Interest in golf continues to escalate across the US. The fact that you can now legally and safely bet on sports in several states, including here in Illinois, is part of the reason why there’s such a spike.
Those new to golf betting are working toward getting up to speed, while experienced bettors are continually looking for an edge. One tool that can help folks in both camps is golf rankings.
So, what are golf rankings and how can you potentially use them to your advantage? We have all the details for you right here. We explain what goes into the rankings and what you can glean from them for betting purposes.
In team-based sports, a rating system attempts to get to the bottom of which clubs are the best. Known as power ratings or power rankings, some can be as simple as a top-to-bottom ranking of teams, while others go a little further.
The same type of rankings can apply to golf. On the simple side, the futures market or the odds board for an upcoming tournament gives a general order of those in the field.
Over on the advanced side, rankings assign a value to each golfer and list them from top to bottom. The rankings are based on how the players perform at events. Some players will climb up and fall down the rankings throughout the season.
Not one default system is the end all and be all for golf rankings. However, there are several popular ways to make sense of the field as the various events approach. Let’s walk through them and see what makes them tick.
The roots of the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) stretch back to 1986. The OWGR’s purpose is to rank the best golfers from around the globe on their performances over two years.
While many of the top pros are on the PGA Tour, others compete in Europe or other circuits. It can be difficult to compare them all, but the OWGR does its best to quantify info into an easy-to-use ranking system.
In a nutshell, golfers earn points based on their performance in tournaments. The system then divides the player’s total points by the player’s number of events. The result is the player’s average with golfers, then ranked in order.
While simple on its face, it gets more complicated because not all events are created equal. To solve for this, the better events are weighted at a higher rate than the smaller, less competitive ones. Here’s what the current top five on the OWGR looks like:
The rankings update weekly. One key component to examine is the difference in ranking from the previous week, as well as for the year prior. A drawback is that the rankings are over a rolling two-year period, so they may not immediately pick up current hot and cold streaks.
The FedExCup was officially introduced to the world of golf in 2007. Its goal is to provide a playoff system that is akin to other sports and to crown an undisputed season-long champion each year.
As golfers compete throughout the season, they earn FedExCup points based on how they fare. Like the OWGR, the FedExCup uses a weighted system for individual events, with more points available at more prestigious tournaments.
The points board is tallied after each event. The top 125 finishers in the standings qualify for the playoffs, which take place over three tournaments. The field is cut after each event, dropping to 70 finishers and then and down to 30 for the final.
Since the FedExCup was implemented, there have been a pair of two-time champs. Tiger Woods won the inaugural edition in 2007 and again in 2009. Rory McIlroy took down the crown in 2016 and 2019. Here’s a peek at the top of the leaderboard:
The FedExCup golf rankings provide a good snapshot of events. However, keep in mind that some golfers are simply more active than others, competing in more events. The early-season rankings can be skewed due to this, but it typically begins to even out when the PGA Tour gets to the spring portion of the schedule.
As players compete in events throughout the season, they earn money based on how they place. Naturally, tournament winners earn the most, followed by the high-finishers and so on down the line.
The money leaderboard keeps a running tally. This board can also be useful for comparison purposes as you break down the field and the season as a whole. Theoretically, the better golfers earn the most. However, once again, we have to point out a caveat.
Tracking the money leaders becomes much more reliable as the season moves along. The average PGA Tour season begins toward the end of the calendar year and rolls through the following summer.
Some golfers may not be particularly active in the early going, but they’ll ramp up play once the season hits its stride. As such, the early rankings aren’t necessarily completely indicative of the current lay of the land. Here’s a peek at the current top five on the money board:
You also should be aware that the prize pools at some tour stops are much more lucrative than others. That being the case, those who perform well in these events can climb the leaderboards even if they’ve played fewer events than other competitors. As long as you keep quirks such as this in mind, the money leaderboard can be a handy research tool.
You can find golf power rankings on various websites, sometimes referred to as power ratings. The systems range from the basic — ranking golfers from top to bottom based on feel — to the advanced.
On the advanced side, each golfer receives a numerical value, similar to how the OWGR works. While the OWGR mainly revolves around finishing positions in tournaments, power rankings may include different factors in the equation.
As an example, Golfweek publishes the power rankings of Jeff Sagarin, a well-respected expert in the field who also provides rankings for several other sports. His rankings use a proprietary formula that factors in records, strokes gained and common opponents, among other things.
This set of rankings attempts to quantify the performance of golfers over a 52-week range. Let’s take a look at the current top players by this metric. Please note that this system’s lower rating is better, as it’s designed to show a potential stroke differential for comparison purposes.
For a quick example, let’s say that you were comparing Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas for an upcoming event. According to this set of power rankings, Johnson has an edge of about a half a stroke. While that’s not enough to make a final decision, it can be a key piece of the puzzle as you look to make a case one way or the other.
Each time there’s a PGA Tour stop on tap, sportsbooks will release odds for golfers in the field to win. There will also be odds for high finishers, head-to-head matchups and other bet types. In addition, you’ll find futures odds for major events such as The Masters.
The main odds board tells us how the oddsmakers view the field in terms of how likely a golfer is to win. We can also do some quick calculations to determine the return on winning bets. While those are the main features, there’s more to see.
If you take a step back, the odds are a free research tool that you can lean on while breaking down the field for an upcoming tournament or a future event. The oddsmakers will have done the heavy lifting for you, and real-time odds updates take place as bettors weigh in.
When bets come in, odds will decrease for some golfers and potentially rise for others. It’s an efficient market overall, but part of the goal of handicapping is to spot the numbers that may be off in one direction or another. Here’s a look back at the odds for a few Masters favorites:
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As you can see, the odds won’t be the same at each operator all of the time. When doing your research, be sure to shop around to compare prices. For example, PointsBet Sportsbook and Caesars by William Hill Sportsbook may agree on a few favorites, but there can be bigger disparities the farther you move down the board.
Golf rankings do a great job of giving you an overview of how a field is shaping up, but what are some of the other steps you can take if you need to dig even deeper? One area you can start digging into is the stats. Just like any other sport, there are lots of stats you can track for golf.
As with other sports, some of the stats say a lot, while others don’t tell you that much. When researching, it’s important to spend your time on what moves the needle while tuning out the rest of the noise. Here’s a look at the items you should place on the list:
Those are the basics that you need to know. You’ll also find a whole host of variances on each metric, as well as a bunch of other statistics. Once again, we have to stress the importance of resisting the urge to get lost down the rabbit hole.
Hours and hours of examining stats won’t necessarily get you closer to your goals, but studying what matters can be time well spent. Golf stats can be a solid addition to your handicapping arsenal; just be sure to use your time wisely.
After becoming familiar with the various golf ranking systems, you may want to take a crack at building your own. On the advanced level, you could pull together various stats that you deem important, then add in the betting odds and other metrics to create a set of rankings.
For a simpler approach, you can aggregate together information from various systems. You can take your info and plug it into a spreadsheet, or take notes with a pad of paper. It’s completely up to you.
Once you have it all together, you can compare all of the data points or go a step further and assign a value to each golfer based on how that golfer stands in that set of rankings. Next, add in the betting odds for the tournament you want to handicap.
Here’s what a sample breakdown might look like for a few of the favorites in an upcoming tournament. Please note that we’re only using fictitious numbers for demonstration purposes.
As opposed to relying on a single set of ratings, you’re pulling together multiple data points to attempt to get to a consensus. You then compare the golfer’s average rating with the odds for the week and look for potential value.
While there is no foolproof system for research and handicapping, this is a straightforward way to break down the field for events. If you’re pressed for time and can’t do it for every golfer, work through the process for the top-10 or top-20 favorites.
Yes, they can assist with your overall handicapping process and decision-making. However, it’s imperative to remember that there are no golden tickets when it comes to sports betting in Illinois.
Power rankings can help you quickly get a handle on the field for events, as well as the futures market for major events. That said, you still have to do some additional legwork and consider factors such as golfer performance on the course at hand and recent play.
On the course front, some golfers may crush it on one tour stop while struggling at others. It could be the venue or course layout that impacts them. By taking the time to see how they’ve fared at this event in the past, you’ll have another clue on how they may perform.
For recent play, golfers go through hot and cold streaks just like athletes in any other sport. As an example, a player who has missed the cut five times in a row should set off some alarms, while one who has finished in the top 10 three out of the last four times may perk your interest.
Additionally, keep an eye on the weather, tee times and pairings. Once you have everything sorted through, compare what you’ve learned with what you see on the odds board. Don’t forget to take the time to review head-to-head and prop betting options for the week, as what you uncover in your research can help you out there, as well.
It takes a little time to get up to speed with golf betting, but you can quickly overcome the learning curve if you take your time and put in the work. As an added bonus, there’s a good span of time in between events, which you can use for research as your schedule permits.
Golf rankings are a tool that you can use to help handicap the field for an upcoming or future event. There are several different sets of rankings that you can lean on, and those who have the time or inclination can create their own after gaining some seasoning.
Among the rankings to watch out for are the Official World Golf Rankings, the FedExCup leaderboard, money leaders for the season and established systems that are available for free online.
You can also aggregate together a few data points along with the betting odds to formulate your own simple system. Golf rankings can help you break down a field for a tourney, but remember that they’re not the only piece to the puzzle you need for success with wagering.