I’ve been fascinated by the recent fluctuations in the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR), – especially at the very top.
Since Jordan Spieth took the No. 1 spot for the first time in his young career on Aug. 15, following a second-place finish at the PGA Championship, he and Rory McIlroy have been playing a game of leapfrog, switching spots at the top in a way that’s begun to look compulsive. Rory regained top spot on Aug. 29.
Spieth took it back (despite missing a cut) last week, and now Rory is ahead again—by the smallest margin in OWGR history.
I’ve long been a defender of the World rankings, and I think the system is proving its worth here by showing on paper what the rest of us are feeling in real life—we have no idea which guy is better.
Last year, you’d have said Rory, and a month ago, you’d have said Spieth, but even while one excels, the other is lurking nearby, ready with a terrific result of his own. At this point, they’re like two sides of a constantly spinning coin, or golf’s version of yin and yang, or the sun and moon—inseparable, nearly equal, rising and falling in an unbreakable rhythm.
Which leads me to ask are we witnessing the start of what will become golf’s greatest rivalry?
Jack and Arnie never quite coincided, career-wise, and you could say the same about Jack and Tom Watson. Tiger and Phil was a dud, and nobody else ever emerged to challenge the greatest of all time. Who else is there? Norman and Faldo? Jones and Hagen? Snead and Hogan? All great, but I maintain that Spieth and McIlroy have surged to an incredible start, and that they could easily surpass all of them.
Happily, they’re both playing this week at the BMW Championship and we get a chance to see if Spieth’s mini-slump is over, or if Rory can return to the winner’s circle after a semi-cursed summer.
We’ll know more about the strength of their rivalry after 2016, but for now, we should be thrilled to witness their strange dance at the top of the OWGR, which hopefully augurs great things to come.
They – along with Jason Day – set the standard at the top of the market.
But here’s five value picks (odds reflect market at 11am Tuesday) to consider among as the PGA Tour’s top 70 golfers vie to make the 30-man Tour Championship field next week and jockey for that sweet, sweet $10 million bonus.
Bubba Watson –
This is the tourney where Bubba finished second last season and he’s finished top-5 in three of his last five tournaments.
He likes the event, he’s playing well, and he’s due for a win after some close calls. So why is he listed eighth on the odds list when he should be second or third? Who knows, who cares—take advantage of the market inefficiency and grab him each-way.
Just don’t grab him in real life, because he’ll probably yell at you.
Brooks Koepka –
Life has a way of mocking Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup captains who omit great golfers stupidly. It happened last year, when Tom Watson ignored Billy Horschel in favor of the disastrous Webb Simpson. Horschel went on to win the final two events of the year to really stick it in Watson’s face.
Last week, Jay Haas selected Phil Mickelson for the Presidents Cup despite Phil’s very mediocre season, and left a great player in Koepka at home.
If there’s any justice, Brooks will storm to a win this week. The course suits his game, so I’m riding with karma on this one.
Charley Hoffman –
Two runner-up spots among hios 7 top 10 placings since the turn of the year, Hoffman has been in the mix when it matters. The Californian lies sixth in the FedExCup standings and finished third last week in the Duetsche Bank Championship.
In other words, is a tremendous value here, and I would call this my ‘pick of the week’ – if I resorted to such gimmicks.
Which I don’t. (But I just did.)
Daniel Summerhays –
Summerhays looks to me like the 2015 version of Billy Horschel who came from nowhere to win the last two events and bag the $10 million booty.
Trending in the right direction with four top 12 finishes in his his last tournaments including when 6th Barclays and 9th at the Deutsche Bank.
Has been steadily climbing the points list as he fights for a spot at next week’s finale (he’s currently 26th).
Momentum matters, and Summerhays is rolling—he looks a steal at these odds.
William McGirt –
There’s always at least one player who makes it to the final field for the Tour Championship from way down the list.
After finishing 12th last week William McGirt could be that man in Illinois. It’s a case of peaking at the right moment and the signs are all there.
A 62 at the Wyndham Championship to end the regular season and a 66-69 at the Deutsche Bank on the weekend.
Ride the hot hand and throw down a few bucks here each-way – in the words of Donald Trump.
Shane Ryan is the author of ‘Slaying the Tiger: A year inside the ropes on the PGA Tour’ & the European version ‘Chasing the Legends: The rise of the young guns in golf’ revealing the stories that the insiders know, but rarely share. You can follow @ShaneRyanhere on Twitter
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