LONDON (Reuters) - Tiger Woods would disappear out of the world’s top 50 if golf’s intricate rankings system was changed, the European Tour’s statistics expert Ian Barker said on Tuesday.
Responding to Woods’s former swing coach Butch Harmon’s criticism of Lee Westwood’s rise to No.1 despite the fact that he has never won a major, Barker said golf’s two-year rolling rankings were transparent, fair and designed to avoid the “anniversary effect” often criticized in tennis.
Harmon lambasted the rankings on Monday after Britain’s Westwood ended 14-times major winner Woods’s reign at the top.
The American said the “system sucked” and that Germany’s Martin Kaymer was the rightful heir to the throne.
Third-ranked Kaymer has won four tournaments this year, including the U.S. PGA title and, if the rankings were worked out over a 12-month period as they are in tennis, the German would be top.
“Kaymer should be number one,” Harmon, who now works with Phil Mickelson said. “Did Westwood win a major this year, or any year? I think not.”
Defending the system, Barker said: “What Butch is effectively saying is that the rankings should be done over a shorter period.
“If we just prepared it on the points won so far this year Woods would not be in the top 50 and Martin Kaymer would be comfortably the world number one,” Barker, the European Tour’s director of information services, told Reuters.
“Anyway, Butch may well have his wish on Sunday because Martin will go to number one if he comes second in Valderrama.
“We all know how well Martin has played over the last two months and that Lee has been injured. But the American contenders haven’t played either.
“Steve Stricker and Phil Mickelson played at the Tour Champs but Woods hasn’t played since two weeks before that.”
Golf’s rankings are calculated on a rolling two-year process, a system that allowed 14-times major winner Woods to remain as No.1 for so long despite his dreadful year and Westwood to reach the summit while shopping for potatoes after being sidelined by a sore calf.
While admitting that golf’s ranking system was “necessarily complicated” because it included players from 10 different Tours, Barker said it avoided the tennis scenario where top players were always “defending” large amounts of ranking points.
“We used to have a similar situation to tennis with the anniversary effect but we managed to take that out of the world golf rankings and I believe it’s improved as a result,” he said.
“Players lose their points in a much more uniform manner rather than in a spiky way. With our system, three months after a tournament win, a player will start to lose those points gradually, rather than all at once.”
Much has been made of 37-year-old Westwood’s lack of a major title. He is only the third player since rankings were introduced in 1987 to reach number one without a title, although he has finished in the top three in four of his last five majors — consistency that his rivals have not been able to match.
“At any time the rankings cover the last eight majors that have been played and if you look at the last eight they have been won by eight different players. Tiger has not won any, Phil has one and Kaymer one and Graeme McDowell one and they are all in the top 10,” Barker said.
“Tiger dominated for 12 years with individuals like Vijay Singh challenging him but his huge lead was whittled away and the scenario now is that the players are very bunched together which creates interest and is good for the game.”
“You will never have a system that everybody thinks is perfect but it’s strength is that it’s completely transparent and not voted by committee. It’s pure maths.”
Editing by Clare Fallon