The revamped World Amateur Golf Ranking officially came online early last week, producing significant changes compared to where the ranking left off in 2019.
The meaningful shifts in the first ranking of the new year transpired as a result of the Power Method, a new system that emphasizes recent results. In the new structure, all events earn a power number based on field strength, and points are allocated by overall finishing position in a tournament rather than round by round.
“It will be easier for players to become ranked under the Power Method but with the system recognizing current form and rewarding recent top results it will be tougher to remain ranked compared to the previous system,” said Steve Otto, director of equipment standards and chief technology officer for the R&A, which administers the ranking in partnership with the USGA. “The simplicity and elegance of the revised WAGR system will be of great benefit to competitive players at every level.”
With the past several months of play carrying more weight than was the case for the previous system, many players started 2020 with substantial changes to their ranking. Scotland’s Sandy Scott ended last year ranked No. 23, but rose to No. 4 with the new system because of strong play in his past five starts. Last fall, the Texas Tech University senior won the Carmel Cup, participated in the Walker Cup and was top five in the Tavistock Collegiate Invitational. (Scott is No. 5 in the current ranking, which was published last Wednesday).
Scott’s leap wasn’t the largest into the world’s top 10. American Davis Thompson, a junior at the University of Georgia, climbed from No. 31 to No. 9 by virtue of four top-10s in college events and a T23 finish at the PGA Tour’s RSM Classic.
The volatility went in both directions. England’s Conor Gough, a Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup player, dropped from No. 3 to No. 13, and Michael Thorbjornsen, the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, went from No. 17 to No. 33. The biggest reason for those drops is that only results in the past 52 weeks are awarded full point values in the new system. As a result, Thorbjornsen’s U.S. Junior Amateur victory and Gough’s victory at the 2018 British Boys Amateur have been greatly reduced in value.
Either helped with great recent play or hurt by 2018 performances losing value, 18 of the top 50 players in the world moved up or down by 10 or more spots. And there were extreme examples further down the ranking. American mid-amateur Scott Harvey moved up 237 spots from No. 311 to No. 74. And Japan’s Taisei Shimizu reached No. 144 in the ranking by climbing 1,079 spots.
The amount of change on the women’s side may have been even greater. France’s Pauline Roussin-Bouchard became the new world No. 1, while 20 of the top 50 players moved up or down by 10 or more spots. Although there wasn’t much change in the top 10, there were wild swings elsewhere – Sweden’s Maja Stark went from No. 44 to No. 12, Ireland’s Julie McCarthy from No. 59 to No. 29 and Germany’s Paula Schulz-Hanßen from No. 122 to No. 40.