New World Order: Like (really) old times for Jolly Old England

by | Senior Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- You have to be a certain age, been reared south of the Mason-Dixon line, or had parents who listened to AM radio back when that medium actually mattered.

A crossover country star named Roger Miller crooned the pop lyrics: England swings like a pendulum do.

Miller also sang that you can't roller skate in a buffalo herd, so he clearly had a firm grip on the steering wheel of the U.S.S. Obvious.

Luke Donald has only two stroke-play victories in the past five years. (US Presswire)  
Luke Donald has only two stroke-play victories in the past five years. (US Presswire)  
As this admitted tangent relates to New World Order's monthly Domination Index of the top 10 players in the game, Miller was locked in on the truth, because the English have taken over the ratings like the colonial era had begun all over again.

The pendulum on Sunday moved from Lee Westwood to Luke Donald, and could just as soon arc back the other direction, too. The two Olde Englanders are running first and second in the official world rankings, and this time, that particular computer has things sorted exactly right. Well, with the two top slots, anyway.

Down the totem pole a few notches is the ever-colorful countryman Ian Poulter, who finally got his putter to behave and logged a gritty match-play victory over none other than Donald nine days ago to climb back into our super-subjective, vastly more reflective global pecking order.

Whereas the OWGR and Golfweek Sagarin ratings use different metrics and are graded on 24- and 12-month periods, the New World Order is a look at the Here and Now, because with as much parity as there has been in the game this season, the turnover at the top of the fixed-period rankings doesn't begin to give you the best picture of the hottest players of the moment.

Unlike with AM radio and the slow-moving computer ratings, static isn't a way of life in the index. Our rankings, which weigh the computer ratings and adds heaping helpings of recency and common sense, by design are more fluid. So, you tell us: You wanna bet a pint of a cold adult beverage based on a rankings derived from results amassed 20 months ago, or 20 days ago?

Smart answer. Hope you enjoy your free cervesa.

No question, it's been a wild spring for several premier players, including U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, who went from 54-hole leader to a T33 finish over the final 18 holes at Sawgrass. McDowell dropped off the list and hasn't had a top-10 finish in a full-field event since the first week of March. Phil Mickelson, mercurial as always and with only one victory over the past 13 months, was tossed along with him. Tiger Woods dropped off three months ago.

In case you hadn't noticed lately, the game already is in full-blown transition. At the moment, it has a distinctly British accent. Hey, it could have been even more pronounced. If not for a recent spate of unimpressive results, England's Paul Casey would have made this list, too.

1. Luke Donald, England -- OWGR: 1 -- Sagarin: 2 -- May New World Order: 2

It would be pure idiocy to dispute the notion that Donald is the best player in the game right now, and he's added to bog wins to shut the mouths of those who were still complaining that he wasn't enough of a closer to deserve the spot. Sure, he had chances to take over the top spot earlier in the season, but the manner in which he took over the No. 1 position on Sunday at the BMW PGA Championship outside London was emphatic. He looked the reigning No. 1 right in the eye and beat the guy. Pretty impressive from a player once believed to be too soft for the game's upper echelon.

2. Lee Westwood, England -- OWGR: 2 -- Sagarin: 4 -- May New World Order: 1

Westy picked off a couple of second-tier events after the Masters to cement the top spot last month, but he'd have a hard time finding fault with Donald's ascendance, especially wince the Northwestern grad just beat him fair and square in a sudden-death playoff at Wentworth. As it should be, the top two players in the world settled it with their swords in the field of battle. I wouldn't be surprised if they kept swapping spots at the top of the charts for a few months. You know, like the Beatles and Stones.

3. K.J. Choi, South Korea -- OWGR: 16 -- Sagarin: 30 -- May New World Order: Not ranked

He hit the wall a bit last week with a forgettable T40 at the Byron Nelson in his adopted home state of Texas, but Choi has been jalapeno hot for a while not and finally knocked off a biggie last month with his memorable victory at the Players Championship. Choi was one of the back-nine leaders at the masters for the second year in a row, and we really like his chances at the U.S. Open, staged at Congressional, where he has won in the past. Choi had four straight top-eight finishes, including the Masters and culminating with the Sawgrass win.

4. Bubba Watson, United States -- OWGR: 11 -- Sagarin: 14 -- May New World Order: 3

It's become fairly clear that Watson is never going to be Luke Donald in terms of consistency -- unless inconsistency counts as a form of constancy. Watson is one of two players to have won twice this year on the PGA Tour, but he makes fellow lefty Mickelson look like a paragon of predictable numbers. Since he won at New Orleans, Watson has mostly cooled his jets, playing twice and skipping the Texas Swing. His best finish in those two starts since his second win is T45. Some would put Nick Watney or Matt Kuchar ahead of Watson, but multiple wins mean more that a string of T12s in our book. Ever hear Nicklaus talking about how many top-10s he had in his career?

5. Nick Watney, United States -- OWGR: 15 -- Sagarin: 8 -- May New World Order: 8

Watney turned 30 a few weeks ago and is thus entering his perceived prime. In his first start as a full-blown adult male, so to speak, he jumped right to the top of the Sawgrass leaderboard. It would be hard to find a better player on the U.S. tour these days. Since the start of the 2011 season, he's made 11 starts and finished in the top eight a sterling seven times, including a victory in the stacked World Golf Championships event at Doral in March. After a flat spell that included his lone missed cut last month at Quail Hollow, Watney is trending upward yet again, finishing T8 and T4 in his last two starts. Remember, he held the 54-hole lead at the PGA Championship. He's got the chops, and some battle scars, to win a major.

6. Matt Kuchar, United States -- OWGR: 7 -- Sagarin: 1 -- May New World Order: 5

There are three players in the top seven of the OWGR who have not yet won this year -- Kuchar and North Ireland tandem of Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy. Unlike the latter two, Kuchar's misfires haven't been nearly as careening. While the Macs have been all over the place this year in terms of results, Kooch has been trending back toward his 2010 mode, when he topped the money list and won the Vardon Trophy. He doesn't have a win, but he has seven top-eight finishes and was T6 last week at the Nelson. He hasn’t missed a cut in 13 months. But pragmatically, he needs to win something, soon. Maybe like Donald, Kooch will seal the deal soon.

7. Charl Schwartzel, South Africa -- OWGR: 10 -- Sagarin: 19 -- May New World Order: 6

The kid probably still has a bit of an an emotional hangover after the Masters, so we'll cut him some slack. By the way, do you know how many players since the television era began who have come from behind to win a major by making birdies on the last four holes? Just Schwartzel. That clutch execution at the Masters should be enough to make this list for the rest of the year. No question, the slim South African has played indifferently since the Masters, even missing the cut last week, but not many players can claim two wins already this season.

8. Steve Stricker, United States -- OWGR: 8 -- Sagarin: 3 -- May New World Order: 9

Like three of the seven players ahead of him in the OWGR, Stricker hasn't won this year, either. But Steady Steve has been putting up some impressively strong results, though he hasn't really figured into the Sunday mix in weeks. Stricker has amassed six top-13 finishes this year, but no victories. If some young gunslinger, like Jason Day, wins over the next couple of weeks, Stricker's going to get bounced from the list.

9. Martin Kaymer Germany -- OWGR: 3 -- Sagarin: 5 -- May New World Order: 7

Kaymer seems to be in a listless rut. He won on the EuroTour's desert swing four months ago and was second at the Accenture Match Play, but his results since then are the reason Westwood and Donald dually blew past him and ended his run at world No. 1 after a fairly quick eight weeks. Kaymer fired his caddie and seems to be searching for some answers. His lone top-10 in a full-field event since taking over as world No. 1 in February is a T9 against a thin field in Malaysia.

10. Ian Poulter, England -- OWGR: 12 -- Sagarin: 28 -- May New World Order: Not ranked

Gotta hand it to Poulter, the guy can string together mediocre results for months at a time, then jump up and win an impressive title, seemingly out of nowhere. Poulter beat Donald two weeks ago in a EuroTour match play event, ending a completely forgettable spring, outside of a T6 in the limited-field PGA Tour season opener in Hawaii. He's done it before, too. Last year, he won the Accenture Match Play title in February, then went 18 starts without finishing inside the top 10, then won in Hong Kong. Kaymer and Watson are interesting ballast to Stricker and Kuchar. Which really means more, winning intermittently and disappearing for weeks at a stretch, or rolling up strong results on a consistent basis? Good question.


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