In winning The Tour Championship, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson picked up the richest prize in golf – combined prize money for the event win and overall victory in the PGA Tour’s season-long FedEx Cup netted him an astonishing $11.4 million or £7.1million.
Add on the rest of the prize money he’s scooped on the PGA and European Tours in 2013 and you get to a cool total of £10.6 million. Looks like it’ll be goose for Christmas in the Stenson household.
The question of whether anyone should receive such staggering sums of money for banging a little white ball around is an arguable one. Should anyone ever be paid such huge amounts for anything when almost 80% of the world’s population lives on less than £6.50 per day?
But sport is big business and investment in global sporting events is a key marketing tool for major corporations. These companies clearly benefit sufficiently to put up such significant prize-funds in golf tournaments and the pay out to the participants is relative to the sponsor’s, and the tours’, return on investment. To secure the attendance of the biggest possible names and so success for a tournament, the level of prize money has to be enticing. These guys are professionals after all, and their principal goal is to make money – the same principal goal as their agents, backers and everyone else vaguely connected to their golfing career.
Anyway, the prize-money is what it is, and Stenson quite clearly deserves to have earned as much as any player in the game in 2013. Since July he’s been the best golfer on the planet. He finished tied third in the Scottish Open, then second in The Open, tied second in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, third in the USPGA Championship, he won the Deutsche Bank Championship and now has won the Tour Championship.
The question I found myself asking when looking at his results this morning was; “How has he only made it to number four on the Official World Golf Ranking?”
Basically, it’s because the World Rankings consider events over a rolling, two year period and, although an emphasis is placed on more recent performances, players can remain high on the list on the back of results recorded up to 24 months ago. I can’t help thinking that more importance should be given to more recent golfing displays.
Let’s take Rory McIlroy as an example – by his standards, he’s had a pretty shocking year – you’ve probably noticed. But he’s still sixth on the World Ranking despite having accrued less ranking points in 2013 than anybody else in the top 25. In fact, if you go down the list you’ll find that John Merrick, currently in 77th place on the Official World Ranking has picked up more points in 2013 than McIlroy. And yet, Rory is still less than one point behind Henrik Stenson who has been playing an absolute blinder for more than two months.
The rankings are crucially important, as a number of key events use them as a basis for who plays each year. For instance, the top-50 players on the list, just prior to the event, will receive an invite to the 2014 Masters. If it was taken as it stands now, someone like Peter Hanson in 39th place would cruise in, despite having only collected 47 points in 2013 – that’s almost 400 less than World Number 1 Tiger Woods and less than 47 of the 50 players ranked from 51-100. Someone like Joost Luiten, currently in 55th wouldn’t get the call-up, despite having collected double the number of points Hanson has this season and having recently won a tournament.
So it’s a little bit of self-perpetuating cycle. The top players on the Ranking get into the big events where big points are available even for merely steady performances. Those a little further down the list have to play their socks off for weeks on end at events carrying fewer points, just to get a sniff.
If increased prominence was given on the ranking to recent events, then different and new players would have a shot at the big-time – the key events like the Masters, the Accenture Match Play and such. It might help to uncover more golfers who are capable of succeeding at the very highest level, but just don’t get the opportunity in the current closed shop. It would also help to insure that the very best players, at the time of each tournament, were battling for golf’s premier prizes.