Sobel: Handicapping Brooks Koepka’s Odds of Holding on to the No. 1 Ranking

Oct 23, 2018 7:16 AM EDT
  • Brooks Koepka vaulted to No. 1 in the world for the first time in his career after winning the CJ Cup this past weekend.
  • To retain the crown, Koepka will have to hold off a host of worthy challengers over the next year, including Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Dustin Johnson.

Brooks Koepka is now the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world.

In case you hadn’t already heard that news, it might come as a little bit of a surprise.

His victory at this weekend’s CJ Cup was just his second non-major title on the PGA Tour (he also owns one on the European Tour) and even though he won both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship this year, he was hardly the picture of consistency, his overall resume still paling in comparison to many of his highly-ranked peers.

Koepka’s new placement atop the list is even more impressive considering he spent the first four months of this year recovering from a wrist injury that rendered him an afterthought as recently as just a few weeks prior to the U.S. Open.

But of course, there’s no debate here. It’s just math. Nobody voted for Koepka to be ranked No. 1; it was the byproduct of a long-standing formula which — right or wrong — gives him more points than any other player in the world.

Whenever the subject of No. 1 becomes a hot topic, the popular response from fans is: Why should we even care?

Hey, it’s a valid question. Other than individual pride and possible monetary incentive from sponsors, there’s no tangible benefit to being the world’s best golfer. Other numbers, such as top-50, can seal a player’s fate for inclusion into majors and other invitational events.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Brooks Koepka

So, why should we care?

My usual answer is that since the players themselves care, then those who follow their careers and pay attention to the game should similarly care.

Upon ascending to No. 1 on Sunday, Koepka said, “It’s unbelievable. Look at where I started, my first pro start was in Switzerland and I don’t think I could’ve said six years later that I’d be No. 1 in the world. … I’m so happy right now, I don’t even know what to say.”

For a guy who so often appears nonchalant when collecting major championship trophies, this served as a rare display of emotion. Officially becoming the world’s best golfer obviously means something to him, so it should mean something to anyone who cares about what the top players care about.

That said, there’s always a way for it to mean even more for the rest of us.

I scoured the books after Koepka’s victory and couldn’t find any prop bets on how long he’ll hold the ranking or who might surpass him.

No problem. I created my own.

Let’s take a look at the odds for Koepka staying at No. 1, a ranking he could lose as early as this week.

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