In 1986, the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) was created. It is a point system that uses a players’ finishing positions over a “rolling” two-year period. The system has worked for a long time. It is considered a pretty accurate depiction of how highly a player is ranked within the golf world. However, the system is beginning to lose some of its relevance.
LIV Golf has made plenty of headlines since their inception in June of 2022. The Saudi-backed golf league has offered golfers way more money for less events over the course of the year. Guys like Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka are notorious for wanting to play less and, in turn, care more about major championships.
Love LIV or hate it, it’s the best way/Tour to be your best in the majors. Enough events to keep you sharp, fresh and ready, yet not be worn down from too many tournaments or obligations. 14 LIV events, 34 weeks left open to prepare for the 4 majors. Fact.
— Phil Mickelson (@PhilMickelson) May 23, 2023
While Koepka winning the PGA Championship isn’t going to create national headlines like the inception of LIV Golf did, it is one of the biggest headlines in golf in the last year. As dominant a player as there has been in majors in the last decade, Koepka now has five major championships to his name. It’s as impressive a resume as there is in golf right now.
LIV Golf isn’t recognized by the Official World Golf Rankings. Because of this, the only points a player like Koepka or DJ can accrue are in the major championships. LIV poached a handful of top players from the PGA Tour. It’s clear that some of the world’s best aren’t all in the same league at the moment. That’s a shame. The PGA Tour has never had as much young talent coming into the game. However, the best players don’t all reside on the same tour.
How Relevant is Official World Golf Ranking?
Koepka certainly had a stretch of golf where he disappeared from the face of the earth. However, he is currently 13th in the world. Koepka finished T-2 at The Masters and won the PGA Championship. He’s played two events on the Asian Tour this season and the two majors. His points are accrued from four events. He started 2023 ranked in 52nd. His win this week bumped him from 44th to 13th. It is fair to say he would be higher in the standings if he’d been playing on an Official World Golf Ranking-recognized tour.
Cameron Smith went on a tear in the 2022 PGA Tour season. He was one of the best putters on Tour and had the highest birdie average. The 29-year old won The Open Championship, THE PLAYERS Championship and the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Smith got as high as number two in the Official World Golf Rankings. As the FedEx Cup Playoffs began in 2022, rumors swirled that Smith would defect for LIV. He did just that when they ended.
Smith is on a steady decline down the rankings despite winning a few LIV events. He sits eighth in the world currently.
There are a handful of LIV guys who took the money and ran. Players include Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia, and Bryson DeChambeau. All of these guys have spent time in the top-10 of the OWGR in their careers. They’ve tumbled far down the list.
Introduction of Data Golf
The current top-five of the Official World Golf Rankings are as follows: Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, and Xander Schauffele. I think that’s a fair depiction of the PGA Tour right now. However, Data Golf is becoming a more accepted version of the OWGR.
Data Golf is a website that was created in 2010. They’ve incorporated all kinds of stats from across golf to rank the players. Because it’s not an “official” ranking of any sort, LIV Golfers are included in the rankings and accrue points and stats.
Stats for notables from the morning wave: pic.twitter.com/sztV2KOvJz
— data golf (@DataGolf) May 18, 2023
Smith is the highest rated LIV golfer here at number 10. DJ ranks 23rd despite his 82nd ranking in the Official World Golf Ranking. Kopeka is 17th, which is lower than his OWGR, but culminates a lot of his down play over the past few seasons as well.
Data Golf’s top-5 includes the same five players but is in a different order: Scheffler, Rahm, Schaufelle, Cantlay, McIlroy. McIlroy’s wins carried him to a higher OWGR but his overall play hasn’t been what it was in late 2022.
Jason Day has been surging of late. His Data Golf ranking is 13th whereas his OWGR is 22nd. In the last two years, Day’s poor play drags down his ranking but his recent play and trends have him ranked in the top-15 according to the more recent numbers.
Tyrell Hatton and Sungjae Im rank 18th and 19th in the OWGR but Date Golf ranks both inside the top-10 at seven and nine respectively.
Max Homa is a good example of the OWGR potentially overrating a player. Homa is notorious for shrinking during major championships but has picked up a lot of wins in lesser events over the past year. Those wins have pushed him into the top-10 of the OWGR for the first time in his career. However, Data Golf has him ranked as the 16th best golfer in the world overall with his play.
Data Golf Greater Than OWGR?
As previously stated, Data Golf isn’t an official rankings. However, with golf betting becoming more prevalent, Data Golf is perfect for golf bettors. It’s most indicative of recent results to better rank guys than the OWGR due to its inability to accept LIV Golfers. The above players are just certain examples of the Official World Golf Rankings disparity from a more analytical and fresher system like Data Golf.
Some guys’ OWGR is low because of LIV Golf being unrecognized by the system. Other guys can be ranked too high in the OWGR because they loaded up on wins in lesser fields but hadn’t played as well overall or in major championships.
Neither system is the “perfect” system. OWGR is the one more recognized and used by the masses but Data Golf has become a very reliable source to gauge a players’ more recent game.