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The USGA’s decision last week to eliminate the money list as a criteria for getting into the U.S. Open was only the latest step in giving the Official World Golf Ranking more importance, if not credibility.

The U.S. Open still puts as much emphasis on “United States” as it does on “Open.” It is sensitive to where the major is played, and it strives to keep half of its 156-man field open to qualifiers. But it also wants to be the strongest test for a major, inviting the best from around the world. The USGA ultimately decided what McCormack figured out years ago _ money might not be the best barometer anymore.

That’s why starting next year, it will swap out money lists from four tours with the top 60 in the world ranking.

“We’re more comfortable with that than we are trying to figure out internally how we judge various tours around the world,” said Mike Davis, the senior director of rules and competition. “Virtually everybody will admit that any ranking system is never going to be perfect. But we think it’s more equitable than what we do.”

The knock on McCormack and his initial idea for a world ranking was that he was only trying to promote his clients at IMG. The rebuttal was that IMG had most of the best players, anyway.

“He was always a bit of a statistical buff,” Alastair Johnson said. “For a long time in his annual, he compiled a world money list. That spawned the ranking, as it became clear a money list was distorted by the value of the dollar and obviously, the overwhelming focus on the U.S. tour and the size of its prize money. That made everything else in the world somewhat irrelevant as far as performance on the golf course.”

There have been some critical junctions for the world ranking, none more than when the Royal & Ancient became the first to use it to help determine the field for the British Open.

Five major tours around the world, along with four major championships, endorsed the world ranking at a meeting in Turnberry in 1997. A year later, the U.S. Open created a new exemption for the top 20 in the world. And then came Augusta National a year after that, doing away with its PGA Tour winners exemption (since restored) in favor of the top 50 in the world.

“It wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without the R&A endorsing it,” Johnson said. “It wouldn’t have been born. And with the Masters, that’s what I would call absolute icing on the cake.”

The latest development to elevate interest in the ranking is Woods.

He has gone nearly 15 months without winning, paving the way for Westwood to reach the top. But so many other players are lined up behind the Englishman that as many as a dozen have a chance at No. 1 this year.

Even so, some players might never buy into it.

Davis Love III doesn’t think the system is fair. But the more he spoke, he couldn’t find a better way to measure the world.

“Is it the best we have? Yes,” he said. “Is it perfect? No.”

Fair or not, the world ranking is more relevant than ever.