How they work and what's been improved.
PDGA World Rankings started at the end of 2005 partly at the urging of Ken Climo after talking with me about how ratings alone didn’t indicate how players at the top actually fared when playing against each other. One of the challenges for our emerging global sport is that players worldwide don’t face each other in very many events. There’s no global tour of say 10-20 events where our top players face each other during the year. So, until we get more global events, our World Ranking system must rely partially on using player ratings in addition to player results in our half dozen global events.
Some major events are still bigger than others so we count the number of World Ranked men and women in each major event as the weighting value in their calculations. The more recent the major, the more weight it receives. This has become more important as the Japan Open occurs every two years. Rather than drop this event from the ranking process after its results became one year old, we have decided to keep it in there for two years but continue to reduce its weighting value as time progresses.
This weighting reduction will also be done for the Players Cup results. It will be about 18 months from the 2008 event before its planned revival next spring. The European Open and Scandinavian Open are hosted every other year and the most current one of the two is used in the calculations. Although technically not a major, the Memorial was added in 2008 so we had an event included in late winter and not all events in the rankings occurring in summer-fall.
Less than ten men or women have been able to afford the time and money to play all six of the major events included in the PDGA World Rankings in each of the past years since we started calculations. But we still wanted a fair way to include the other top rated 100 men and 25 women in the rankings. We determined the minimum number of events a player would need to enter in order to get the best possible point values (no penalty points) for their ranking would be the Worlds, the USDGC for men or USWDGC for women, plus one of the other four events. If they didn’t meet this minimum, they would likely get some penalty points unless they played all of the other ones plus either Worlds or their US championship.
With this process, even highly rated players less active in majors, players who now play in older divisions or those with other obligations keeping them from majors would still be in the rankings but drop down 5 to 10 spots from where they would be simply based on their rating due to penalty points for non-attendance at enough or any majors. Elaine King, who switched to play (and won) Master Women at Worlds this year is one example. For those who do not enter any of the major events, like Tuffi Dolan, their ranking is based solely on their special rating calculated for world rankings plus maximum penalty points.
The special ratings calculated for the PDGA World Rankings are done a little differently than regular PDGA Player Ratings so everyone has the same time period. Also, each player’s 25% most recent rounds do not get double weighted. The only events counted for North Americans are B-tiers and higher during the exact same 12-month period for everyone. C-tiers are included for those outside North America since they don’t have the depth of higher level tournaments yet. Looking at the current rankings, Josh Anthon has played just slightly better overall than Avery Jenkins in the past 12 months (amounting to just one putt here and there) to be tied for the best rating for rankings. But Avery has played all of the major events included and done a little better than Josh in the ones he did play. That’s how close the calculations can be.
Speaking of close calculations, at the end of 2008 we added an alternative PDGA World Ranking that will now be done at the end of each year. The PDGA World Rankings done during the year are slightly weighted to indicate who has been doing better more recently. However, our PDGA stats like tour points and money earnings have been totaled annually without points or money earned later in the year being worth more than those earned earlier in the year.
At yearend, this annual PDGA Tour World Ranking will be calculated with more recent majors not being weighted more than those earlier in the year. At the end of 2008, David Feldberg had a slightly better year overall than Nate Doss using this unweighted calculation. Nate Doss had an ever so slightly better PDGA World Ranking in the regular weighted format. We are literally talking about a difference of one putt either way as making the difference in an event where they finished one putt apart. It was that close.
The Total Points for each player in the far right column is an approximation of their average finish position in events played combined with their rating weighting. Avery has the rough equivalent of finishing 3rd on average with 3.20 Total Points. You can see how several players have Total Points close to each other but got there in different ways. Feldberg, Doss and Climo played every major included and took turns finishing above each other. However, Meresmaa and Lundmark have higher ratings than Barsby but he played more majors and didn't get any penalty points.
Valerie Jenkins almost has achieved the perfect point total of 1.0 with only her second place at the Women Nationals last year raising her Total Points to 1.14 (see Women's table). If she wins the Women Nationals this month, she could be the first man or woman to reach the perfect 1.0 Total Points value in the late October PDGA World Rankings as long as her PDGA World Ranking rating stays atop all women counting all of the new B-tier and higher events she enters since the Vibram.
The PDGA World Rankings process will improve as purses increase so more players can afford to attend overseas majors. As more NT events draw players from outside North America, the results from more NTs could be included so the weight of the special ratings in the calculations can continue to be reduced. Nothing like more head-to-head competition at the top, especially when it can result in an exciting 5-hole sudden death playoff!