and so forth), the system would be efficient in its ability to predict future performance.

However, a Ranking system such as this would not place a premium on winning (i.e., winners of a tournament would not appreciably rise in the Ranking) and would not adhere to commonly accepted norms of the game (e.g. Majors are the pinnacle of the sport).

  • WILL A PLAYER’S POSITION ON THE SG WORLD RATING LIST AND THEIR RANKING BE DIFFERENT?

A player’s position on the SG World Rating list reflects a player’s skill based on scores posted in the previous two years. A player’s Ranking reflects his rank in consideration of commonly accepted golf norms (e.g., premium on winning; Majors as the pinnacle of the game). It is expected there will be some difference between the lists as they serve different purposes.

  • STROKES GAINED (SG) WORLD RATING AND PERFORMANCE POINTS: IN THE TWO-YEAR PERIOD, WHY AND HOW DO MORE RECENT SCORES RECEIVE MORE EMPHASIS THAN OLDER SCORES?

Recent scores receive more emphasis in a player’s SG World Rating to provide a better reflection of the player’s current form. To do this, a weighted average is applied to the player’s scores, providing an ageing of scores over a two-year period that is similar to that used in the ageing of Ranking Points earned.

  • HOW DO PLAYERS ENTERING THE RANKING FOR THE FIRST TIME OBTAIN A SG WORLD RATING?

Players with fewer than 10 rounds posted will contribute 0.1 Performance Points to events in which they play. Players with fewer than 50 recorded scores in eligible tournaments can each contribute no more than a maximum of 10% of a tournament Field Rating.

THE OWGR GOVERNING BOARD

  • Chairman – Peter Dawson
  • Augusta National Golf Club – Buzzy Johnson
  • European Tour – Keith Pelley
  • International Federation of PGA Tours – Keith Waters
  • PGA of America – Seth Waugh
  • PGA TOUR – Jay Monahan
  • The R&A – Martin Slumbers
  • USGA – Mike Whan

THE OWGR TECHNICAL COMMITTEE

  • Chairman – Ian Barker
  • Asian Tour – Cho Minn Thant
  • Augusta National GC – Matt Williams
  • European Tour – Keith Waters
  • Japan Golf Tour – Amigo Urayama
  • PGA of America – Kerry Haigh
  • PGA TOUR – Billy Schroder
  • PGA Tour of Australasia – Nick Dastey
  • The R&A – Professor Steve Otto
  • Sunshine Tour – Thomas Abt
  • USGA – Jeff Hall
  • Secretary – Sasha Forster

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