With the business landscape of international golf fragmenting, who are the world’s top golfers by tour and where do they sit in the world rankings?
With the international golfing landscape changing day by day, we thought we would look at how the rankings are reflected by the world’s top golfers in each of the major tournaments – the PGA TOUR, the European Tour (currently known as the DP World Tour), and their new rival, LIV Golf.
The situation is changing daily, with the latest news being that two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson is the latest of the world’s top golfers to sign up with LIV Golf.
The 43-year-old American is currently recovering from a knee injury, and will debut with the Saudi-backed series in September. Currently rated 86th in the world, but a former number 2, Watson will be an off-course captain for the fourth event in the inaugural series in Boston. Bubba Watson has 14 career wins, but not played since the US PGA Championship in May.
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The Official World Golf Ranking system for rating the performance level of the world’s top golfers in the professional game was started in 1986. Rankings are based on a player’s position in individual tournaments (i.e. not pairs or team events) over a “rolling” two-year period. New rankings are calculated each week. During 2018, nearly 400 tournaments on 20 tours were covered by the ranking system. All players competing in these tournaments are included in the rankings. In 2022, 23 tours factored into the world rankings for the world’s top golfers.
There’s a general feeling in the world of golf commentary that golfers tempted by LIV Golf’s riches tend to be older players who have made a practical decision based on how much they could earn in their declining years. But it may only take a couple of younger names from the list of the world’s top golfers to take the Saudi offer for the balance to change.
With the PGA’s current standpoint that LIV players will be banned from participating in the PGA, some stark decisions will be made. It will certainly help to resolve some confusion, such as the position of Talor Gooch, who apparently believed that he would play one LIV match then return to the PGA TOUR. Perhaps our breakdown of who is playing where, and their position in the world ranking, will help them decide?
So with the business landscape of international golf fragmenting, who are the world’s top golfers in each tour and where do they sit in the world rankings?
The situation is complicated by the fact that at the moment, LIV Golf does not offer World Ranking points. This wouldn’t matter so much if these points were not the chief currency used to decide who gets to play in major championships. Particularly when they are banned from PGA Tour events, LIV players will face slipping down the world rankings.
The issue isn’t as serious for recent majors winners such as Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, who will continue to get into the big four men’s events such as the Masters and the Open through exemptions for their previous victories. But non-winners, who get into majors via their World Ranking, such as Talor Gooch, Kevin Na or Paul Casey, face the possibility of seeing their world rankings slide, to the point where they no longer get invited to the Majors.
Is there a way around this? Certainly the Official World Golf Ranking board meeting at St. Andrews has acknowledged that it has received an application from LIV for ranking points. But will the application be accepted, and if so, when, and what difference will it make to the rankings of the world’s top golfers?
Meanwhile, all the LIV players can do is to compete in other tournaments, such as the Asian Tour, which though it has received hundreds of millions of dollars in investment from LIV Golf, is Official World Golf Ranking-certified.
So, the top five golfers in each tour and where they sit in world rankings (WR) may have changed by the time you read it; but it gives a fascinating insight into the sort of talent each tournament is attracting, and how the politics of the sport may affect careers of the world’s top golfers for decades to come.
- Scottie Scheffler (WR: 1)
Scheffler earned his first four PGA TOUR titles in a span of six starts, including his first major championship title, winning the WM Phoenix Open, Arnold Palmer Invitational, World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play and Masters Tournament. He moved to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career following the third victory (March 27), becoming the 25th player in the OWGR era to reach the No. 1 position. Following his T2 at the 2022 U.S. Open, he broke Jordan Spieth’s record for most official money earned in a PGA TOUR season.
- Xander Schauffele (WR: 6)
It’s been a great season for Schauffele, the third player to win three times on the season with victories at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Travelers Championship and Genesis Scottish Open, joining Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns. He won the Travelers Championship and Genesis Scottish Open in back-to-back starts, winning in consecutive starts for the second time in his career and becoming the second to do so on TOUR on the season, joining Scottie Scheffler.
- Rory McIlroy (WR: 3)
Rory McIlroy won the CJ CUP @ SUMMIT in his season debut and successfully defended his title at the RBC Canadian Open, becoming the 35th player in PGA TOUR history to reach 21 career wins. He finished in the top 10 in all four of the major championships (2nd-8th-T5-3rd), becoming the first player to accomplish the feat without a victory since Rickie Fowler in 2014.
- Justin Thomas (WR: 7)
Thomas ended a nearly five-year drought without a major by taking home his second Wanamaker Trophy at the PGA Championship at Southern Hills. He has finished in the top 10 in half of his 18 starts on tour this season. He ranks in the top five in shots gained approach the green (.855), tee to green (1.716) and total (1.938).
- Patrick Cantlay (WR: 4)
Cantlay earned his seventh career victory at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans with partner Xander Schauffele. With playoff losses at the WM Phoenix Open and RBC Heritage, he became the first player since Joaquin Niemann in 2020-21 to fall in multiple playoffs in the same season. He became the first player to lose in a playoff (RBC Heritage) and win the following week (Zurich Classic of New Orleans) since Dustin Johnson during the 2020 FedExCup Playoffs.
- Rory McIlroy (WR: 3)
One of the most successful European players of the modern era, he has been crowned Race to Dubai champion three times (2012, 2014, 2015) and played a key role in six Ryder Cup appearances – with four wins. Has won 14 European Tour events, including four Major Championships – the 2011 U.S. Open, the 2012 and 2014 US PGA Championships and the 2014 Open Championship.
- Will Zalatoris (WR: 13)
Zalatoris was second in the Masters Tournament in 2021, finishing one stroke behind champion Hideki Matsuyama. Zalatoris was voted PGA Tour Rookie of the Year for the 2020–21 season. In 2022 he finished second in a major championship for the second time, losing to Justin Thomas in a playoff in the PGA Championship at Southern Hillsand in June this year he finished tied with Scottie Scheffler at the U.S. Open behind Matt Fitzpatrick.
- Matt Fitzpatrick (WR: 10)
Matt Fitzpatrick won his first Major Championship at the 2022 U.S. Open at The Country Club, Brookline, nine years after winning the U.S. Amateur Championship at the same venue, becoming just the second golfer next to Jack Nicklaus to win the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur on the same golf course.
- Viktor Hovland (WR: 09)
Winner of the 2018 U.S. Amateur Championship, Hovland was low amateur at the 2019 Masters Tournament, rising to number one in the World Amateur Golf Rankings. He turned professional after earning low amateur honours at the 2019 U.S. Open, finishing 12th at Pebble Beach. Hovland became the first Norwegian to win on the PGA TOUR when he won the 2020 Puerto Rico Open, and won his second title later that year at the Mayakoba Golf Classic.
- Ryan Fox (WR: 48)
In his third season on the European Tour, the popular New Zealander claimed his maiden title at the 2019 ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth, beating Adrian Otaegui in the final of the event. He bridged a three-year gap between victories by winning his second title at the Ras Al Khaimah Classic, cruising to a five-stroke victory at Al Hamra Golf Club.
LIV Golf now boasts a roster carrying 22 out of 100 of the world’s top golfers.
- Dustin Johnson (WR: 16)
Along with Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson was one of the first golfers to accept an offer from LIV Golf. The 38-year-old American was rumored to collect around $125 million for making the transfel. DCurrently he’s in good form, finishing 24th at the U.S. Open and eighth in the inaugural LIV event.
- Abraham Ancer (WR: 20)
Debuting at LIV Golf’s Portland event, Abraham Ancer’s best recent finish was T9 at the PGA Championship in Oklahoma. He obtained his first career victory in a PGA Tour event after winning the 2021 WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational after two sudden-death playoff holes against Hideki Matsuyama and Sam Burns. With the win, Ancer became the fourth Mexican player to win on the PGA Tour and the first to win on the European Tour.
- Louis Oosthuizen (WR: 23)
Despite struggling this year on the PGA tour, with his best finish being T14 at the WM Phoenix Open in February, Oosthuizen is showing signs of improvement on the LIV tour, with a finish in 12th position in his first LIV Golf event. Has has previously finished runner-up in all four majors – 2012 Masters, 2015 and 2021 U.S. Open, 2015 Open Championship and 2017 and 2021 PGA Championship.
- Kevin Na (WR: 34)
Though he missed the cut at the recent U.S. Open, prior to that the 38-year-old had finished in the top 25 of both the Masters (T14) and the PGA Championship (T23). At the first LIV event in St Albans, Na finished 36th with a score of +10.
- Talor Gooch (WR: 39)
Despite missing the cut at the U.S. Open, Gooch placed 9th in the LIV Golf London at Centurion Club, earning him $580,000. Gooch also was a member of the 4 Aces team at LIV’s Portland event, comparing it to the Ryder Cup and President’s Cup events in post-event interviews. Gooch said his original plan was to only play the first LIV event in London, but he changed his mind when “the Tour suspended me.” There’s some question as to what Gooch didn’t understand, as PGA TOUR commissioner Jay Monahan had been rather clear on how golfers who played the LIV events would be treated.
So, with the international golfing landscape changing day by day, what do you make of our breakdown of the world’s top golfers by tour and where they sit in the world rankings? Click here and make a comment on our Facebook post.
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