World Number One? Why Golf Currently Has No Top Player

Immer ChriswellCorrespondent IFebruary 4, 2011

World Number One? Why Golf Currently Has No Top Player

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    The woes of golf's best are often a topic of discussion. Everyone's target: Tiger Woods. However, if you were to take a closer look, it is not only the most heralded player of his time who is struggling currently. 

    However, the media in the United States seems to be oblivious to what is going on across the pond in European Tour action. The current world's best and second best are at the bottom of a tournament field. One is not even playing this weekend.

    This may be an outgrowth of spontaneous slumping, but let's be honest: golf has no top player. There is no dominant force. So who and what is contributing to this lack of defined golf talent?

Lee Westwood AKA The Current World Number One

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    For now, he holds the title of "World's No. 1 Golfer." However, who knows how long for? At this rate, not much longer.

    The English golfer appeared to be at the top of his game, despite the lack of wins on tour. He finished his season in 2010 in dominant fashion, taking the Nedbank Challenge by eight strokes by shooting 17-under par. Also, Westwood had won in June at the St. Jude Classic, his second PGA Tour victory in his career.

    At the Ryder Cup, there weren't too many golfers at his level. He went 2-1-1 in the Ryder Cup, including a six-and-five victory over Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker in foursome play.

    However, the start of the year could not be going any worse for Westwood than it currently is. Well, he could have missed both cuts in his first two tournaments, but instead he settled for only one missed cut.

    In his first tournament at Abu Dhabi, Westwood took 64th out of 70, shooting 69-75-73-73. That placed him 26 strokes behind Martin Kaymer—26 strokes, that is not a typo.

    If that were Tiger Woods, he would be getting attacked in the press. However, since he decided to stay in the safety of the European Tour, where he competes better, Westwood dodged a bullet. 

    Lee Westwood may the the best golfer by points, but remember, he didn't win to earn it. If he doesn't get going soon, then we will have a new "best" golfer.

Martin Kaymer

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    The world's second best golfer may have won in Abu Dhabi in dominating fashion. However, this week he isn't quite posting 24-under par.

    In fact, Kaymer is currently sitting in last place for golfers that made the cut. That means he is behind Sergio Garcia, who has seemingly fallen off the map of golf.

    Martin Kaymer was another golfer who seemed to be poised last year to become a top golfer. While he has won the PGA Championship, a major, which Lee Westwood has not, he is still not a consistent golfer.

    Yes, he won in Abu Dhabi by eight strokes.

    May I remind you that Lee Westwood did the same.

    Abu Dhabi is the course that Kaymer has always taken advantage of, winning there three out of the past four years. Winning on the same course does not make a world's top golfer. His other two wins in 2010, barring the PGA Championship—which will never be known for the winner, but the loser—were in the fall of 2010.

    His competitors who were closest to him in those tournaments? Danny Willett, Christian Nilsson, Fabrizio Zanotti. Yeah, real staunch competition. Do not take this that I am saying he didn't play well, but all things considered, it wasn't exactly against any kind of challenging field.

    While he is a golfer with potential, he is not fit to be called the "World's No. 1 Golfer."

Tiger Woods

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    Do we even want to go here right now?

    Tiger Woods is the world's third-best professional golfer currently, however, I think everyone is aware of the struggles he has gone through that cost him his title.

    Last week, Tiger played his first two rounds, looking like he had nearly shed his layer of rust and come out shiny and new. However, the Tiger of the past year re-emerged and absolutely destroyed Torrey Pines, not in the way he normally does.

    What last week proved is the long road Tiger still faces. His swing is still subject to daily change, and as long as that is happening, he has no chance. Not only does his swing have inconsistencies, his putting does as well.

    Tiger blames part of this on ball striking, but Tiger still should never hit above 30 putts. No professional golfer should.

    All things aside, it is clear Tiger still has a long way to go until he deserves to be called the "World's No. 1 Golfer." However, that long way could potentially come quicker depending on the rate that Tiger gets to his destinations.

Phil Mickelson

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    Of the players on this list, Phil appears to be off to a relatively moderate start for his standards.

    Not known for his quick starts on tour, Phil took second last week at Torrey Pines, coming so close to winning on his first try of the year. However, there were definitely a few moments where Phil should have capitalized on opportune moments.

    However, you still need to look at his 2010 and what it dictates about Phil. 

    In 2010, Phil Mickelson won only one tournament. Yes, it was the Masters, but that was nearly a year ago. For a guy who has about a nine-percent win percentage (that being he wins nearly one out of 10 tournaments he enters), Phil only won once out of 20 tries last year.

    If I were to give him a title, I would dub him "World's Most Steady Notable Golfer." That's about as close as anyone gets to being the best.

    While I think Phil Mickelson could very well be off to a great start to a career year, as of now, he is not the "World's No. 1 Golfer."

The Rest of Golfers

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    Taking the focus off the top four names in golf currently, let's list the names in golf who seem to have come into relevance (or remain in it), challenging the field:

    Dustin Johnson, Anthony Kim, Sean O'Hair, Ryan Moore, Rickie Fowler, Jamie Lovemark, Bill Haas, Hunter Mahan, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, JB Holmes, Robert Garrigus, Jonathan Byrd, Graeme McDowell, Francesco Molinari, Edoardo Molinari, Ross Fisher, Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Jason Day, Adam Scott, Ernie Els. 

    That right there is a list of 25 golfers, all of whom are competing at high levels on tour. The list goes on from there, too. Part of the reason there is no dominance is the strength of the field that the current top players face. 

    When Jack Nicklaus played, you could count on your hands who else would always be relevant. Yet again, I am not denying the greatness of the Golden Bear at all, golf currently has more depth than it ever has and it is only growing.

The Statistics

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    The World Golf Ranking system is quite the interesting read.  Here's an excerpt.

    "The World Ranking Points for each player are accumulated over a two year “rolling” period with the points awarded for each event maintained for a 13-week period to place additional emphasis on recent performances—ranking points are then reduced in equal decrements (of one-92nd of the original amount) for the remaining 91 weeks of the two-year ranking period.  Each player is then ranked according to his average points per tournament, which is determined by dividing his total number of points by the tournaments he has played over that two-year period. There is a minimum divisor of 40 tournaments over the two year ranking period and a maximum divisor of a player’s last 58 events (from 'How the System Works')."

    Yea, that's about how you calculate who is the best golfer in the world. The formula needs some tinkering clearly, as Tiger Woods was able to go on injury leave for months on end and hold onto his ranking. However, he comes back and plays and loses his rank to a player who did not play the week he overtook Woods.

    Currently, the top 10 look as this:

    1. Lee Westwood 8.75
    2. Martin Kaymer 8.14
    3. Tiger Woods 6.97
    4. Phil Mickelson 6.49
    5. Graeme McDowell 6.46
    6. Paul Casey 6.38
    7. Steve Stricker 6.03
    8. Rory McIlroy 5.94
    9. Jim Furyk 5.53
    10. Luke Donald 5.44 

    Unlike the past when Tiger had about 20 points, and the next closest was Phil with around seven or eight points, there is now a cluster from five to eight.

    If there's anything that's clear right now to the world of golf, it's that there is no clear best player in the world.


    Note: http://www.officialworldgolfranking.com/ was used as a reference in this article.