World Ranking under Fire
MATCH MAKER

Until this year the World Ranking was largely ceremonial. Who
cared if Greg Norman or Nick Price was No. 1? But with the
introduction of three $5 million World Championship events in
1999, starting with next week's Andersen Consulting Match Play,
for which only the top 64 are eligible, players from San Diego
to Melbourne to Dubai were suddenly poring over the Ranking.

"If I make some points, I'll be all right," said a slumping Nick
Faldo at last week's Dubai Desert Classic. When Faldo missed the
cut, he stayed at No. 65, but he got in anyway because
14th-ranked Jumbo Ozaki declined his invitation. Faldo will meet
No. 1 Tiger Woods in the first round.

The World Ranking was the 1968 brainchild of Mark McCormack,
majordomo of the International Management Group. In '85
McCormack hired London statistician Tony Greer to refine the
system, which was roundly ignored until 1997, when it was
sanctioned by the four majors and the world's five pro tours. As
the sole criterion for entry into next week's Match Play, it
took on added significance.

Now everyone's interested, and confused. How can a player move
down after playing well? How can David Duval still be No. 2?

The Ranking is based on performance over the past two years,
with the finishes in the most recent 12 months counting twice as
much as those in the 12 before that. Every tournament around the
world is awarded rating points based on the quality of its
field. If the No. 1 player is entered, the tournament gets 50
points. If No. 2 is also in, add 34 more. Even player No. 100 is
worth two points. Add them all up--the maximum is 825--and you
get a tournament's rating.

If a player wins an event with a total of, say, 726 to 775
points, he earns 78 points toward his World Ranking. If he wins
a lesser event, one with only 106 to 115 points, he earns just
34. Lastly--and this is what has bewildered many
players--performances from exactly two years ago fall off the
charts. For instance, Woods earned 100 points for winning the
'97 Masters. After the '98 Masters, that number was reduced to
50. After this year's Masters, those 50 points are history.

The confusion among the players could be alleviated if at the
start of the year the PGA Tour presented every pro with a
printout of his performance over the past 24 months. A player
could then see that the points he earned for his third-place
finish two years ago at, say, Pebble Beach were about to
disappear and that he might drop a notch even by finishing 20th
that week. Of course, before this happens, the Tour must
understand the workings of the system.

"All this with the World Championships is a learning experience
for everyone," says Tour official Lee Patterson, sounding a bit
bewildered. "The more we learn about it, the better information
we will get to the players." Let's hope.

Parting Shots
RITTS DENIES KICKBACK CLAIM

Jim Ritts, who on Feb. 5 resigned as commissioner of the LPGA,
says he received teary farewells from the players at last week's
Los Angeles Women's Championship. Helen Alfredsson surely was
not among their number. Alfredsson had little good to say about
the outgoing commissioner, calling him Mr. Slick and even
accusing him of taking kickbacks. Alfredsson, in a story under
her byline in Golf World, alleged that Ritts "received a
percentage for each tournament he added to the calendar, which
would explain why he seemed so preoccupied with [having us play]
as many events as possible."

Ritts, who added seven tournaments during his three years in
office, denies receiving a bounty. "That's just wrong, and I
don't have any idea why Helen would write something like that,"
he says. "I'm paid a salary, and the LPGA's board of directors
meets to determine objectives. For bonuses it's up to the board
to evaluate how I've done."

Was adding tournaments one of those objectives? "Yes," says
chairman of the board Andy Shepard, "but there was never any
compensation or kickback of any kind. I don't know where the
hell [Alfredsson] comes up with this. No idea. It's absolutely
astounding."

"Maybe I needed to check my own facts," Alfredsson said at L.A.,
where she tied for sixth. "I apologize if I made any inaccurate
statements."

COLOR PHOTO: ANDREW REDINGTON/ALLSPORT NICK STICKS Faldo missed the cut in Dubai, but made the Match Play. COLOR PHOTO: JIM MIDGETT TWO COLOR PHOTOS: MICHAEL PRICE

Threesomes

What do these three players have in common?

--Bruce Crampton
--Lee Trevino
--Gil Morgan

They are the only Seniors to win at least six events during
their rookie seasons. Crampton ('86) and Trevino ('90) had seven
victories apiece, while Morgan ('97) won six times.

Feedback

Do you know how the World Ranking is calculated?
No 83%
Yes 17%
--Based on 627 responses to our informal survey

Next question: Who should be ranked No. 1, David Duval or Tiger
Woods? To vote, go to www.cnnsi.com/golf.

Numbers

Here's a ranking in which Woods is No. 2--behind Annika
Sorenstam. By dividing the number of career starts into the
number of victories of active PGA Tour and LPGA players, we
determined which golfers have the best winning percentages.

PLAYER WINS/STARTS PCT.

1. Annika Sorenstam 16/103 15.53
2. Tiger Woods 8/53 15.09
3. Karrie Webb 10/76 13.16
4. Nancy Lopez 48/400 12.00
5. Phil Mickelson 12/146 8.22
6. Patty Sheehan 32/398 8.04
7. David Duval 9/116 7.76
8. Laura Davies 17/222 7.66
9. Greg Norman 18/256 7.03
10. Beth Daniel 32/464 6.90
11. Ernie Els 6/92 6.52
12. Tom Watson 34/553 6.15
13. Betsy King 31/605 5.12

Faces

Jeff Bell, Plano, Texas
Jeff, 15, won the player of the year award in the 13-15 age
group of the Texas Junior Golf Tour by amassing 1,085 points in
the 13-event series. In six events Jeff, a freshman at Shepton
High, had four wins, including the tour's championship; two
seconds; and a 74.18 scoring average.

Gene Peterson, Hingham, Mass.
Tom Tarsia, West Orange, N.J.
Peterson, 54, and Tarsia, 30, paired to win the PGA
Senior-Junior Championship at the Estate Course at PGA National
Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., with a better-ball score
of 17-under 199, a shot lower than four other teams. The
pairings were done randomly, and Peterson and Tarsia had never
met until half an hour before the opening round. Each received
$5,000, the biggest checks of their competitive careers.
Peterson, an instructor at the Fore Seasons Practice and
Learning Center in Hingham, was the head pro at Cohasset (Mass.)
Golf Club from 1975 to '96. Tarsia is an assistant pro at Essex
Country Club in West Orange.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)