"With the Middle East swing, those at the top are going to, if anything, stretch their lead."

Ah yes, 2012 is here and with such a short off season it's a bit tough to get excited about Friday's kickoff, but at least Pond Scummers Huggan and Elling haven't lost their cynical touch while bouncing around several topics.

This exchange about the world ranking points up for grabs early in the season could play an interesting part in determining where some big names (Els, Goosen) play, how the final Masters field shapes up and how Americans playing the PGA Tour may fall behind.

Elling: Damned unlikely. For one thing, the fields over the first six to eight weeks of the season are frequently stronger on the European Tour than in the States. The ebb and flow of the world rankings at this time of year often see a slew of Euros rise to the top because of the points on offer early in the season. Then as the bigger U.S. events start kicking off, especially in March, the points start to swing back to this side of the Pond and the Yanks start to move up a few pegs in the pecking order. OK, there's your technical explanation, anyway. As for the emotional portion, read onward.

Huggan: I'd like to see an American make the top three or four of the rankings if only to stop the whining noise that has been emanating from your side of the Pond ever since it became clear that the very best players are no longer nephews of Uncle Sam. My goodness, can you guys not give it a rest? Does it really matter that much where the top players hail from?

Elling: Yeah, it matters. Ever since Francis Ouimet, we Yanks have believed we were the best of the best. It's been a rough three or four years. Men's tennis had ceased to exist as a sport here, in large part because there are zero American players at the top of the totem pole.

Huggan: I tell you one thing about the rankings: Any American wanting to be in the top five by the Masters is going to have to pull his finger out. With the Middle East swing, those at the top are going to, if anything, stretch their lead.

Golf Magazine World And U.S. Additions

Golf Magazine's biennial World and U.S. course ranking should be unveiled any day now, but in the meantime golf.com posts a teaser slideshow of the courses added to the U.S. and World list. Great to see Kyle Phillips and team's redo work along with superintendent Thomas Bastis's exquisite attention-to-detail at Cal Club recognized by the panel.

The newcomers:

1. Old Macdonald at Bandon Dunes (#43 US/#74 World)
2. Gozzer Ranch (#70 US)
3. The Alotian (#76 US)
4. Caves Valley (#82 US)
5. California Golf Club of San Francisco (#97 US)
6. Castle Stuart (#56 World)
7. Diamante (Dunes) (#58 World)
8. Barnbougle Dunes - Lost Farm (#82 World)

The Donald Lists His Properties Amongst Cypress, Winged Foot's Of World

The best part of Golf Digest's America's Best coverage (other than the incredible iPad edition that lets you see each course from above), is the package of letters from golf dignitaries and well known blowhards listing their top 10 American courses. The Donald's will give you a hearty chuckle, especially when you see our future former presidential candidate places Cypress Point and Oakmont on either side of Trump National LA, which, incidentally, The Donald is putting out feelers to the golf world for suggestions on how to fix the mess he made.?
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"By clinging to the “home tour” rule officials have unnecessarily narrowed the global playing field and skewed the World Ranking."

Rex Hoggard reminds us why there should be consternation about the USGA and other organizations relying so heavily on the Official World Golf Ranking to determine fields for major events. He speaks to currently injured by always thoughful PGA Tour player Arron Oberholser who reels off a solid list of glaring problems with the rankings.
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"We want to continue to give the local folks a great golf course and also want to maintain our rating nationally."

Steve Lynn of New Mexico's The Daily Times looks at the revenue problems of the well-regarded Pinon Hills, the most blatant example yet of water costs impacting the health of a golf operation.

Meanwhile, the golf course is watering less despite spending more on the nonpotable water.

The course spent $42,000 on 134 million gallons of water in 2004.

By contrast, it spent $151,000 on 118 million gallons through October this year while spending about the same last year on $172 million gallons.

At the same time, the course has cut its budget. The city projected a $1.35 million budget that funds the city's golf courses this fiscal year, a decline of almost $90,000 from last fiscal year's budget.

The city expects higher green fees to raise revenue by $100,000, parks department director Jeff Bowman said.

"We want to continue to give the local folks a great golf course and also want to maintain our rating nationally," Bowman said.

"Golfweek" ranked Piñon Hills the No. 4 public golf course in the nation this year.

Naturally those last two sentences provide a nice reminder to those who don't think courses overspend to appease panelists.

Westwood Affirms #1 Ranking With Runner-Up Finish

Jason Sobel on the HSBC results and Westwood solidifying his spot at the top:

For now, though, all accolades and celebration should be heaped upon Westwood, who emerged from his first week atop the world ranking by putting greater distance between himself and the competition. That he failed to triumph at the HSBC should only serve as a symbol for his career: He might not always be good enough to win, but he is indeed good enough to be the best.

Sure, it sounds like a bizarre conundrum, but in a week that began with the world's best players brandishing swords in one another's company, bizarre might very well now be the norm anyway.

The SI guys weren't so kind.

Morfit: It is a bit odd that Westwood is winning so infrequently. On the other hand, he's played golf pretty infrequently, so maybe finishing second this week isn't so bad. I'm a lot more worried about a few other players who got a lot of publicity coming into the week.

Shipnuck: I'm way past the point of getting excited about Lee Westwood racking up another lucrative top-5 finish. To paraphrase "Glengarry Glen Ross," he needs to put down the coffee. Coffee is for closers.

Hack: Second place, a set of steak knives.

Shipnuck: Third place, you're fired. That means you, Luke Donald.