Top of the Heap
By Dennis de Jesus Jr.
Since late 2010, the world’s No. 1 position has changed a handful of times, giving golf’s most accomplished tour players not named after a zoo animal bragging rights as the best player in the world. For the casual fan, the race for the top may not be as exciting since names like Kaymer, Westwood and Donald might not hold much attention. But let’s be honest, we were spoiled for many years knowing without the need of official statistics and rankings who the number one golfer in the world was (the one named after the zoo animal).
But it looks like casual interest in that top spot will increase again. With his victory at The Honda Classic, Rory McIlroy is the newest King of the Hill and at the age of 22, the second youngest to ever hold the position (Tiger Woods was 21). It is another notch in the young Northern Irishman’s career, who many believe to be golf’s next great megastar. And the youth movement doesn’t stop there – players like Hunter Mahan, Dustin Johnson and Jason Day all hope to make a case for the top spot in the coming years while seasoned veterans like Steve Stricker, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood still remain within close reach of No. 1.
Here is a reminder of who has held the top spot in World Golf Rankings since 2005:
Tiger Woods (Jun 2005 – Oct 2010) 281 weeks
Lee Westwood (Oct 2010 – Feb 2011) 17 weeks
Martin Kaymer (Feb 2011 – Apr 2011) 8 weeks
Lee Westwood (Apr 2011 – May 2011) 5 weeks
Luke Donald (May 2011 – Mar 2012) 40 weeks
Rory McIlroy (Mar 2012 – present)
Obviously, Tiger Woods was the man for many years and in fact held the spot for a large percentage of time from 1998-2005 as well. He literally dominated the game and had the stats and tournament earnings to prove it. Much of the rankings discussion during those years defaulted to the race for No. 2, because unseating Tiger was always a difficult challenge anyways, almost as if it was the fifth major. As a fan, it would be something to say that he remained at the top through the twilight of his PGA career, but we all know that would be near impossible and there would be a time when a hungry younger generation (many of whom have modeled their game after Tiger to some degree) needed to make some noise themselves. Perhaps Rory’s climb to the top is just the start of this new wave.
We may not statistically see Tiger at the top anymore, but I don’t think it really matters – letting the game grow through a young, high-profile player like Rory can definitely build the fanbase and maybe give the next generation of young amateur golfers a genuine and strong role model to look up to, much like Jack did for Tiger and what Tiger has done for Rory.
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