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Relative success of the world’s top golfing nations

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The United States is still a powerhouse in the world of professional golf. As we witnessed during the 2013 President’s Cup – when American players are on their game, they’re as hard to beat as anyone. However, golf’s top players are trending toward more diversified backgrounds. Twenty-five countries have at least one player in the world top 200, and smaller and smaller nations are producing players capable of competing on the world’s biggest golfing stages.

Of the top 200 male golfers in the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR), 83 are American, 25 are from the U.K., 15 are South African and 11 are Aussies – the usual suspects. From a pure numbers perspective, the classic golfing nations are still incredibly strong.

What is surprising, however, is the success of many smaller nations. Sweden has nine golfers in the top 200, while Denmark has four. That makes the success of the Scandinavian countries astonishing from a per capita (per person) standpoint. Hey, maybe Henrik Stenson’s play in 2013 wasn’t much of a surprise after all?

Only Fiji finishes ahead of Sweden and Denmark in the per capita ranking, and it’s likely that as Vijay Singh ages Sweden and Denmark will overtake Fiji.

Men Top 200 per capita

Men: Top-200 golfers per capita.

This is not to say that there is a shortage of top professional golfers in the United States. In fact, the U.S. is still far and away the powerhouse on the men’s international stage. And with 83 players in the top 200 and hundreds more to follow, that will not change significantly any time soon.

The shift on the women’s side in professional golf has been even more remarkable. Many of the same countries that are strong in the men’s rankings are also emerging on the women’s side. The women’s side is also more geographically spread, however, with 22 total nations represented among the top-200 golfers.

Behind the Asian success lead by South Korea and Japan, the Scandinavians are again relevant as well. Sweden and Denmark are represented, and Suzann Pettersen even brings Norway into the mix:

Women Top 200 per capita

Women: Top-200 golfers per capita.

Looking at the combination of the men’s and women’s rankings, we get a full flavor of where the world’s top golfers come from. The per capita success of nations such as Sweden and Denmark, as well as South Korea, is truly remarkable.

South Korea leads the way, largely on their success in the women’s game, but the country also has eight of the world’s top-200 men’s golfers. Japan also makes the list, promising continued growth of the game in Asia.

Overall Top 400 per capita

Overall: Top-400 golfers per capita.

The major countries in golf, Australia, the U.K., and the U.S., all still sit firmly on the top-10 list, and they aren’t going anywhere soon — the three nations alone make up more than 40 percent of the world’s top players. But the continued internationalization of golf’s major tours means that golf fans can look forward to great players from golf’s top nations being challenged by worthy competitors from smaller nations.

In case you didn’t notice, the world of golf is in good hands.

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Will works in Toronto, and as a hobby pursues sports analytics, specifically in the world of golf. He writes articles that use statistics (correlation, rather than causation) to bring (sometimes farfetched) insights and raise discussion about international golf. Will played college golf and competed internationally for Canada as a junior. These days, he’s a weekend player with a fondness for violent duck hooks.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Relative success of the world’s top golfing nations | PureStrike Golf Academy - Destin, Florida

  2. drewmin

    Nov 5, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    looks like you did the republic of ireland as “ireland” and northern ireland as the UK. if i’m not mistaken, the golf association is for the entire island of ireland. i realize that you’re talking about “countries” but given this fact and the devolution of the UK (northern ireland having its own parliament), this might be an interesting thing to consider. i’m no math whiz so i don’t know what the numbers actually look like, but that would boost ireland as a whole. and it’s also just plain remarkable how well northern ireland does alone (2 players in the top 11!).

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Power vs. accuracy

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It is an argument that may never be resolved, but I thought I would toss this out for cogitation today. That is, which is the quicker path to lower scores – adding distance or improving your accuracy through the bag?

Every week, we see the PGA Tour dominated by outlandish distances off the tee and towering iron shots from distances most of us “mere mortals” cannot even closely fathom. Golf course architects have become all but powerless to hold back the modern tour professional, short of building 8,000-yard golf courses. About the only “defense” the game has against these modern athletes is when Mother Nature decides to grace a tour event with 15-25 mph winds. Wind is a great equalizer to the power game that dominates today.

But what does that have to do with the rest of us?

Based on various research into the golfer population of the United States, it is likely that your driving distance is a lot closer to 200 yards than 300 and that a 150-yard approach is calling for at least a 6- or 7-iron — not a pitching wedge like you see the pros hit.

So, which do you think would lower your scores more – learning to hit more fairways and greens or adding 5-10 yard to your drives and iron shots? Here’s a little exercise I devised years ago to help you accurately and realistically come up with the right answer.

It requires you to devote 2-3 rounds of golf to really learning what would help you the most, so you might have to take a break from a regular competitive game you play every week, but I’ll guarantee you that this little “game” will reveal that answer very clearly. Here’s how it goes.

For round #1, hit your drive and go find it. Then, pick up the ball and walk it another 10 yards (likely the maximum distance gain you’ll get from a new driver). But don’t walk it toward the green unless it finds the fairway . . . to be fair and accurate, you have to continue on the line it was taking from the tee. If it was headed OB and stopped 3 yards short . . . you just hit it OB with that “possible new driver”. Do this on every driving hole and see how your scores turn out.

For round #2, hit your drive and again go find it. Then, pick up your ball and “improve your lie”, either to the nearest edge of the fairway or to the preferred spot in the fairway if you didn’t hit it there. But here’s the kicker . . . any drive you move to its new preferred spot, also walk it back ten yards. Again, play it out and see what happens to your scores when you gave up a few yards for better accuracy.

If those two rounds of golf don’t accurately show you which is more influential on better scores, I’ve got another one for you.

For round #3, play your drives and iron shots just like you always do, but for every green you miss, do the following. If you didn’t hit your chip or pitch shot within 10 feet of the hole, play your ball out, but also drop another ball somewhere in the 5-10 foot range (vary it up) and see if you make the putt. Keep track of the difference of the scores you shoot with your “gamer ball,” and the score you would have made with the “one-chip mulligans.”

I’ve always approached golf as a game of continual learning, but that certainly isn’t limited to learning more about your swing or the courses you play. It’s also about learning where your own game really needs the most work and improvement, and just what that improvement can do for your weekly scores.

I hope many of you will dive into this learning exercise with gusto and share your experiences with all of us in the coming weeks.

More from The Wedge Guy

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Opinion & Analysis

2022 Shriners Childrens Open Preview: Back Rickie to finally win again

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With a roll call of winners that includes Bryson DeChambeau and Kevin Na, TPC Summerlin offers players of all skill sets the chance to compete, but no matter how long off the tee, find the fairways in order to have the chance to record a score similar to that seen over the last four years – over 20-under.

Joohyung Kim – Win

Rickie Fowler – Win and Top-5

Hayden Buckley – Top-10 and Top-20

Full respect to the top of the market, but look slightly further down to Joohyung Kim, who may be priced closer to the likes of Patrick Cantlay and Sungjae Im at this time next year.

‘Tom’, as he is fondly known, has had a meteoric rise since turning pro at 15 years of age, but the short five years has seen him win at every level from Asian Development to the PGA Tour.

Even ignoring the impressive early years that includes a sixth place finish on debut at the Thai Country Club, a course that two-time Shriners winner, Kevin Na, won at some 17 years earlier, and the South Korean still retains an incredibly progressive profile.

Early days on the PGA Tour saw the then 18-year-old miss the cut at Harding Park, though he was top-50 after the first round; finish 67th at the Safeway (11th after round one) and 33rd at the Corales, before again dominating the Korean Tour in 2021.

Returning to the PGA Tour in 2022, an early top-20 at the Byron Nelson and 23rd at the U.S Open at Brookline was enough to confirm promise, although he surpassed all with a 3rd at the Scottish Open, in front of Patrick Cantlay, winner and two-time runner-up around Summerlin, and Cameron Tringale, top-five at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, an event that strongly links Tony Finau, and therefore Matt Wolff, Sungjae Im and Kevin Na, a two-time winner of the Shriners.

Everywhere you look, Kim’s best three efforts of the year have connections with previous winners or challengers at this week’s course.

Seventh place at the Detroit Golf Club sees form lines with Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau and Wolff, whilst his impressive five-shot victory at the Wyndham Championship sees him go after the same double that Webb Simpson achieved when beating Na!

The figures work well throughout, ranking an average of 10 for approaches and around 20th for tee-to-green across his last five starts on the tour, whilst his top-class accuracy off the tee – an average of better than 5th since Brookline –  will continually give him chances to attack the right side of the pins.

Of course, Kim went on to be one of the stars of the Presidents Cup last month, being one half of a winning duo that beat world number one Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns in the foursomes, and Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele in the later four-balls.

A self-confessed joker, he relaxes at all the toughest moments and yet is still focussed enough to record final rounds of 63 and 61, as he did at Detroit and Sedgefield.

He’s on his way to the top.

 

I wanted to be with Dean Burmester, playing very well across the Korn Ferry and now PGA Tour, but I’m uncertain this will be his track, so row along with another 33-year-old, this time one that might do a ‘Martin Laird’ and resurrect his career.

Rather like Kim, Rickie Fowler was linked with a move to LIV, but whilst admitting the PGA Tour had its faults, it was still the best place to play golf.

And he has backed that up with what looks like a new desire. Having jacked his former caddy and recruited Rickie Romano, it looks as if he will reunite with former coach Butch Harmon, with whom he had great success. The changes look as if they have struck gold almost immediately.

Having not had a top-10 finish since the C.J Cup almost a year ago, Fowler bounced back to form at Silverado last week, when his sixth place finish saw him improve in almost all aspects. Indeed, his overall strokes gained of +8.8 were the best set of figures since the Wells Fargo in 2019, and came courtesy of positive aspects in driver, irons and putting, the latter something he is concentrating on above the other factors.

Form figures here need a touch of editing. The last two missed cuts are during a long, barren and depressing period for the man in orange, but previous course figures of 4/25/22/7 sit well with the most recent record of contenders.

Back happy with his game, with a team he is comfortable with, and with back form at the Memorial and Honda events, expect better still.

With course form repeating year on year, take a chance with Hayden Buckley at a big price for both a place and a top-20 finish.

A winner on the Canadian Mackenzie Tour and on the KFT (beating the highly rated and strongly fancied Taylor Montgomery), the 26-year-old hasn’t quite hit the heights expected, even if we are all too quick to expect players to be winning within months of arriving on tour. That is harsh given in 32 PGA stars, the former Missouri athlete has six top-20 finishes that include three top-10s.

Best of Buckley’s starts in a handful of top level starts last year were a fourth place in his home town at the Sanderson Farms, followed immediately by a top-10 here, and therefore last weekend’s top-20 in Mississippi may be the catalyst for a similar effort this week.

Long off the tee, Buckley should again give himself plenty of chances to score and, importantly, confidence with the putter will be high after finding almost six shots on the greens last week, a similar figure to that at the Rocket Mortgage and Detroit.

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2022 Open de Espana: Betting Picks & Selections

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Golf may be in a strange place at the moment, but at least the DP World Tour is serving up quality courses, if not always the best of fields.

It seems as if we have had quality courses on show for a few weeks now, and with Valderrama, Dom Pedro, Gary Player CC and Jumeirah still to come, the tail end of the season does not let up.

This week, the Club de Campo hosts the Spanish Open for the third year in succession, and whilst a gifted short game will never go amiss in mainland Europe, the course is more forgiving than previous locations, allowing the likes of Julien Guerrier, Wil Besseling, Alex Levy and Bernd Wiesberger the chance to win despite the frailties in other departments.

Hennie du Plessis Win/Top-10

Lucas Bjerregaard Win/Top-10/Top-20

Hot favourite Jon Rahm could lap this field as he did when winning by five shots in 2019, and whilst he was nowhere near right and had several excuses last year, it serves as an example to those wanting to smash their way in to the 9/4 chance, a price shorter than many of the prices offered about Tiger Woods in his prime.

Whilst it’s tough to see Rahm out of the frame, there are cases against Adri Araus and Eddie Pepperell for win purposes, so look further down the list for a couple of players that should suit the course, even if current form doesn’t scream out.

South Africa has seen a couple of winners here in the shape of former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and Thomas Aiken, and I’ll take a chance that fellow Springbok Hennie du Plessis can join them.

 

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A post shared by Hendrik Du Plessis (@hennieduplessis)

Although the winner of just two events in a career close to 150 starts, the 25-year-old has shown enough in five starts in Spain to think Club de Campo will light him up again.

At the beginning of the season, du Plessis led the MyGolf Life Open for three rounds before finishing runner-up at Pecanwood, behind Pablo Larrazabal and Adri Arnaus.

Having then finished runner-up at the Limpopo Championship for the second time, has finished third to Larrazabal at the ISPS Handa at infinitum Golf Course and sixth in Girona behind Arnaus again – cracking form if the latter’s second and fourth in two attempts around here ae any guide.

He then flirted with the LIV tour, and banking almost $3 million when running up at LIV London, would not have been too depressed when he was dumped by Greg Norman et al, even if it seems as though the move took something out of him.

Despite a top-20 at Crans, recent form leaves a bit to be desired, but he should be buoyed by returning to Spain, where he can add finishes of fifth,18th and 39th to the results listed above.

Very long off the tee, there is a chance he performs similarly to the players listed higher up the page, those that also took advantage of length.

Lucas Bjerregaard is tough to read, but is another that comes to a track that should suit his length and par-five skills, as it did when 12th last season.

As a winner of the Alfred Dunhill Links and Portugal Masters, the Dane’s modus operandi should be fairly clear, and with last year’s leaderboard showing correlation with much of the courses in the Middle East, I expect the 31-year-old to thrive this week.

Lucas turns up when least expected, as he did when coming off a series of missed cuts and poor finishes to finish third at Celtic Manor in August, whilst he also did the same when needing to do well to keep his card, recording his best finish of 2021 in Portugal, and when just outside the top-10 here last year, again off a series of poor results.

When he is ‘with’ us, the Dane has a game full of strong tee-to-green product, using his length off the tee and strong iron play, but it is also the way he repeats form at certain tracks that just pushes him into being a play.

First, second, ninth and 12th at the Dom Pedro, and second and ninth at Crans, both courses can be tricky but are susceptible to those with experience in the wind and with power on their side – again, find the short stuff leaving wedges to the greens.

Whilst he may have his supposed safety net of Portugal in a few weeks’ time, Lucas needs a good finish to get him much closer to the top 117 in the rankings. Why not start at a course at which he found over seven shots in overall strokes gained just 12 months ago?

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