Tiger's fall to No. 51 means little on the course

Tiger Woods during the PGA Championship.

Tiger Woods during the PGA Championship.

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4:20:01 AM ET. 04/19/2014




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Tiger Woods fell to No. 51 in the Official World Golf Ranking this week, the first time he's been outside the top 50 since 1996. His position in the ranking is a dramatic illustration of his fall, but little more.

The OWGR’s top 50 is an important place for many players because it ensures starts in majors and World Golf Championships. Woods, because of his past accomplishments, doesn’t need to worry about getting in the game’s premier events, though.

He has a lifetime exemption into the Masters and PGA and can play the Open Championship until he’s 60 years old. He’s exempt into the U.S. Open until 2018 because of his dramatic win at Torrey Pines in 2008.

Woods is exempt into the invitationals he regularly plays – the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Memorial and AT&T National – because of past wins in those events and at majors.

The majority of the Players Championship field is filled by the top 125 players on the previous year’s money list. Woods currently ranks 118th, but his tee time at TPC Sawgrass is not in jeopardy. He’s exempt based on past major victories.

Woods can thank Fred Couples for his spot at the 2012 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Couples’ selection of Woods for the upcoming Presidents Cup ensures that Woods will be at the Bridgestone.

The other WGCs are the only events in question for Woods. He’d likely miss next year’s WGC-Cadillac Championship if he’s not back in the OWGR’s top 50 by March.

The top 30 on this year’s FedEx Cup points list earned entry into next year's Cadillac. Woods failed to meet that criterion. PGA Tour players must be in the OWGR’s top 50 or top 10 in the FedEx Cup standings come March to earn a start at the Cadillac.

Woods isn’t in the field for the WGC-Accenture Match Play, but neither is anyone else. He’ll have to remain in the top 64 in the OWGR to gain entry.

Woods will have to start earning OWGR points if he wants to make the Match Play field. Injuries led to lengthy absences this year, which only hastened his fall in the ranking.

Woods will tee it up several times before year’s end, beginning with this week’s Frys.com Open.

He also will play next month’s Australian Open in advance of the Presidents Cup. His Chevron World Challenge, a no-cut event with a small field, offers a lot of OWGR points. Woods barely was eligible for the event, which will be held Dec. 1-4 at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif. A player must be in the top 50 of the OWGR to receive an invitation. Woods was No. 49 at the deadline.

The worst damage already has been done to his world ranking. All but one of his victories (2009 Australian Masters) has fallen out of the two-year window used to calculate a player’s ranking.

The two-year anniversary of Woods’ infamous car crash, and his extended absence from the game, is approaching. That means only two events will fall off of Woods’ OWGR record between now and the 2012 Masters: a win at the 2009 Australian Masters and sixth-place finish at the WGC-HSBC Champions.

Playing is the only way Woods can rise in the rankings. Even if he doesn't move up, it will have little impact on next year's schedule.

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