I prefer to settle it by looking at the big matches at the big events
Originally Posted by krosero
Wilander in 1983 does have important wins over McEnroe at the French and Australian, though I would still describe him as a strong #2 for the year because McEnroe won the January 1984 Masters and beat Wilander decisively there.
In Bud’s book he still says McEnroe settled the issue at the January Masters, in what he describes as the 13th month of the season. He's ambiguous about it, though, because he says that for “breadth of accomplishment” Wilander was “Player of the Year” (then he goes on to list everything Mats did in the calendar year).
So I see '76 and '83 as similar. Each year had 4 different Slam winners, and rather than settling the tie with smaller day-to-day wins, I prefer to settle it by looking at the big matches at the big events -- by looking at who was "ready" physically and mentally to take the top place from his rivals.
But doesn't your point here establish Wilander as number 1? Because as you said, he beat McEnroe at the French Open and the Australian - both tournaments that are more important than the Masters. Hence, Wilander won at the big events over McEnroe.