There are two schools of thought about the importance of the Official World Golf Ranking.
The first is that, in the grand scheme of things, they are hugely significant to a golfer’s career. A top 50 ranking grants them automatic entry to all the Majors and the World Golf Championships (WGCs), as well as the Players Championship. The top 60 are also eligible to play in the Olympics, meaning that each of the five participating continents will be guaranteed at least one player and the host nation will have one player too.
The rankings are the main criteria for selection for the International Team for the Presidents Cup, as well as qualification for the European Ryder Cup team.
In addition, they are used to help select the field for various other tournaments. The US Golf Association’s decision in February 2011 to eliminate the money list as criteria for qualifying for the US Open has added further weight to the bearing of the rankings. The rankings are based on a player’s position in individual tournaments over a two-year period, focusing primarily on recent performances, with new rankings produced every week.
History of the rankings
They were introduced by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews’ Championship Committee in 1986. The Committee realised that its selection system for the Open Championship on a tour-by-tour basis was omitting an increasing number of top players because more of them were dividing their time between tours. The Majors and the WGCs followed suit in 1997 and a year later the US Open offered a new exemption for the top 20.
In 1999, Augusta National also replaced its PGA Tour winners exemption with the top 50 gaining entry to the Masters. The other train of thought is that provided you are in the top 50, the rankings don’t matter so much. While some including former world No1 Luke Donald have admitted that the pressure of reaching top spot had weighed on their minds before and during a tournament, others like Nick Price were unfazed.
No.1: A Major issue for some, but not others
Ironically, despite reaching the top spot Luke Donald has never won a Major, while five-time Major winner Phil Mickelson has never been No.1.
Some of the top players view securing the No.1 ranking merely as an ego boost, but for others it can be all consuming.
“Oh, man, being No.1 in the world is tough,” Jason Day said in March 2017 before the Genesis Open, adding, “I wouldn’t trade it for the world, even though it is mentally and sometimes physically demanding.” Adam Scott said to the contrary: “I think I probably relaxed when I got there. Maybe I should have treated it a bit differently, and I might have stayed there a bit longer. “I was just – the sense of accomplishment was great, and I was obviously playing well, so I didn’t really try and put more pressure on myself to play better or perform like a No.1.”
While there’s no doubting the overall importance of the Official World Golf Ranking, it obviously means a lot more to some than it does to others.