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The best golfers at every age, by world ranking

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October 19, 2022

The Official World Golf Ranking is having a moment, if for nothing more than quarrelsome reasons. Officials at LIV Golf are anxiously seeking a way for their members to earn OWGR points while playing in their events, largely to keep them from sliding in the rankings and losing out on qualifying directly off the OWGR for the men’s major championships in 2023. Even ardent anti-LIV pros (see Rory McIlroy) don’t disagree that the Saudi-backed breakaway circuit’s event should eventually offer points, but they note—as does the OWGR—that there’s a process to follow, one that takes time and patience, something LIV folks are in short supply.

In turn the debate about the OWGR and its relevance has led to some genuine curiosity about the rankings, both in the men’s and women’s professional ranks. McIlroy has a chance this week to overtake Scottie Scheffler as the men’s World No. 1 in with a win at the CJ Cup and Scheffler finishing no better than solo second. Jin Young Ko, No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s Rankings, returns to play this week at the LPGA’s BMW Ladies Championship in South Korea after sitting out the last month with a wrist injury that has allowed 19-year-old Atthaya Thitkul to inch closer to the top spot.

That growing curiosity inspired us to take a deeper dive into the names on the men’s and women’s lists and ask a random but mesmerizing question: Who is the top-ranked golfer at every age?

In searching, we chose to combine the men’s and women’s rankings, thus Scheffler covers age 26 and Ko age 27. Not surprisingly, the older you go, the less likely you’ll find players ranked inside the top 50. But 46-year-old LIV golfer Paul Casey still fits (at least for now) that bill at with his rank of 42 on the OWGR, as does 43-year-old Adam Scott (No. 31). And the oldest highest ranked female on our list? Try 34-year-old Inbee Park, who ranks 22nd on the Rolex Women’s Rankings.

The other notable trend you’ll see: Female players ranked highest at several of the younger ages. That backs up the anecdotal theory that women pro golfers succeed at younger ages than men.

Here is the list for every age, from 18 to 52:

Age, Player, Rank

18: Pia Babnik, 62

19: Atthaya Thitikul, 2

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David Cannon

20: Tom Kim, 15

21: Mao Saigo, 24

22: Ayaka Furue, 19

23: Nasa Hataoka, 9

24: Nelly Korda, 4

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Jared C. Tilton

25: Lydia Ko, 5

26: Scottie Scheffler, 1

27: Jin Young Ko, 1

28: Xander Schauffele, 6

29: Cameron Smith, 3

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Jonathan Ferrey/LIV Golf

30: Patrick Cantlay, 4

31: Max Homa, 18

32: Brooks Koepka, 35

33: Rory McIlroy, 2

34: Inbee Park, 22

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Richard Heathcote/R&A

35: Billy Horschel, 17

36: Keegan Bradley, 23

37: Jason Kokrak, 44

38: Dustin Johnson, 26

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Chris Trotman/LIV Golf

39: Kevin Na, 36

40: Alex Noren, 49

41: Edoardo Molinari, 252

42: Adam Scott, 31

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Andrew Redington

43: Kevin Streelman, 112

44: Matt Kuchar, 77

45: Paul Casey, 45

46: Ian Poulter, 128

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Warren Little

47: Soren Kjeldsen, 430

48: Brad Kennedy, 142

49: Richard Bland, 86

50: Brian Gay, 852

51: Padraig Harrington, 258

52: Phil Mickelson, 143

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Chris Trotman/LIV Golf

With research from Jamie Kennedy