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World Rankings are refined, but still confusing

The Official World Golf Ranking formula is new and improved, even if it remains as complex as ever.

In a meeting at Carnoustie during the Open, the governing board agreed to seven changes designed to fine-tune the accuracy of the world ranking.

The most simple modification to explain is that the World Match Play Championship in England and the Million Dollar Challenge in Sun City will no longer count because they are invitation-only tournaments with unofficial prize money.

The others are a little more complicated, such as the procedure to gradual reduction of ranking points.

Tiger Woods, for example, earned 100 points for winning the PGA Championship (majors are worth 50, twice as much in the current year). In the old system, the value would be cut in half to 50 points next year, and he would lose all those points after two years.

Under the new formula, instead of points being cut in half after 52 weeks and eliminated after 104 weeks, points will be reduced by one-eighth every three months over a two-year period.

This change, which doesn't take effect until next September, is the most significant because it offers a more current reflection on who is playing well.

Other changes:

  • Points will be awarded to more of the field. In some cases, only the top 20 used to receive points.
  • Points will no longer be rounded off to whole numbers. If fourth place was worth 5.9 points and fifth place got 5.6 points, both positions were awarded six points. This change adheres to the philosophy that any player who beats another should be rewarded at a higher level. Go figure.
  • The strength-of-field formula will be revised to shrink the gap in value between a tournament with the No. 1 player compared to a tournament with the No. 2 or No. 3 player.
  • Events on a smaller tour (South Africa, Australasia) will not be worth more points just because they are co-sanctioned by a stronger tour (European).
  • The minimum number of events that count against a player's ranking will go from 40 tournaments over two years to 20 tournaments over one year. This will help players like Greg Norman, who are recovering from a season-ending injury.
The bottom line?

Woods is still No. 1, and likely will stay there for a while.

Feeling Chipper

Chip Beck was all smiles in Canada, which isn't all that unusual coming from a man who always sees the glass half-full. This time he had reason -- for the first time in three years, Beck made the cut in back-to-back tournaments.

During a two-week tour of the Great White North, Beck tied for 31st in Air Canada Championship and tied for 15th in the Bell Canadian Open, where the electronic scoreboard only had to change screens four times before the gallery could see the name "Beck."

"It's nice to get back in the game," he said.

But his wicked slump may not keep him in the game much longer. Beck used his one-time exemption for being top 50 in career earnings to stay on tour this year, but at 187th on the money list, he needs about $200,000 to keep his card.

Otherwise, Beck will return to Q-school for the first time in 20 years.

"I'm either going to qualify or get it all done in the next couple of weeks," Beck said. "I'd rather play good on the Nike Tour than bad out here, because at least you're building confidence and moving forward. The way I've played the last three years hasn't been much fun at all.

"As long as I get my game back, I'll be happy," he said. "I know I'll get it back."

Sergio and IMG

Agents for Sergio Garcia aren't giving up the Spanish sensation to the IMG, but they have hired the massive sports agency to handle certain areas where they lack expertise.

"Our goal is to maintain Sergio's current environment, which up to now has been so successful," said Jose Marquina of albatros Scratch SL (aka, Team Sergio). "IMG will contribute their expertise in certain specific areas."

The relationship already appears to be paying off.

In announcing the arrangement, Garcia's agents also released his schedule for the rest of the year. It includes the Dunhill Cup, World Match Play Championship, the Million Dollar Challenge in Sun City and the Williams World Challenge, the 12-man event worth $3.5 million at the end of the year.

All of them are managed by IMG.

Oh, Canada

The toughest decision in golf last week turned out be the best one for Glen Hnatiuk. The Manitoba native had an exemption to play in the Canadian Open, but opted to stay on the NIKE TOUR with hopes of getting back to the PGA TOUR.

Hnatiuk, 34, made a 12-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to win the Tri-Cities Open. The victory was worth $40,500 and moved him up to fifth on the Nike Tour money list. The top 15 get their PGA TOUR cards.

Divots

  • Looking for possible pairings in the Ryder Cup? During the U.S. practice at The Country Club, captain Ben Crenshaw put together Hal Sutton with Jeff Maggert, two players who are steady off the tee. David Duval and Phil Mickelson are also together in that foursome.
  • LPGA Tour commissioner Ty Votaw has finally settled his family in Daytona Beach, Fla. His wife, Paula, a human resources manager for General Electric, is taking a similar job with International Speedway Corp.
  • Colin Montgomerie is rarely short on confidence, even after blowing a three-stroke lead and losing the British Masters to Bob May. "Normal service resumes next week, and we'll see who's on the leaderboard with me there," he said.
  • Clemson (men) and Georgia (women) will start the 2000 college season at No. 1, according to Golfweek's preseason rankings.

Stat of the week

The last time a European won a major championship and a Ryder Cup singles match in the same year was 1985 (Sandy Lyle and Bernhard Langer). Europeans are 0-4 since then.

Final Word

"Every once in a while, you see Tiger Woods and David Duval playing the way they've played and you think it's easy to win. But as great as Tiger is, he's winning by one. It's just not that easy."
-- Paul Azinger.