Does anyone want to be number one in the world? It certainly doesn’t seem that way. Not the way Tiger Woods has been downing mediocre pills this season, leaving the door wide open. Not the way Phil Mickelson has been squandering one opportunity after another to take over the top spot. Lee Westwood is playing the best golf in the world, but his wins come when the rest of the field collapses.
The title of “Number One in the World” has been so elusive for so long that it would be like England declaring they’re holding a contest to replace the Queen. Would anyone be prepared to step in? The same is happening right now, as Tiger has obviously abdicated his throne. Sadly, no one wants to take over.
It’s been a long eight months for Woods since that infamous Thanksgiving night fiasco. Through three majors he does have two fourth place finishes, but he wasn’t a serious threat in either of those. At least not the way he used to be when stalking the lead. He showed a glimpse of his old form at St. Andrew’s but like the rest of the season, there was nothing there in the end.
At least Woods provided us with some missing drama this week. Not really on the golf course, but with his decision to swap out his trusty Scotty Cameron putter for a Nike Method, before switching back on the weekend. Coming on the heels of flying solo without a swing coach, and relegating caddie Steve Williams to the dog house (there’s no way he wasn’t making a point after the U.S. Open by including Stevie’s mistakes in his post-round interview), it’s obvious he’s grasping at something that will bring the magic back.
That’s where Y.E. Yang comes in. For years, we have entered a Sunday with Tiger in the lead, knowing – KNOWING – that no one could chase him down. It was part of his aura, until an unknown Korean golfer stared him in the eye and took him down. Golf hasn’t been the same since. Add in the off-course mess and Tiger Woods is a different golfer, and certainly not nearly the best in the world. Thanks to a flawed system by the Official World Golf Rankings, it will be a while until someone can unseat Woods at number one, especially given Mickelson’s phobia of holding the crown.
Lee Westwood seems to have the best shot and he’s playing great, but he’s stating his case as the latest Phil Mickelson: Always in contention and always missing the crucial putts that would put him over the top. Could he break through at the PGA and add two or three more majors in the next few years? Sure, but it’s just as likely he and Stricker (#4) battle it out for the third spot in the rankings the next 12 months. Then there’s Jim Furyk at #5, which is one more guy we don’t have to worry about ascending to the top.
The truth is, the Official Golf Rankings just aren’t set up for quick changes. They’re not even able to allow really slow changes. Justin Rose is having one of the best years on Tour and he’s only ascended to 18th.
Bottom line, Tiger has a lot going on, but so long as this lackluster crew of Top Five contenders is chasing him, the top spot is safe.
Louis the Great
So funny to read how boring this Open was as Louis Oosthuizen ran off to a seven shot victory. Just goes to show how important a big name is, because had his name been Woods, Mickelson, or even McIlroy, it would be hailed as one of the greatest performances in the history of golf. Will Oosthuizen, march into the picture as best up and coming young 20-somethings? Who knows, but it’s far better to have a 27 year old step to the forefront than a guy on the backside of his career who comes out of nowhere to win.
Give Me Rory
There haven’t been many golfers since Tiger came onto the scene who can move the needle the way Rory McIlroy can. This week could have been his coming out party after his scintillating opening round. Obviously an 80 got in the way, but as dazzling as his first round was, I was just as impressed that he pulled it together on the weekend and managed a T3 finish. The kid’s not only got game, but he’s got the guts to match.
Old Course is King
In the weeks leading up to this Open, I’ve been reading a biography of Old and Young Tom Morris (Tommy’s Honor by Kevin Cook) and it really gave me a different perspective of St. Andrew’s and the history surrounding it. Obviously I’ve always know that the course is incredibly significant to the development of the game, but gaining an appreciation of Old Tom Morris’ life and contributions to golf made the tournament all the more enjoyable. The book hit stores a few years ago, but I would strongly recommend it for golfers – history buffs or not.