Tiger Woods’ off-the-course problems have finally come full circle in just under a year, and his nightmare will get worse on Halloween.
For the past five years, Woods has stood atop the World Golf Rankings at No. 1. Realistically, he hasn’t had to worry about his top spot for nearly half a decade.
The media knew he was No. 1, the fans knew he was No. 1, fellow golfers knew he was No. 1, and he knew he was No. 1.
Well, the days of everyone just knowing and accepting the fact that Tiger Woods is No. 1 are over. The reason? Lee Westwood will take over Tiger’s No. 1 world ranking on Oct. 31, Halloween, of all days.
Although most of us didn’t expect to see this day until Tiger was well into his 40s, don’t expect to see Tiger hand over his spot for very long.
If there’s anything we know about Tiger Woods, it is that when his back is against the wall, he rises to the occasion.
All year, everyone was worried about Phil Mickelson knocking Tiger out of the top spot, but it never happened. Plenty of opportunity presented itself to Mickelson, but he just couldn’t capitalize.
Instead, it is Westwood who is now in position to steal Tiger’s spot. Although Westwood has been dealing with a calf injury and had to take some time off, Woods and Mickelson did little to separate themselves from him.
Although Tiger’s current reign has ended, it may not be long until a new one begins. On Nov. 4, the HSBC Champions Tournament begins in Shanghai, and with it comes a chance to reclaim his ranking.
Ask yourself how many times have you seen Tiger staring down a seemingly impossible putt or buried deep in a fairway bunker? Now think about how many of those moments, with his back against the wall, Tiger came through and did the inevitable, leaving us in awe.
This past year has been horrible for Tiger both off and on the course. In 2010, he didn’t win a tournament, but he didn’t need to.
Of course, he’s competitive and it was difficult for him, but what did he have to win for? He was still the No. 1 golfer in the world—despite how high he might have been ranked as a man.
Think about it. Tiger didn’t need to win to maintain his fan base, it had already taken a huge hit. He didn’t need to win to keep his sponsors happy, he already knew the ones that were still around would stand by him no matter what.
He didn’t need to win for the money, he has plenty of it. He didn’t need to win to make the Ryder Cup team, everyone in the world, including himself, knew that Corey Pavin couldn’t afford to leave him off.
So, as you see, he was never in a must-win, "back against the wall" situation. He was never forced into the type of situation that would bring out his best.
That has now changed, and you better believe that you will see the Tiger Woods that is the best golfer in the world, maybe the best of all-time, moving forward.
Losing his No. 1 ranking will is more than enough fuel to reignite the fire. It will give him the motivation he needs to win his first tournament of 2010.
Maybe the day has come and gone where it was constantly Tiger vs. the field. However, a win in Shanghai would likely give him his No. 1 spot back.
There are four guys that could come out of that tournament with the No. 1 ranking: Woods, Mickelson, Westwood, and Martin Kaymer. You can’t tell me that if forced to bet on one of those guys, you wouldn’t pick Tiger.
Let’s not forget that the last time Tiger recycled a swing coach, he lost his No. 1 ranking for a short period of time as well. That stint lasted all of six months, but I’m not willing to concede that this time around will take close to that long.
Although he does have a lot more issues weighing on his psyche this time, Woods has been put into the exact situation he needs to be in to regain his dominance.
When he lost the top spot to Vijay Singh in 2004, there was a lot of speculation that his reign of terror could be winding down as well.
Since then, he’s won a total of 32 times, with six of those victories being major championships. Don’t be surprised when this happens again, because it some fashion, it will.
At the Ryder Cup, we saw Tiger beginning to get things turned around. He posted a 3-1 record, and his new swing began showing some promise.
There are still some mishaps here and there, but Woods seems like he’s starting to get his stuff together again, maybe quicker than the last time he switched swing coaches.
For now, Tiger is the No. 2 golfer in the world, but I don’t expect that to last through the end of the year. He’s been put in a place that no opponent wants him to be, and that will result in the rebirth of that competitive fire that is only possessed by Tiger Woods.
Although the Majors and FedEx Cup tournaments are over, the year is not over for Tiger and you will see that on Nov. 4 in Shanghai.
Congratulations, Lee Westwood for becoming the new No. 1 golfer in the world. Enjoy your short-lived stay, because Tiger will be taking it back shortly as he tells you to…GTFO.