Tiger Woods and the Top 10 Golfers: Trending Up or on the Way Down?

John BurkeContributor IMarch 7, 2011

Tiger Woods and the Top 10 Golfers: Trending Up or on the Way Down?

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    Since Tiger Woods relinquished his hold on the No. 1 world ranking, we have seen two other golfers rise to take the top spot.

    First, Lee Westwood took over. And for 17 weeks Westwood was considered the best golfer in the world based on numbers.

    Then Westwood struggled and we saw the young Martin Kaymer take over. 

    That is where we stand today: Kaymer is atop the world rankings and everyone else has hopes of someday reaching the pinnacle of golf.

    So who has a chance to take over based on good play?

    And who is just hoping to stay in the top 10?

    Let's take a look at the top 10 and find out! 

10. Matt Kuchar

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    A while ago, Golfweek referred to Matt Kuchar as the last American hope. 

    And while I am not sure I would say Kuchar is the last hope, he is definitely a strong point of American golf.

    In 2010, Kuchar made 23 cuts. In those 23 tournaments in which Kuchar was around for the weekend, he recorded 20 finishes among the top 25 players.

    That is impressive. To only have three weeks of mediocre play is what makes Kuchar a world-class player.

    So far this year, Kuchar has notched four top 10s in six tournaments. 

    Consequently, he has gained almost 62 world-ranking points, good enough for third-most points gained among the top 10.

    Verdict: On the rise

9. Steve Stricker

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    Steve Stricker played in 19 events last year. He also made 19 cuts last year.

    To be 100 percent in cuts made is an incredibly impressive stat.

    Riding that wave of consistency, Stricker ended the year ranked seventh in the world.

    Stricker's 2011 campaign has seen mixed success. 

    While he is 4-for-4 in cuts made, Sticker only has two top 25 finishes.

    And with many in the world surging, Sticker's average play simply is not getting it done. 

    Verdict: On the decline

8. Rory McIlroy

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    Lately, Rory McIlroy has seen more attention for his criticism of Tiger Woods than his play.

    But the bottom line is that McIlroy is already an elite player at a young age.

    His potential is enormous and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for him. 

    In 2010, while playing on the PGA Tour, McIlroy played in 16 events, made 12 cuts and won one tournament. 

    This year McIlroy is playing decently and he has gained 44 world-ranking points.

    Verdict: On the rise 

7. Paul Casey

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    If there is one golfer in the top 10 of the world rankings who the media does not seem to cover much, it is Paul Casey.

    One of the nicest guys on the PGA Tour, Casey has suffered from injuries in recent years that have caused many to not pay much attention to him. 

    Last year Casey made 14 cuts in 17 tries. 

    This year Casey is 2-for-2 with two top 25 finishes.

    Also Casey has gained 52 world-ranking points, helping him reach seventh in the world after finishing last year in eighth.

    Verdict: On the rise

6. Phil Mickelson

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    Phil Mickelson has been one of the most consistent players in golf for the last number of years.

    But since 2007, Mickelson has fallen from second in the world to his current position at sixth.

    And while being the sixth-best player in the world is certainly nothing to scoff at, it brings to question how much longer Mickelson will be relevant.

    So far in 2011, Mickelson has played the weekend in all five of his tournaments and he has even recorded a second-place finish.

    However, with his health concerns and his age, I cannot see him climbing any higher in the world rankings.

    Verdict: On the decline

5. Tiger Woods

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    Tiger Woods has held the No. 1 world ranking longer than any other golfer in history.

    Woods is currently struggling with his game. 

    So far this year Woods has made the cut in both tournaments he has played. But Woods does not have any top 25 finishes and suffered a first-round defeat to Thomas Bjorn in the World Golf Championship Accenture Match Play.

    That coupled with his dismal six-point earnings in world-ranking points does not bode well for Woods.

    Verdict: On the decline

4. Graeme McDowell

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    Graeme McDowell came bursting into the golfing world last year with his stunning U.S. Open victory.

    Since then, McDowell has been nothing short of spectacular.

    In 2011, McDowell has played in three tournaments and he has finished in the top 10 all three times. 

    Those results and McDowell's gaining of 57 world-ranking points show he is here to stay.

    Verdict: On the rise

3. Luke Donald

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    Luke Donald is another player in the top 10 of the world rankings who is flying a little under the radar.

    Not that he is an unknown, because he simply is not, but like Paul Casey, no one really talks about Donald too much.

    So far in 2011, Donald has been very successful.

    Playing in three tournaments, Donald has made two cuts and he has one victory.

    Also, Donald has gained almost 83 world-ranking points! That is the second-largest gain in the top 10.

    Verdict: On the rise

2. Lee Westwood

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    When Tiger Woods finally relinquished his No. 1 spot after many weeks, Lee Westwood took over. 

    This to me shows the flaws in the world-ranking system. 

    Do not get me wrong, Westwood is a great player. This is obvious. 

    But at the time Westwood took over the No. 1 ranking, he was not playing the best golf in the world.

    Hampered by injuries, Westwood struggled towards the end of 2010.

    So far in 2011, Westwood has played in two tournaments on the PGA Tour, making two cuts.

    That said, Westwood has only gained 11 world-ranking points and he has fallen to the second spot in the world.

    Verdict: On the decline

1. Martin Kaymer

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    Martin Kaymer is the player I thought should have taken over the No. 1 spot immediately after Tiger Woods fell.

    By winning the PGA Championship last year, Kaymer showed to the world that he is an elite player capable of competing with anyone.

    So far in 2011, Kaymer has been very successful. He finished runner up at the Accenture Match Play.

    Also, Kaymer has gained over 105 points in the world rankings!

    Kaymer will be around for years to come.

    Verdict: On the rise