By Dan Reardon

With its complicated formula played out over two seasons, the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) do not always identify the best players at present so much as those of the previous two years. Sunday at Austin Country Club World, #1 and the last nine months fused into one. In a span of 32 holes, Jason Day beat Rory McIlroy at the wire and then dismissed Louis Oosthuizen 5 and 4. Taking down two players with five majors between them was the exclamation point for Day’s return to the top spot in the world of golf.

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From the moment Day wobbled to his feet, battling vertigo on his final hole of round two at the US Open at Chambers Bay, he has become the player he had always dreamed of, an Australian “Tiger.” Now he has the numbers to fit the character. In his last 13 events, Day has compiled an unlikely six wins, including the PGA Championship and then recently back to back at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and World Golf Championships-Dell Match Play.

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Day, McIlroy and Jordan Spieth make up the new Big Three. But only the Australian Tiger wins golf tournaments at a better then 46% pace.

Fellow Australian and former Masters champion Adam Scott dominated the headlines the first two months of the year. Expected to struggle early, as he went cold turkey with a new legal putting style, Scott instead flourished. He chased Bubba Watson on the back nine at the Northern Trust Open and then managed consecutive wins at the Honda Classic and WGC-Cadillac Championship. His ranking may be #6, but his play leaves only him standing in Day’s shadow.

McIlroy’s game appears solid. His scoring remains questionable. When a player changes his putting grip two weeks before The Masters, you suspect alarm bells may be ringing in his head. The Irishman has two top 10s but no wins in five starts in 2016.

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Two Americans round out the ‘super six’ for early 2016. Rickie Fowler put on a dazzling closing nine at Abu Dhabi for his first win of the year and has five domestic top 10s to go along with it. Bubba Watson has quietly become more consistently dangerous, placing in the top 10 in five of his six starts, including the win at Riviera.

Two other Americans have made the biggest moves near the top of the rankings early this year. Brandt Snedeker has climbed 32 spots to #17, highlighted by his win in San Diego at the Farmers Insurance Open. Four of his last five appearances, however, have been less than an impressive. Then there is Phil Mickelson. The lefty may be winless since 2013’s triumph at the Open Championship, but he has jumped to #20 on the strength of three top 10s this year.

Losing That Loving Feeling

Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III couldn’t have enjoyed the weekend in Texas, as he sizes up his team for Hazeltine in the fall. No American survived the quarterfinals on Friday at the Match Play, with two probable European opponents, McIlroy and Spain’s Rafael Cabrera Bello, in the final four. Bello has rocketed up 78 positions in 2016 to #36 in the ranking.

Love can take some solace, knowing that Internationals have owned the Match Play franchise, winning eight of the last eleven played.

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Dan Reardon has covered golf for radio station KMOX in St. Louis for 32 years. In that time, he has covered more than 100 events, including majors and other PGA, LPGA and Champions Tour tournaments. During his broadcast career, Reardon conducted one-on-one interviews with three dozen members of the World Golf of Fame. He has contributed to many publications over the years and co-authored the book Golf’s Greatest Eighteen from Random House. Reardon served as Director of Media relations for LPGA events in both St. Louis and Chicago for 10 years.