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On top of the world

September 12, 2018

At 38, Justin Rose has been crowned world No.1 – becoming only the fourth Englishman to achieve that distinction, the the first since Luke Donald in 2012

While he may have lost in a play-off to Keegan Bradley, England's Justin Rose emerged from the rain-plagued BMW Championship as the newly-crowned world No.1, and in so doing became the 22nd player in history of the rankings to have scaled the summit. The 38-year-old Englishman replaced Dustin Johnson at the head of golf's top table and while the numeric itself may be largely academic in the wider scheme of things there is no doubting the scale of the achievement – nor the impetus that the changing of the guard brings to Europe's Ryder Cup hopes.

“It's boyhood dream stuff, something I am incredibly proud of,” Rose told the Golf Channel . “I've played solidly over the past year and naturally I'm delighted to get to the top. I'd always envisaged getting to number one by winning tournaments. Last week's second place [to Bryson DeChambeau at the Dell Technologies Championship] was a good-feeling second and this one is a stinging-feeling second, but making it to No.1 more than makes up for that. It's an amazing achievement and something that I'm immensely proud of.”

The initiative for the creation of the Official World Golf Rankings came from the Championship Committee of the R&A, which found in the 1980s that its system of issuing invitations to the Open on a tour by tour basis was in danger of omitting an increasing number of top players who were dividing their time between tours. In consultation with preeminent sports agent Mark McCormack – who published an unofficial ranking in his annual World of Professional Golf almanac between 1968-1985 – the idea of creating an official world ranking system was nurtured. McCormack was appointed the first chairman of the International Advisory Committee and the first official ranking list was published prior to the 1986 Masters Tournament. The top six ranked golfers of the day were Bernhard Langer, See Ballesteros, Sandy Lyle, Tom Watson, Mark O'Meara and Greg Norman. Reflecting a golden era in European golf, the top three were all European, while there were 31 Americans in the top 50 (compared with 17 at the time of writing).

The method for calculations has changed considerably over the years, reflecting not only the growth in the number of recognised professional tours operated around the world but the need to take into account the peripatetic schedule of the leading players as they commit to ever-more international schedules. Today, World Ranking points are accumulated over a two-year rolling period with points awarded for each tournament maintained for a 13-week period to place additional emphasis on recent performances. The points are then reduced in equal decrements for the remaining 91 weeks of the two-year Ranking period. Naturally, the major championships are ‘loaded', as too are the World Golf Championship (WGC) events. Hence the pressure to maintain a position within the world's top 50 (which earns a player automatic exemption in all four major championships and all of the WGC events).

All clear so far?

In practical terms, each player is ranked according to his average points per tournament, which is determined by dividing his total number of points by the tournaments he has played over that two-year period. [One of the most significant changes was the reduction of the qualifying period from three years to two, in 1996, with the current year now counting double. Thus the current form of a player was – and remains – the overriding factor in his ranking.]

These details will matter not a jot to Justin Rose, the reigning Olympic and 2013 US Open champion who, at 38, becomes only the fourth Englishman to have achieved the pinnacle of his professional (joining Sir Nick Faldo, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood). The question now is how long can he hold on to the coveted position? In the countdown to the Ryder Cup in Paris, there is clearly some kudos in counting the world No.1 among your number, and Thomas Bjorn would no doubt play that card to his advantage. But beyond that there's a more poignant date for the diary. In October, Justin Rose will host the British Masters supported by Sky Sports at Walton Heath (Oct 11-14), and it would be entirely fitting for the game's No.1 to welcome his many friends, peers and supporters to the the event where his late father, Ken, witnessed his very first professional victory – in the 2002 British Masters.

The Ryder Cup, on balance….

So, how do the two teams share up in terms of the OWGR? Well, now that the 12 players on each side have been formally identified, the ranking makes for an interesting comparison.

TEAM EUROPE
TEAM USA
Justin Rose – 1
Dustin Johnson - 2
Francesco Molinari – 5
Brooks Koepke – 3
Rory McIlroy – 6
Justin Thomas – 4
Jon Rahm – 7
Bryson De Chambeau – 8
Tommy Fleetwood – 12
Rickie Fowler – 9
Alex Noren – 16
Jordan Spieth – 10
Paul Casey – 19
Bubba Watson – 13
Henrik Stenson – 23
Patrick Reed – 14
Tyrell Hatton – 26
Tony Finau – 15
Sergio Garcia – 29
Webb Simpson – 17
Ian Poulter – 34
Tiger Woods – 21
Thorbjørn Olesen – 44
Phil Mickelson – 25