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Woods wrongly shoots up the WGR

December 6th, 2011 · No Comments

Now that the hyperbole surrounding Tiger Woods’ victory at Sherwood Forest has subsided a bit, it’s time to put his victory in to perspective.

Yes, Woods closed strongly, birdying the last two holes in vintage Woods fashion. But to get himself into position for these end-of-tournament heroics, he only had to beat 16 players and stay close to one other, Zach Johnson.

Much has been made about the small size of the field, and that it is obviously easier to win with just a handful of opponents. If this was a major, or a WGC event, Woods would have had to contend with Lee Westwood, who won the Nedbank on the strength of a third round 62, or Rory McIlroy, who opened with a 64 and closed with a 65 to win in Hong Kong.

When you have players like this clogging the top of the leaderboard, the winning does not come so easy – and that’s a big part of the reason why Woods has come close, but not won at Augusta every year since his last win there in 2005. Most of those players who finished ahead of him at Augusta over the years were not at Sherwood. At this year’s Chevron Challenge, two of the three players who finished ahead of him at the Masters did not play.

Now, on to the 17 besides Woods who did “compete.” Under normal circumstances, a player does better on courses they have played on before, with Augusta being Exhibit A with it’s repeat winners. Why, I suspect that Woods could find his way to the greens at the Masters while blindfolded. Sherwood is a quirky course, so it can be argued that local knowledge is of even greater value. The proof: Woods now has five wins and four seconds in ten starts there.

The five players who finished behind Woods finished 9t, 3rd, 5th, 18th, and 11th last year – playing at Sherwood was obviously of benefit to them. The bottom nine finishers included the much heralded duo of Web Simpson, who finished 12 back of Woods, and Keegan Bradley, who was 20 back. Seven of those nine, including Chevron rookies Simpson and Bradley, had one thing in common – they did not play at Sherwood last year.

Bottom line: Tournament host Tiger Woods, who plays every year (as long as he is healthy) and who plays courses largely from memory (which is why he repeats so often at pet courses like Torrey Pines and Firestone), would enjoy a huge edge against any sized field. But that advantage grows to ridiculous proportions when he is up against a small Silly Season field of money grubbing veteran, tired world travelers, and Sherwood rookies.

That the Chevron awards WGR points is a controversial subject that has been debated all across the golfosphere. What is even worse is the number of points that Woods and other Chevron players have been given for winning this tiny fielded exhibition. This year Woods was awarded 44 points, more than several full fielded events on the PGA Tour, and enough to shoot him up from 52nd to 21st in the rankings. If the detractors, including yours truly, had their way and there were no points at this event, Woods would be ranked 63rd in the world after also deducting his points for second last year!

Remember, Woods lobbied hard for WGR points for his event. And, in his Woods-centric world view, he actually believes that this tournament’s status has been elevated in status to that of a PGA Tour event. Consider this odd exchange at the post tournament press conference:

Q.  Along the lines of exhibitions, thought, for the naysayers out there that would say, Well, yes, he is back; he won the tournament.  For those people that view it as more of an exhibition and not a true PGA tournament or a major, what would you say to that?
Woods:  We have world ranking points.

So, because he was successful in getting WGR points for this event, that is proof that this is an event of great stature.

That Woods is now dependent on points from a glorified exhibition match to rank within the top 25 in the world is somewhat sad. In addition, much has been made about foreign golfers inflating their WGR by playing in non-PGA events where it is easier to win points, a strategy that has kept Asian players like Ryo Ishikawa much higher in the rankings than they arguably deserve to be. Well, if we also took out Woods’ recent third in the Australian Open (in which he was paid a huge appearance fee), his WGR would be 86th. Considering that he had a grand total of two top tens on the PGA Tour in 2011, this would seem about right.

Given his recent form, I have no doubt that Woods will ascend into the top 10 in early 2012. It is too bad that his task will be made all the easier because of the questionable points he’s “earned” in exhibitions and an event that paid him millions just to show up.

Tags: PGA Tour · The Game

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