Tiger Woods and the Hardest Falls from World No. 1
With Luke Donald slumping at last week's RBC Heritage, Rory McIlroy once again became the world's best golfer—marking the sixth time the #1 ranking has changed hands in the last 13 months. From Tiger Woods to Ian Woosnam, here are seven other top players who had dramatic falls from the No. 1 spot.
The German-born Langer was the first-ever No. 1 ranked golfer when the Official World Golf Rankings were created in 1986. He lost the title to Seve Ballesteros only three weeks later and never regained it, battling the yips throughout his career. Germany would not have another top-ranked golfer until Martin Kaymer in 2011.
Measuring just 5'4", this small but powerful Welshman seized the world No. 1 ranking just before his sole major championship victory at the Masters in 1991. His time at the top lasted just under a year—Fred Couples grabbed the No. 1 spot just a few weeks before winning his own Masters title in 1992.
Vaulting to the No. 1 ranking a few months after his win at the 2010 PGA Championship, Kaymer spent just eight weeks at golf's summit before giving the title back to Lee Westwood. He's since undergone a swing change that has dropped him to No. 6 in the world and hasn't contended at a major since his victory at Whistling Straits.
Lehman's reign was even shorter than that of his contemporary Bernhard Langer: His No. 1 status lasted just one week in April 1997. He later captained the 2006 Ryder Cup team and is the only golfer to win Player of the Year Honors on the Nationwide Tour, PGA Tour and Champions Tour.
Best remembered as an outstanding ball-striker and devotee of the practice range, Nick Price won back-to-back majors (the Open Championship and PGA Championship) in 1994 to ascend to the No. 1 spot, where he stayed for 44 weeks. He lost the title to Greg Norman in 1995 and never won another major, although he did stack up four more PGA Tour wins.
Nicknamed "The Big Easy" for his fluid swing, Els found it hard to hold onto the world No. 1 ranking. He traded the title with Greg Norman and Tiger Woods throughout 1997 and 1998, holding this elite honor for a total of just nine weeks. Nevertheless, Els is considered one of the most successful players of the 1990s.
Most people think of Tiger Woods as the most dominant No. 1 golfer ever—and he has been—but few remember how many times he has lost the top ranking. From 1997 to 1999, Tiger was in a tug-of-war with David Duval, Greg Norman and Ernie Els, giving up the title six different times. He then spent most of the next 11 years as the world No. 1 before Lee Westwood took over in 2010. Woods hasn't been back since.