November 01, 2010
You've heard by now, many times, that Tiger Woods is no longer No. 1 and that Lee Westwood is the new top dog, at least numerically speaking. This may have been the most anticlimactic ascension to No. 1 in any sport; Westwood got it by backing in even though he hasn't played in more than three weeks.
Now, it's fairly clear that nobody outside of some diehard golf fanatics really places too much stock in the No. 1 ranking, simply because we're talking a playing field that's more uneven than the BCS. (Yes, it's possible.) Westwood has been playing against some of the best golfers on the planet, yes, but he has exactly zero major wins to his credit, and has had almost no success on the PGA Tour.
Martin Kaymer, meanwhile, has had plenty of time to victory-dance, with six wins over the two-year period during which the rankings are determined, including the 2010 PGA Championship.
But here's the thing. Westwood could be a one-week champion, as the HSBC Champions this week features an insanely stacked field that includes Woods, Westwood and Kaymer. Any of those three could take (or hold) the No. 1 spot with a strong performance. Oh, and guess what? Phil Mickelson could jump all the way to No. 1 with a win.
Question is, if Woods isn't able to retake the No. 1 spot this weekend, how long will it take him to get back to the top? The rolling two-year period of assessment, while seemingly too long to adequately determine how well a player is doing at this moment, is actually Woods' best friend right now, as it allows him to continue drawing on his six 2009 wins. But once those start dropping off, beginning in March 2011 on the two-year anniversary of his win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, it's going to be that much tougher for Woods to hold onto his high ranking. And that ugly 2010 is going to be an anchor around his neck for another 24 months.
Of course, as Woods has proven time and again, winning solves all ills. And with a few well-timed victories, Woods will be right back in the No. 1 mix. Not that anybody really cares.