Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The John Deere Preview/FGR Rankings Update

"You're freakin' kidding me right?"
We've got something of a soft spot in the schedule this week between the Tour's pimping of high-end resorts and farm equipment so let's take this opportunity to work-in a long overdue FGR Rankings update. I think the last time we did this was back in March right before Tiger won his third out of four tournaments at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and based on that sentence alone, you'd think that he would top the current FGR Rankings and you would, of course, be wrong.

The FGR Rankings were formulated to recognize big game performance which is fairly easy to measure in golf because there are four really big games a year and then a handful of kind of big games and then a whole bunch of other far less meaningful games. To Tiger's credit, he's as close to the top of the FGR Rankings as he's ever been* thanks to his wins at the WGC Cadillac and The Players but it's almost impossible to reach the top spot without winning a major and that is by design. Remember that this whole idea was hatched at a time when Luke Donald and Lee Westwood were trading the #1 ranking back and forth like two Mountain West teams while we all waited for Alabama or LSU to show-up and restore order.

Rory McIlroy dominated the original rankings because they are based on a two year cycle and, at the time, he had two major titles to go along with a slew of other top ten finishes in WGC events. Since then, he has slid down to third as his U.S. Open win fell out of the calculation while Adam Scott and Justin Rose added majors to recent WGC wins (Scott at the 2011 Bridgestone and Rose at the 2012 Cadillac). Keegan Bradley is clinging to the 4th spot but he is poised to plummet in August when he stands to lose the 40 points he earned for his 2011 win at the PGA Championship. (For an explanation of the original point system which remains mostly intact, click here).

And then you have Tiger at no. 5. I've asked it before and I'll ask it again, "how can you be the number one player in the world when you haven't won a major or, in Tiger's case, when you haven't won one in over five years?" When I look at his wins over the last two years, it reminds me of the time in Risky Business when the scout from Princeton goes over Joel's (Tom Cruise) list of high school accomplishments and condescendingly tells him "you've done a lot of solid work here, but it's just not Ivy League, now is it?"**

"Introducing me to a couple of
Perkins waitresses certainly
wouldn't hurt your cause."
Not only hasn't Tiger won a major since 2008, he only has three top 10's over the last three years. Over that same span, Scott has a win, two seconds and two other top tens. Comparing their current major records is like standing in 2013 and comparing Christian Bale to Tom Hanks. One is coming into his own (The Fighter and The Dark Knight trilogy) and the other hasn't done anything worth watching in years (Charlie Wilson's War in 2007?). Why are we even having this conversation? And don't get me started on Brandt Snedeker who is currently 7th in the World Golf Rankings despite nothing on his major resume other than a tie for sixth at this year's Masters and a tie for 3rd at last year's British Open.***

So if Tiger and Snedeker are overrated, then who's underrated? The most obvious one is Bradley who is the only player other than McIlroy, Rose and Scott who, in the last two years, has backed-up a major win with another quality win. Jason Dufner gets no love currently sitting at 21st in the World Golf Rankings despite finishing tied for 4th at the last two U.S. Opens and solo 2nd at the 2011 PGA Championship. And don't forget defending British Open champ Ernie Els who also finished 4th at this year's U.S. Open and 9th last year at Olympic Club yet is stuck behind perennial major bridesmaids like Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Steve Stricker in the World Golf Rankings. It's a shamockery ("not only false, but scornfully contemptuous in its incorrectness" - Urban Dictionary).

If you're still reading at this point, the current rankings are below and side by side with the World Golf Rankings. The winner of the British Open will earn 50 FGR Rankings points so anyone as far down as Ernie Els at 8th could take over the top spot by the end of next week or one of the top three could establish himself as the dominant major player of the day. (Scott and Rose could win their second of the year or McIlroy could add his third in three years and get within a Masters win of the career slam). Fittingly, it would also give them the highest point total in the history of the FGR Rankings. The effect such a win would have on the World Golf Rankings is not as clear but it wouldn't push any of them past Tiger for the top spot. Apparently they need to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational a couple of times to make that happen.

FGR Top 20

WGR Top 20

1. Scott, A. 119 Woods, T. 12.72
2. Rose, J. 117 McIlroy, R. 9.15
3. McIlroy, R. 111 Rose, J. 8.05
4. Bradley, K. 89 Scott, A. 7.14
5. Woods, T. 85 Kuchar, M. 6.64
6. Kuchar, M. 80 Mickelson, P. 6.12
7. Mickelson, P. 80 Snedeker, B. 6.01
8. Els, E. 76 Donald, L. 5.93
9. Dufner, J. 67 McDowell, G. 5.43
10. McDowell, G. 61 Oosti, L. 5.09
11. Westwood, L. 58 Stricker, S. 5.03
12. Poulter, I. 58 Westwood, L. 4.89
13. Day, J. 55 Garcia, S. 4.83
14. Donald, L. 55 Schwartzel, C. 4.82
15. Hanson, P. 54 Els, E. 4.81
16. Watson, B. 53 Bradley, K. 4.71
17. Stricker, S. 52 Watson, B. 4.59
18. Simpson, W. 51 Day, J. 4.44
19. Mahan, H. 51 Simpson, W. 4.39
20. Snedeker, B. 47 Poulter, I. 4.36

The John Deere Classic Preview

I was tempted to just put Steve Stricker's name in all five spots because he won this thing three times in a row before finishing in a tie for 5th last year. Not to mention, he's only played in seven events this year but he's made $2,187,146 for an average of $312,449 per tournament which, as Freddie Jacobson pointed-out when we were having lunch with him at Medalist, is "pretty good right?"*** If you've already used Stricker or you're just feeling adventurous, Zach Johnson is probably the second best horse for this course but he's having a bit of a bumpy ride this year.

This is Lucy Pinder who I once mistook
for Amber Watney. These things happen.
The John Deere Top Five

1. Steve Stricker
2. Nick Watney
3. Jordan Spieth
4. Morgan Hoffman
5. Zach Johnson

Last Week's Report Card: C+

1. Webb Simpson: T41st
2. Graham DeLeat: T30th
3. Charlie Wi: T54th
4. Jimmy Walker: T2nd
5. Russell Henley: T30th

Well at least they all made the cut and I had one of the second place finishers in the mix. Baby steps and low expectations are the foundation upon which we will build a strong finish to this season.

Endnotes

* Though the concept of the FGR Rankings has been rolling around in my head for longer than I care to remember, they did not formally come into existence until April of 2102.

** Ironically, I had a very similar conversation with an Ivy League lacrosse coach. Ivy League admissions departments can look past a lot of things but they can't look past an "F" in calculus. His words not mine. Unfortunately, unlike Joel in Risky Business, I didn't have a house full of hookers to bail me out of that jam.

*** I know he won the Tour Championship last year but that's a thirty player field so it gets limited points in the FGR Rankings. His wins over full fields at the 2012 Farmers Insurance Open and AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am were more impressive. Let's at least see a sign that he can hold it together on the back nine of a major on Sunday before we make him top ten. It should be noted that I would not be the least bit surprised if that happens at Muirfield next week because I think he's ready.

**** That was a subtle name drop. We weren't so much eating lunch with Freddie as we were eating next to him. He did get a little wide-eyed talking about Stricker's per tournament haul though and, not surprisingly, he soon thereafter jumped in his cart and headed back to the range.