Ranking the 10 Most Dominant Reigns as World No. 1 in Golf History

Ben AlberstadtFeatured ColumnistMay 26, 2014

Ranking the 10 Most Dominant Reigns as World No. 1 in Golf History

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    In the nearly 20-year history of the Official World Golf Ranking, 17 golfers have earned the title of world No. 1.

    Most recently, Adam Scott deposed Tiger Woods to take over the top position in the ranking. Scott made a statement in his first tournament since assuming the top spot with a victory at the Colonial Invitational. And while it remains to be seen how dominant he'll be while sitting atop the ranking, 16 golfers have already seen their time at the top come and go.

    It's fitting, then, to take a look at the 10 most dominant reigns as world No. 1.

10. Tiger Woods: 6/14/1998-3/27/1999

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    Tiger Woods' fifth stint at the top of the Official World Golf Ranking lasted 41 weeks from June 1998 to March 1999. It was the 11th-longest period of time a golfer has maintained the top spot in OWGR history. 

    From June 1998 through the end of the 1998 season, Woods notched six top-10 finishes in seven starts. He finished third at the Open Championship, tied for 10th at the PGA Championship and was second on the PGA Tour with a 69.21 scoring average for the year. 

    From the beginning of 1999 until he lost the top spot at the end of March, Woods finished inside the top 10 in five of seven starts, including a win at the Buick Invitational.

9. Greg Norman: 11/29/1987-10/29/1988

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    In his career, Greg Norman has spent a total of 331 weeks at the top of the Official World Golf Ranking. Only Tiger Woods has spent more time as the top-ranked golfer in the world. 

    Norman's 48-week stint at the top of the heap was the second period of time he spent as the No. 1 golfer in the world. In the 14 times he teed it up on tour in 1988, Greg Norman made 12 of 14 cuts, won the MCI Heritage Golf Classic and notched seven top 10s.  

    The Australian also won five times internationally in 1988 to cement his dominant tenure as the best golfer in the world. It's the volume of international victories that nudge Norman's 48-week stretch ahead of Tiger's in the previous slide.

8. Greg Norman: 9/14/1986-11/21/1987

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    For 62 weeks from September 1986 through November 1987, Greg Norman held the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his storied career. 

    The Shark made 18 of 18 cuts on tour and recorded nine top-10 finishes. Really, Norman was cashing in on his '86 Open Championship victory in being vaulted to the pre-eminent position. 

    However, as he didn't win on the tour during the stretch, it's relatively unremarkable outside of its duration.

7. Ian Woosnam: 4/7/1991-3/21/1992

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    Welshman Ian Woosnam spent 50 weeks as the No. 1 golfer in the world from the beginning of May 1991 through the end of March 1992.

    The diminutive golfer won the 1991 Masters, beating Jose Maria Olazabal by a stroke. During the 1991 season, Woosnam made the cut in all six of his tour starts and won the USF&G Classic in addition to the aforementioned Masters victory.  

    Woosie's Masters win puts him ahead of the previous three entries on this list.

6. Greg Norman: 8/20/1989-9/1/1990

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    The Great White Shark's fifth stint at the top of the Official World Golf Ranking lasted for 54 weeks.

    From late August 1989 through September 1990, the Aussie won three times on tour. In 1989, Norman made 16 of 17 cuts and finished inside the top 25 an impressive 14 times. The next season, he made 16 of 17 cuts again, this time with 15 top-25 finishes. He also captured the Australian Masters and the Australian Open in 1990. 

    Multiple PGA Tour wins, multiple international wins and a remarkably consistent level of high play for more than a year earn Norman the sixth spot on this list.

5. Tiger Woods: 3/25/2013-5/17/2014

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    From March 2013 through May 2014, Tiger Woods was the world No. 1. During the 60 weeks he spent as the world's top-ranked golfer, Woods won five tour events, including the 2013 Players Championship. 

    Woods was knocked from his perch thanks to a period of inactivity following back surgery, and Adam Scott assumed the Nike staffer's position at the top. During his 11th stretch as the best golfer in the world, Woods made 19 of 19 cuts on tour with a total of eight top-10 finishes. His 68.98 scoring average in 2013 was the second-best on the tour. 

    100 percent of cuts made and five victories during his 60-week stretch at the top make Woods' streak the fifth-best of all time, even though it didn't include a major victory.

4. Nick Faldo: 7/19/1992-2/5/1994

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    Sir Nick Faldo was the No. 1 golfer in the world from July 1992 through February 1994. He won the 1992 Open Championship in addition to winning four times on the European Tour during the 81 weeks he spent as the top-ranked golfer in the world. 

    Overall, Faldo made six of seven cuts on the PGA Tour in 1992. In 1993, he made six of six cuts.

    Four wins internationally, one major championship and two consecutive seasons of cuts made on the PGA Tour make Faldo's 81 weeks as No. 1 the third-most dominant stretch of all time.

3. Greg Norman: 6/18/1995-4/19/1997

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    Getty Images/Getty Images

    From June 1995 through April 1997, Greg Norman held the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking. The stint brought Norman's total weeks as world No. 1 in his career to 305. 

    Norman won four times on the PGA Tour during the stretch as well as three times on the PGA Tour of Australia.

    In 1995, Norman made 15 of 16 cuts on the PGA Tour with 14 top-25 finishes. In 1996, he made 12 of 17 cuts with 10 top-25 finishes. And in 1997, Norman made four consecutive cuts prior to missing the cut at the Masters and losing his top spot.

    Ninety-six weeks on top and seven total wins earn Greg Norman the third spot on our ranking.

2. Tiger Woods: 6/12/2005-10/30/2010

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    From June 2005 to October 2010, Tiger Woods spent 281 weeks as the top-ranked golfer in the world. 

    Let that sink in. 

    During that period of time, the native Californian won 29 times on the tour, including five major victories.

    Let that sink in. 

    A lot more could be said about the brilliance of this period of Woods' career, but it's more than sufficient to state the following: Tiger's second-most dominant stretch on top of the Official World Golf Ranking is so far beyond anyone else's on this list that it's ridiculous.

    There is a greater gap between Greg Norman at No. 3 on this list and Tiger Woods at No. 2 than there is between No. 3 and No. 10.

1. Tiger Woods: 8/15/1999-11/4/2004

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    Thirty-one wins on tour, seven majors, 261 straight weeks as the top-ranked golfer in the world. Tiger Woods' stretch from August 1999 through November 2004 was the most brilliant stretch of golf in the modern era. It's easily the No. 1 entry on our list. 

    Consider this: To finish 1999, Woods won six of seven straight tournaments he entered. For a period of time from the end of 1999 through the middle of 2001, Tiger won five of six straight majors. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Woods never missed a cut during this period.

    Unreal stuff. 

    Any way you slice it, Tiger's 261 weeks at the top from 1999 to 2004 represent not only the most dominant stretch for a world No. 1 but also the most dominant stretch of professional golf ever played. 

     

    All stats via PGATour.com and OWGR.com.