In the latest example of the strangeness that occurs when computers try to horn in on good old-fashioned competition -- did we learn nothing from Terminator? computers are evil! -- we have the mess that is the Official World Golf Rankings' No. 1 designation.
Because of the way that the ranking tabulation system works, Lee Westwood will take over the No. 1 spot on Halloween as current No. 1 Tiger Woods gradually loses points for not playing. Bear in mind, Westwood just stumbled through the Dunhill Links because of his ongoing calf injury, and doesn't plan to play again for several weeks.
That beep-beep-beep sound you hear? Yeah, that's Westwood backing into the
top spot. Not exactly the way he drew it up in his mind, most likely. Let's hear it for computer averaging!
And that's not the end of the story. Last week, we wrote that Westwood was playing some of the best golf in the world. (Hey we admit when we're wrong.) Turns out that since then, he's been surpassed by his fellow Ryder Cupper, one Martin Kaymer. As was amply demonstrated in this space on Monday, Kaymer is absolutely untouchable right now, and before long he too will be in line to take over that No. 1 spot. (Conceivably, he could do it before Westwood if he manages to win before the end of October.)
And what about Woods? Get this -- if he wants to hang onto his top ranking, all he has to do is show up for one tournament in the next three weeks. Bear in mind, he's held that ranking since before the 2005 U.S. Open.
But is there a person alive who realistically thinks Woods is the No. 1 golfer in the world right now? Of course not. The problem is that the length of time the OWGR uses to determine the world No. 1 is now two full years. That's akin to college football ranking teams based on how they fared in 2008 -- which, really, wouldn't be all that worse than what we've got now. It measures consistency over individual achievements, which is fine, but the length of time is such that long-distant successes continue to carry weight far beyond their true meaning.
Still, this silliness more than anything proves how devalued the No. 1 ranking is. The powers-that-be who determine the OWGR would do well to reconsider how they determine championship-caliber status. The best will find a way to the top no matter what the computers say.