Lee Westwood Takes No. 1 World Golf Ranking

Kathy BissellCorrespondent IApril 26, 2011

AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 10:  Lee Westwood of England watches his shot on the first hole during the final round of the 2011 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2011 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Lee Westwood has reclaimed the No. 1 spot in the World Golf Rankings, and this time he did it with a victory.  It was over a weak field, but it was a victory. The victory is not the issue. The weak field is.   

Garry Smits of the Florida Times Union portrayed it in a way that just makes you laugh out loud, comparing Westwood’s win with Donald’s playoff loss:

“Not for nothing, but either way the playoff turned out, Snedeker or Donald would have finished atop a leaderboard that included, at various times, defending FedEx Cup champion and past U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk, defending Tour money and scoring leader Matt Kuchar, and Tour winners Ben Crane, Tim Herron, Jason Day, Scott Verplank and Aaron Baddeley.

Here are the heavyweights Westwood had to fend off to win the Indonesian Masters: Shaaban Hussin, Thitiphun Chuayprakong, Prayad Marsksaeng, Antoni Lascuna, Prom Meesawat and Mohammad Siddikur.

I did not make up any of those names. I did, however, win the World Scrabble Championship with them.” – Garry Smits

He’s got a point.

There are two issues: 

1. Did you win

2. Who did you beat

Donald tied for first over a bunch of guys people have actually heard of, but he lost in a playoff.  So he didn’t win, but he outplayed Furyk, Kuchar, Graeme McDowell and the rest, many of whom are winners and actual names of golfers people recognize.  

Westwood won, but he beat people who are basically so low in the rankings that only their families and friends know them.   That’s not to say they can’t win; they just haven’t yet.  Many have not branched to other tours.  For example, Prayad Marsksaeng of Thailand is 238 in the world rankings.  He sometimes plays on the European Tour and he has competed at the WGC Bridgestone. However, he’s currently in the rankings near Chris Riley and Corey Pavin, and Pavin’s on the Champions Tour. At least Westwood won, though, to get back to the top spot. 

Nick Faldo, on Saturday’s CBS telecast, expressed an opinion that a number one player should have at least one a major.  Then between the end of that day and the next telecast, he said he got “educated” on the rankings.  Sunday he said the way that they were done, even though he claimed not to have understood them at all as a player, it was okay to be number one without winning a major. With more knowledge, he dumbed down the No. 1 spot.  

Could another of Faldo’s comments be an answer to this seemingly silly situation?  He suggested the number of points for majors be increased compared to the other tournaments. That makes some sense, particularly in light of a recent study in the Wall Street Journal.  According to this study, the majors are harder to win than all others, and they quantify it.    

Complicating matters, the world golf rankings based points for tournaments on the strength of field is based on the rankings which are messed up to begin with.  Get your brain around that.

However, the rankings people at least distributed a list of points that were awarded for The Heritage.  So at least we know what they got at Harbour Town.  That doesn’t mean it will be the same next week, if their method relies on strength of field.   

Since each tournament, supposedly, is gauged on the basis of the strength of the field, does that mean Westwood got more credit for defeating a field that has not yet achieved high level good golf as Donald got for not winning a playoff against a superior field?  It must.  Is that not nuts even by their system?

Donald played against the stronger field. But he didn’t win. Lee Westwood beat guys who are very low in the rankings, for whatever reason. Which should that count for more? Right now, the latter does.