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TURNBERRY, Scotland (AP)—Vijay Singh can now play as much as he wants without overly affecting his world ranking.
The Official World Golf Ranking board announced Wednesday that it will gradually change its formula starting next year, adding a maximum divisor of 52 tournaments so that players who prefer a full schedule will not be punished.
For most of the decade, Singh was the example most players cited when it came to the world ranking.
The formula is based on ranking points earned at each tournament, divided by the number of tournaments played. The value of points are gradually reduced every 13 weeks over a two-year period, with a minimum divisor of 40 tournaments.
That helped Tiger Woods, who doesn’t play 40 times over a two-year period. It hurt players like Singh, who was playing as many as 60 tournaments during that period. Despite winning nine times in 2004, he didn’t overtake Woods at No. 1 until late in the season.
The change is relatively simple.
The maximum divisor will be a player’s most recent 52 tournaments—no matter how many he has played in the two-year period. The board decided on that number because it is the average number of tournaments played by the top 200 players in the world.
The board also was concerned that players were skipping tournaments at key times in the year because a lower divisor might help their ranking when trying to qualify for World Golf Championships and some of the majors.
“The board believes this measure will encourage players to play more often,” said Sir Michael Bonallack, chairman of the ranking board.
The formula will be changed gradually to avoid any massive shifts at one time. The maximum divisor will be 60 in January, then drop two tournaments ever six months until it is down to 52 tournaments in January 2012.
TURNBERRY TROUBLE: The British Open isn’t held often at Turnberry, and when it is the Royal & Ancient takes a hit on ticket sales because the seaside links is a hard place for fans to get to.
Add in the global recession and things are doubly tough this year. Though Open officials say they expect more than the 114,000 who attended the Open when it was last held in Turnberry in 1994, the crowds won’t be nearly as big as they have been in other locations in recent years.
The walk-up sales will be key, and for that officials are hoping for a leaderboard that includes Tiger Woods and a British player or two as well as some good weather on the weekend.
“Given fair weather and a good leaderboard, I think we’ll be well over 120,000 at the end of the week, which is pretty good given the current economic climate,” said David Hill, chairman of the R&A’s championship committee.
Tickets can be had for the weekend for less than $100, and children under 16 are free. The R&A has been pushing sales in a marketing campaign the last few weeks, but Hill made it clear Wednesday that tickets will still be readily available.
BIG BUSINESS: Greg Norman is at the British Open trying to recreate the magic from last year, when he led entering the final round. That’s not stopping him, though, from thinking about the pressures facing his business empire.
Norman, who has built a fortune on interests in everything from wine to course design, said Wednesday that the global recession has forced cutbacks in his businesses that included cuts in employees.
“I’ve had to make changes. I’ve unfortunately had to lay off people, which is not a good feeling,” Norman said. “It’s the first time in my entire life, in my short business life of nearly 20 years, that I’ve had to do that.”
Norman said the recession has hit hardest in his golf course design business, particularly in the United States, where work has dried up. He’s been busy trying to drum up business elsewhere, taking a trip to China earlier this month to tap into a market he thinks holds a lot more promise.
“I think I’ve got a lot of belief in China, like a lot of what the rest of the world does, not just in resources, but in development,” Norman said.
Norman said he doesn’t believe course design business will come back in the near future in the United States, but that work in China and countries like Vietnam, where he has three courses in development, will help make up for it.
“We’ll all work our way through it,” he said. “I’ve been through three of them (recessions) but nothing to this magnitude.”
NOT SO BLIND DRAW: Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson made it clear Wednesday that the groupings for the first two rounds of the British Open are not random.
For starters, the R&A tries to group one player from North America, one from Europe and one from other parts of the world. There are 44 Americans in the 156-man field, along with Canadian citizens Mike Weir and Stephen Ames.
That would explain why David Toms and Tom Lehman are the only Americans in the same group at Turnberry.
Other factors include TV interests; gallery movement; who plays fast (Mark Calcavecchia is in the first group); and when the gallery which arrive and leave, which helps with traffic.
The most notable group this year is Tiger Woods and Ryo Ishikawa of Japan, both of whom attract an enormous amount of photographers. The third player in that group is Lee Westwood.
“I was obviously cognizant of the amount of media interest there is in that group,” Dawson said. “I have since spoken to Tiger and to Lee Westwood. They’re entirely happy about the grouping. And we’re happy that we have good controls in place on the media following that group. There will be a lot of interest in it, that’s for sure.”
LOVE WITHOUT LANGUAGE: Tom Watson has an affection for Scottish fans, and the feeling is mutual. Of the five British Open titles he has won, four of them were in Scotland—Carnoustie, Turnberry, Muirfield and Royal Troon.
He recalled the final round Saturday in 1975 at Carnoustie, when a young girl who lived next to the house Watson rented gave him aluminum foil with heather, telling him it was for good luck. Watson wound up winning in a playoff. The neighbors knocked on the door after he captured the claret jug, simply wanting to say hello and tell him how happy they were for him.
“That’s the way it started,” Watson said. “And that’s the way it’s always been.”
Still, a language barrier remains, especially if the brogue is particularly thick.
That’s how it was Wednesday, when someone at Turnberry said something to Watson. He didn’t catch it, so he asked the man to repeat himself—twice.
“I couldn’t understand a word,” Watson said.