Tiger Woods may not have captured his 15th major title on Sunday at the Open Championship, but that’s all a part of his “process.”
Part of that process also has been a gradual climb in the Official World Golf Ranking, using three victories this season and an unofficial one at the end of 2011 to climb from a low of No. 58 on Nov. 6, 2011 to No. 2 in the latest rankings, released Monday.
Woods tied for third at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, helping him leap Lee Westwood (T-45) and Rory McIlroy (T-60) in the rankings. The finish was Woods’ best in a major since his runner-up at the 2009 PGA Championship. McIlroy falls to No. 3, Westwood to No. 4 and Webb Simpson rounds out the top 5.
Open champion Ernie Els vaulted from No. 40 to No. 15 on Monday.
Woods had been sitting in the No. 4 spot since June 3 after his victory at the Memorial Tournament. Woods returns to the No. 2 spot that he vacated on Jan. 16, 2011.
Returning to the second spot also makes him the highest-ranked American since Phil Mickelson was No. 3 the week of April 3, 2011. Five of this week’s top 10 are from the U.S., including Bubba Watson (No. 7), Jason Dufner (No. 8) and Matt Kuchar (No. 9).
Woods’ return to the top 2 in the rankings is remarkable considering he was ranked No. 50 or worse from Sept. 25 through Dec. 3 in 2011. His victory at the Chevron World Challenge, an unofficial event that carries world-ranking points, bumped him up to No. 21, but he finished the year at No. 23.
His victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks before the 2012 Masters put him back in the top 10, at No. 6, and he hasn’t been worse than No. 9 (May 27) since.
Despite his rise in the rankings, Woods is still working on parts of his game that made him a finisher in majors. That work mostly centers on distance control – off the tee and in the fairway.
“I finally feel like I’m really healthy. And I’ve got my pop back in my swing. So I’m hitting the ball distances I know I can,” said Woods, who will next play at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Aug. 2-5 at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.
“Unfortunately when I get out here with a little bit of adrenalin, it goes a little bit further, too. It’s a combination of having my strength and my speed back, at the same time playing tournament golf. It’s not that far off.”
Neither is the No. 1 spot.