Started in 1986, the World Golf rankings have unofficially crowned the title for the “Best Player in the World” on any given week. With 1309 weeks having passed since its inception, it’s quite amazing to think that only 14 players have risen to the No. 1 ranking in the last 24 years. But when Tiger Woods and Greg Norman take up 954 of those weeks, I guess that doesn’t leave much room for anyone else to step up and take the title.
For example, the following is a list of players who have never held the No. 1 ranking. Phil Mickelson, who has finished in the top 10 every year but one, since 1996 and has 4 major titles; Padraig Harrington, who won both the British Open and the PGA in 2008; Payne Stewart; Jose Maria Olazabal; Paul Azinger; Davis Love III; Curtis Strange, who won back-to-back U.S. Opens in the late 1980s; and Mark O’Meara, who won both the Masters and the British Open in 1998.
After a rule change to make the rankings more receptive of finishes from the prior 52 weeks, the World Golf ranking is more volatile. Over the last few months, the world No. 1 ranking has changed hands more than any other time in history. Last week, world No. 3 Luke Donald had an opportunity to take over the No. 1 ranking with only three career worldwide wins. Donald lost in a playoff in South Carolina, and Lee Westwood took back the No. 1 ranking from Martin Kaymer when he won the Indonesian Masters. Order was restored.
This scenario prompted a bit of debate as to whether he was “worthy” of the No. 1 ranking or if he would be the “worst” No. 1 ranked player of all-time, which got me to thinking. As of today, out of all the No. 1 players, who accomplished the least—and most—throughout their career?
Note: The World Golf rankings consider wins on the PGA, European, Asian, Japan, Australasian, and Sunshine Tours.