It’s a standard rationale for looking at the talent distribution on the PGA Tour. “On any given week any player can win on Tour because the depth is so great.” Just looking at calendar year 2016 at the approximate midpoint shows evidence of that perspective.
Only three players have collected multiple wins to date — Jason Day (3), Jordan Spieth (2) and Adam Scott (2). In addition, there’s a representative group of first-time winners on Tour from last week’s Daniel Berger, to Masters Champion Danny Willett, to William McGirt and a few others along the way.
“Any given week” is alive and well.
While that shuffles the FedEx rankings slightly on a week-to-week basis, the World Golf Ranking seems to have atrophied among its top 10 players. Looking at those players standing at checkpoints over the last 12 months is an almost static picture of the world’s best.
Heading into the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay a year ago, Roy McIlroy was at the top, about to be supplanted by Jordan Spieth after his second straight major win. Jim Furyk had not been injured yet and ranked third in the world.
Jason Day, who had not taken off because his issue with vertigo was still undiagnosed prior to his on-course collapse in Seattle, stood 10th. Bubba Watson was four, Justin Rose – five, Henrik Stenson – six; Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler owned spots in the second five.
By the end of the FedEx series in October, Spieth was entrenched at the top, but Day’s hot summer had moved him eight spots to second in the world. Only one player — Furyk, now injured — had dropped from the list. Zach Johnson, by virtue of his Open Championship, was the only one added.
There was even less movement among the remaining group. McIlroy slid to third and has remained there to this week. Bubba Watson is almost tattooed in his position at fourth on the list. He was there last June, again in October, at the start of January and a week after the Masters. He’s still there now too.
Justin Rose has seen his ranking slide gradually from fifth a year ago to 10th currently, without any upward movement in the 12 months. Henrik Stenson has shown a Watson-like steadfastness, never ranking higher than fifth and never lower than his current position at seventh. This despite the fact that the Swede has not won an event anywhere in the world since November of 2014.
Last year’s runner-up at Chambers Bay, Dustin Johnson, owns the longest current streak of posting a PGA Tour win each year in the last eight (still waiting this year). But despite no wins since Doral a year ago, his splits at the same intervals as Bubba are no higher than sixth and no lower than eighth.
Then there is Rickie Fowler. Coming off his win at The Players in 2015, he had inched into the top 10 at ninth prior to the U.S. Open. An impressive win at the Scottish Open and again at Deutsche Bank moved him to behind Watson at number five. Yet despite no wins in the U.S. in 2016 and four missed cuts, he is still there rounding out the top five.
In 12 months of golf, the only players added to the top 10 are Adam Scott, with those two Tour wins, and Masters champ Danny Willet. And the only casualties have been Sergio Garcia, despite a win at the Byron Nelson, and Furyk, who was sidelined from the game for more than six months with surgery.
The PGA Tour may be the home of “any given week,” but anyone making fantasy picks for this year’s U.S. Open based on World Golf Rankings would be placing pretty much the same bet they had a year ago.
Dan Reardon has covered golf for radio station KMOX in St. Louis for 32 years. In that time, he has covered more than 100 events, including majors and other PGA, LPGA and Champions Tour tournaments. During his broadcast career, Reardon conducted one-on-one interviews with three dozen members of the World Golf of Fame. He has contributed to many publications over the years and co-authored the book Golf’s Greatest Eighteen from Random House. Reardon served as Director of Media relations for LPGA events in both St. Louis and Chicago for 10 years.