A new year will bring a new formula for how the world’s top-ranked male and female amateur golfers are determined. And with it, officials at the USGA and R&A who oversee the World Amateur Golf Ranking hope to address those who questioned if the previous iteration of rankings properly emphasized recent results.
Whether it brings new No. 1s, however, is unclear.
Starting in early January, the WAGR formula will incorporate what the two governing bodies are calling the Power Method that will account for strength of fields in amateur events and more smoothly allocate points to players accordingly. Golfers will continue to earn points over a two-year period, but points earned in events played in Year 2 will be “aged” out, decreasing in value every week.
Each amateur tournament, no matter the format, will earn a Power number based on how many ranked golfers are competing in the event. The top Power number an event could receive in theory would be 1,000, with the winner earning 25 points and all ranked players receiving some allocation of points. The lowest Power number would be a 1, with that tournament winner getting 7.5 points.
“The simplicity and elegance of the revised WAGR system will be of great benefit to competitive players at every level,” said Steve Otto, Director of Equipment Standards and Chief Technology Officer for the R&A. “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.”
As part of the change, amateur golfers will no longer earn points on a round by round basis during events but rather per tournament, a more intuitive approach that compares with the World Ranking systems used at the men’s and women’s professional level. This will allow for more clarity in the calculation of points, says Ross Galarneault, the USGA’s Director, Championships Scoring.
“Some people would scratch their heads and say I finished 20th [overall in an event] but got the 35th highest based points in the event,” Galarneault told Golf Digest. “You had a really bad round or two really bad rounds and a good round, so that misbalance between good and bad rounds played out. Answering a bunch of those questions for the last decade brought to light there is probably something else we need to do here.”
A golfer’s total points will be divided by the number of tournaments played to calculate the average points metric that the overall ranking will center on. Men will use a minimum divisor of eight, while women will use seven. And a player’s divisor will age at the same rate as his or her points.
According to Galarneault, the Power Method had been in development for a few years but only within the last few months had USGA and R&A officials completed enough testing to feel confident with putting the new formula into place for 2020.
Galarneault says that golfers who had high finishes in events more than a year out are likely to see their rankings drop under the new Power system. Conversely, golfers who had bad tournaments, particularly compared to their other finishes, will see their rankings rise more quickly as their results decrease in value.
Given these variables, there is a potential the composition of the WAGR top 10 will change in the men’s and women’s rankings. Galarneault says simulations have been done comparing the current formula with the new one and that the expectation is that shouldn’t be more than one or two people moving a handful of spots.
Japan’s Takumi Kanaya is the current No. 1 ranked amateur with five American golfers—Cole Hammer (2), John Augenstein (4), Stewart Hagestad (5), Ricky Castillo (7) and John Pak (10)—in the top 10. On the women’s side, Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul ranks No. 1, with two Americans, Jennifer Chang (6) and Emilia Migliaccio (9) in the top 10.
The target is for the new formula to be used for the first World Amateur Golf Ranking release Jan. 8.