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About the Pope Of Slope

Pope Of Slope

After a Week Full of Upsets
Maggert Chips In for the Ranking

New York Times, March 1, 1999

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- It won't endure in golf history like Gene Sarazen's double-eagle at the 1935 Masters or Tom Watson's chip-in at the 1982 United States Open, but Jeff Maggert's winning chip-in on the 38th hole Sunday at least made the Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship memorable for more than its $1 million jackpot. Even Andrew Magee thought so.

"The ending was pretty classic," said Magee, the $500,000 runner-up. "I even enjoyed it a little bit, being the weirdo I am."

Until then, the return to the PGA Tour of an important match-play tournament in the first of this year's three World Golf Championships had been more monotonous than marvelous. The big names kept falling off the marquee until Maggert engraved his name on it forever with a 20-foot chip with a sand wedge from the rough.

"I waited five and a half years for that," Maggert said, alluding to his one and only previous victory on the PGA Tour at the 1993 Walt Disney World/Oldsmobile Classic. "I needed a win for me, myself and I."

And for the world golf ranking that created the pairings here for the world's top 64 players. But format mostly upstaged form. The lesser-ranked golfer won 37 of the 63 matches, nearly 60 percent. Magee, far down at No. 50, had defeated Darren Clarke (No. 15), Thomas Bjorn (No.47), Bill Glasson (No. 34), Shigeki Maruyama (No. 42) and John Huston (No. 27) to get to the final.

Maggert (No. 24) had eliminated Tiger Woods (No. 1) in the quarterfinals and Nick Price (No. 9) in the second round. Glasson had stunned David Duval (No. 2) in the second round.

"I thought my 24 ranking was a pretty fair spot," Maggert said. "Some guys probably thought I was ranked too high, but I've played some pretty good golf through the years."

The success of the lesser-ranked golfers at La Costa Resort and Spa proved the popular theory:

    over 18 holes of match play on any given day, there isn't that much difference between any of the world's top 64 ranked golfers -- unlike the top 64 tennis players or the top 64 college basketball teams in the national tournament.

But the upside-down results also put the world golf ranking under the microscope as never before.

With nine victories in his last 32 tournaments, Duval would seem to have earned being No. 1, but he's still No. 2 because the ranking involves a complex point system. It's based on where the world's golfers finish in a tournament on the five major tours and that particular tournament's strength of field over a two-year period.

"If anything, some good may come out of the controversy because they may come up with a better system," Duval said early in the week. "It's more important who's No. 64 or No. 65 than it is who's No. 1 or No. 2. You don't want to leave out players who are deserving."

For the deserving, it's now more important. The world's top 50 ranked golfers are exempt in the Masters and the British Open, the top 20 in the United States Open, the top 50 in the World Golf Championships' American Express Championship at Valderrama, Spain, Nov. 4-7, and the top 64 here again in the Andersen Consulting Match Play next Feb. 23-27.

"It should be a performance-based criteria, not a point system that nobody understands," said Paul Azinger, who ousted Ernie Els in the first round before losing to Loren Roberts. "I think the guys ought to have a four-footer or five-footer to choke off to either get in or just miss this tournament, and it's not that way."

Mark McCormack, who founded the International Management Group, created the ranking more than a decade ago. One of his I.M.G. employees, Tony Greer, issues the ranking weekly.

McCormack remains the chairman of the ranking board, which includes leaders from the American, European, Japanese, southern African and Australasian tours.

"We have eight or nine tweaks," said Tim Finchem, the PGA Tour commissioner, "that we are intensely scrutinizing."

With that in mind, Golf Digest magazine asked Dean Knuth, once a United States Golf Association official and a career mathematician, to suggest changes in the world ranking that appear in the April issue.

Among Knuth's solutions: decreasing the importance, month by month, of past events except for the four majors; increasing the majors' point value; smoothing out the strength of field over the last five years; eliminating the worst 10 percent of a player's finishes; using a more equitable difference in points; cutting in half the points in Japan and Australasia as well as in off-season special events; and strengthening the points for European events to aid European pros.

Using Knuth's formula, Mark O'Meara would have supplanted Woods as No. 1 late last year and Duval now would be No. 1.

The prime example of Knuth's formula is Jumbo Ozaki, the Japanese pro who has not finished in the top 20 in any major since the 1989 United States Open. Instead of being No. 13, as Ozaki is in the ranking, he would be No. 43.

But in this match-play event that Jeff Maggert won with a classic chip-in, more often than not the ranking did not translate to victories.

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