In OWGR, post-Tiger era anything but boring

Lee Westwood of England kiss the trophy after winning the Indonesian Masters golf tournament at Royale Jakarta Golf Club in Jakarta, Indonesia,Sunday, April 24, 2011.

So Lee Westwood accepts appearance money, travels to Jakarta, outplays a bunch of guys with a string of letters in their names and hops back into the No. 1 spot in the world rankings.

Time for outrage?

Only if you’re provincial and haven’t a grasp of what the pro golf landscape looks like these days.

Fact is, the Indonesian Masters received the proper respect in the world-rankings picture – which was minimal. The tournament rating was put at just 75 points, which was lower than even the Tsuruya Open on the Japan PGA Tour. By comparison, The Heritage was deemed worthy of a whopping 320 points and the European Tour stop in China, 131.

With the Indonesian Masters so lightly valued, Westwood had only one way to improve in the world order: win. He did and thus received 20 points, but the fact that such a frugal amount was enough to push him past Martin Kaymer and into the No. 1 position is not an indictment of Westwood’s trip to Jakarta or the Official World Golf Ranking system. It was testament to just how jam-packed the top of the list is.

Good gracious, have we lost sight of what this No. 1 landscape used to look like? Travel back not even three years ago, to June of 2008 and Tiger Woods’ 14th major triumph. (You do remember when he used to win ‘em all, don’t you?) When it took a playoff to defeat Rocco Mediate at the Torrey Pines U.S. Open, Woods’ world-ranking value was computed at 21.542 points – a mind-boggling 11.328 better than the next player, Phil Mickelson.

To understand just how numbing those numbers are, consider that two weeks ago, Kaymer at 7.650 was No. 1 in the world, a mere .272 ahead of Westwood. With such a hair-splitting difference, it’s no wonder a victory against such a weak Indonesian Masters field was enough to push Westwood back to No. 1.

This is the sort of back-and-forth that was predicted when Woods’ massive grasp of the top spot crashed and burned. Graeme McDowell, ranked No. 5, embraces the fact that so many players are in position to seize the top spot, as Luke Donald appeared poised to do Sunday at The Heritage.

“It’s an exciting time for the game,” McDowell said.

But he warns that it shouldn’t be inferred that it was “boring” when Woods ruled. That was the poor word choice used when talking to the reigning U.S. Open champion, and he jumped all over it.

“Golf was not boring when Tiger Woods was No. 1,” McDowell cautioned. “It was a phenomenon, no question about it. We were all very lucky to be playing in the Tiger Woods era – and it’s by no means over.

“(But) there was such a gap in talent. He was head and shoulders ahead of everyone else.”

In other words, a quick-hit appearance-fee stop for a player such as Westwood never would have registered on the world-rankings radar “in the Woods era,” and you’d have to be ignorant or clueless to suggest the Englishman is the first world-class player to cash in on his star appeal. That the trip to Indonesia happened to coincide with his return to No. 1 is strictly happenstance.

Given the level to which Woods’ game has dropped, how can anyone be offended at Westwood in the No. 1 spot? You could argue he belongs there not because he won the Indonesian Masters, but because or what he’s done since 2008: Six wins worldwide, and in a dozen major championships he has two seconds, three thirds, and seven top 15s. You have anyone who’s been any steadier, feel free.

But he’s yet to win a major? The same can be said for three of the previous 12 players who preceded Westwood as No. 1:

• Ian Woosnam was ranked No. 1 on April 7, 1991 – the week before he won the Masters, his only major.

• Fred Couples was No. 1 on March 22, 1992 – several weeks before he won his only major, at Augusta.

• And for a total of 15 weeks in 1999, David Duval was No. 1, even though he didn’t have a major on his resume. (When Duval in the summer of 2001 finally won a major, the British Open, he went to No. 3 in the world, behind Woods and Phil Mickelson, who at the time didn’t own a major title.)

To suggest Westwood, or Donald, for that matter, shouldn’t be No. 1 because they are majorless is silly. Guess that means Mike Weir, Shaun Micheel and Ben Curtis are more worthy, eh?

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