Branden spicing up World Ranking for local events

It could be because he’s 23, because he wanted to stay sharp, or because he misses home. Whatever the reason for his participation, Branden Grace playing in two ‘winter’ events on the Sunshine Tour has shown how easily the World Ranking points on offer in local events can be boosted.

And that means everyone wins.

Take Grace – at the start of the year he burrowed into the record books, becoming the youngest player since Seve Ballesteros to win three European Tour events. He quickly moved within the top-50 in the World Ranking, that top echelon that receives invitations to all of the majors and the highly-lucrative World Golf Championships tournaments.

How does a player of that stature benefit from playing on the Sunshine Tour? It all starts with his involvement. Grace, along with world number 90 George Coetzee, added massive points to the pot when they played the Vodacom Origins of Golf final at Fancourt last week. So many points, in fact, that Grace’s victory took him from 62nd to 49th in the World Ranking. A 13-spot move at that level is no small feat.

The value of playing local events becomes apparent very quickly.

For locally-based players the rewards are just as great. A perfect example is Allan Versfeld, who took his maiden victory at De Zalze Golf Estate in August. In the process he earned six ranking points, instead of the four which would normally be on offer. The boost came courtesy of Jaco van Zyl’s and Jbe Kruger’s presence.

Last week at Fancourt he came second, yet Grace’s and Coetzee’s involvement meant that he once again took home six ranking points.

Both events were part of the Vodacom Origins of Golf series. They carried the same core ranking points and the same prize fund, yet Versfeld has leapt from 721st pre-August to 399th this week. It’s definitely the big names that are making the difference.

A similar story played out for Ryan Cairns, who won Vodacom Origins of Golf Simola and rocketed a massive 721 places upwards in the World Ranking. Grace’s presence in the field doubled the ranking points available that week.

Cairn’s case inadvertently highlights the pitfalls facing this system. While the Zimbabwean lifted the trophy, Charl Schwartzel was resting at home. At the time Schwartzel ranked 15th in the world, and one can only imagine what his presence could have done for the ranking points.

With appearance fees, busy schedules and very little downtime, big-name players are difficult to pin down for such tournaments. While the younger players like Grace, Coetzee, Kruger and Van Zyl still compete locally, it certainly comes across as a contribution to the game. Were all four players to compete at one ‘winter’ event they could triple the ranking points on offer and make it a worthwhile event for all.

The mindset needs to be changed, and Grace may just have started the ball rolling. It’s a cycle that only improves – the more highly-ranked payers, the better the ranking points. For players floundering around the top-100 mark, the buoy that refloats their season might just be lying hidden on their back doorstep.

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