Categorized | 2014, February 2014, Golf Insight, News

The 2013 No. 1 Golfer in the World was . . ?

By: Dick van Toulon

Henrik Stenson

In the past Stenson was always a bit of a joker on tour – Photo courtesy of henrikstenson.com

Predictably, Aussies consider Adam Scott the world No. 1 of 2013. Didn’t Scotty win the Sacred Masters for Down Under? And how about his 1-1-2 streak on his own Australasian Tour in November? Let me take this chauvinistic dream to pieces. First, the Masters is a mediocre event, because its field lacks too much depth, and it invites too many players who have no business being in a Major.

The field of the Masters is not nearly as strong as those of the other seven world events, the three Majors and the four WGC events. Second, in the three ‘flagship events’ of the Australasian Tour, nowadays one of the world’s weakest regional tours, the competition lined up against Scott certainly wasn’t anything to lose sleep over. He was basically playing exhibition matches against a handful of US and European pros lured by appearance money. In the Australian PGA, Scott faced US Tour member Ricky Fowler (final 2013 FedEx Cup no. 38) and maybe compatriot Marc Leishman (final FedEx Cup No. 59), provided Leishman would be on top of his game (he wasn’t).

Scott did what could be expected from him, and beat Fowler by four and the rest of the field by 6+ strokes. Next, at the Talisker Masters, Fowler’s role was taken over by Matt Kuchar (No. 6 final 2013 FedEx Cup) and Brendon de Jonge (No. 26). Leishman also showed up, but neither he nor De Jonge managed to outperform the 2nd mediocre field. Scott beat Kuchar by two, and the rest by 4+ strokes. Finally, in the Australian Open Kuchar was replaced by Rory McIlroy. And please spare me the nonsense that by Nov 13 Rory McIlroy was the ‘No. 6 Golfer in the World’, i.e. his position on the OWGR. Given his final 2013 US (No. 50) and European (No. 35) rankings, when he showed up in Australia to challenge Adam Scott, McIlroy’s real world ranking was No. 50, at best.

Jason Day showed up for his national open as well, but didn’t come anywhere near contention, finishing 10 strokes back. Still, McIlroy was definitely a lot stronger than the rest of the field, provided he would be on top of his game. He was, and won. Even as runner up Scott for the third time running wiped the floor with the rest of the field, beating them by 6+ shots. Ignoring McIlroy, who irritatingly spoiled Scott’s planned triple crown party, in the three Australian ‘flagship events’ where his star shone so brightly, the competition consisted of members of the Australasian Tour, where the purse in regular events doesn’t exceed $150,000 nor a win $25,000 i.e. the equivalent of what a US Tour member pockets when he finishes a US Tour event as No. 35 or thereabouts.

Henrik Stenson - Financial loses effect

His huge financial loses (a la Stanford) made him more focused, to good effect – Photo courtesy of guardian.com

So why did Scott play in these events ? Not for the prize money, that’s for sure. No, his real reason must have been the disproportionate number of points that the OWGR grants these meaningless events; 26-32 points for a win (winning a regular event on the strongest tour in the world, the US Tour, according to the OWGR is worth 24 points)! Scott’s chance to beat three weak fields in a row and collect the goodies was too good to pass by. To put his Australian triumphant 1st -1st – 2nd into perspective: in four regular 2013 US tour events Scott finished T10 – T30 – T13 – T57. The yawning abyss between his Australian and US results is spelled c-o-m-p-e-t-i-t-i-o-n. This in a nutshell is your ‘World of Golf according to the Official World Golf Ranking’.

In 2013 between end February and July Henrik Stenson had little time in his schedule for the European Tour. He played three world events (WGC Matchplay, the Masters and US Open) and eight US tour events, showing signs of what he was up to. In March he went T8 in Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Invitational and T2 in the Shell Houston Open. In April he finished T18 in the Masters, followed in May by a T5 in The Players. After an unnoticed T21st in June in the US Open, the first Major of the year, by July in Scotland Stenson shifted a gear up, finishing T3rd at the Scottish Open. The following week he almost won the second Major, The Open, finishing solo 2nd.

In August he was T2nd at the WGC Bridgestone and T3rd in the USPGA, the third and last major of the year. After nearly winning so many of the strongest events on the world golf agenda, in September Stenson finally started collecting victories, beating very strong fields; he won the second and final of the four FedEx Cup play offs, which gave him the overall 2013 FedEx Cup title. Two months later he won the final 2013 European Tour event, finishing off the 2013 European Tour’s R2D as No. 1 as well, something never done before. In six World events Stenson won $2.4 million, in 12 US tour events a mindboggling $14 million (thanks to his $10 million bonus for winning the FedEx Cup), and in 9 European events EUR 2.26 million (incl. $1 million bonus for winning the 2013 R2D). Stenson’s 2013 prize money: $19.4 m.

Tiger Woods seldom competes outside the US. Events there can’t afford (or refuse to pay) his appearance money. He had a good year, even to his own exceptional standards. He won two WGC’s, The Players and two regular US tour events. But he failed to win a Major yet again, trailing Stenson in all three. In 2012 Woods was by far the better of the two; Stenson was still busy climbing out of his own mega slump, that bottomed out in 2011. But by end 2013 what on earth do 2012 results, never mind the OWGR, have to do with the question “who is the no. 1 golfer in the world” ?

In 2013 this is how Stenson, Woods and Scott competed head on in the eight World events (Majors, WGC’s and Masters) and the five most important US Tour events:

US Tour Events 2013

After Stenson won the final European Tour’s R2D event by 6 strokes, runner up Poulter graceously declared him “the best player on the planet”.

Amen.

  • OWGR 17-Nov-13: Woods no. 1 – Scott no. 2 – Stenson no. 3

About Dick van Toulon

Dick van Toulon van der Koog (61, Dutch, what’s in a name ?) is a pensionado resident of Jakarta. He has been a keen follower (obsessed is the right word, according to friends) of the US and European golf tours, ever since he took up golf in 1973. A mediocre amateur golfer, he thoroughly enjoys the great courses of Jabotabek. If his knowledge of historical professional golf data borders on the bizar: so what ?

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