McCabe: Big-picture look at World Ranking

Lee Westwood and Vijay Singh

Forget that Tiger Woods has spiraled all the way to third in the world rankings. Heck, it’s not like he can’t climb a flight or two of stairs and get back to the penthouse; he’s that close.

Instead, how about the remarkable news within the world order? Like Vijay Singh sitting at No. 105, outside the top 100 for the first time since 1989.

The Big Fijian moving out of the top 100?

That’s like Wayne Newton leaving Las Vegas. Or Mister Rogers the neighborhood.

But it’s true. The man who played majestic golf in 2004 to wrestle the top spot from Woods, and who sat as high as No. 5 just two years ago today, Singh was 98th a week ago but is squeezed between chaps named Gregory Bourdy (104th) and Gareth Maybin (106th).

Not exactly rubbing elbows with the Who’s Who crowd, is it?

OK, so he’s fast approaching his 48th birthday (Feb. 22, in case you want to send a card, or a gift). But isn’t Singh the guy who wasn’t going to stop winning or even slow down a little? Wasn’t he the coverboy for all those over the age of 40 who insisted they could still run with the young pups?

Yes and yes.

But he’s also proof that a steady stretch of indifferent play will drag even Hall of Famers down the world rankings.

And with that, let us meander through the present world order and offer some thoughts and observations:

• • • 

The top 25 names who don’t belong:

Miguel Angel Jimenez . . . and trust me, I’m very aware of the screams this one will bring. He’s that popular, that much a character, that big an intrigue.

Is he a top 10 guy you’d love to sit and have food and wine with? Well, do golf balls have dimples?

But if you would have been willing to bet a few years ago that Jimenez, at 47, would be 24th in the world order, and Singh, at 47, would be 105th, a long line of people would have been at your door.

Yet that’s what we have at the moment, though it’s not an indictment of the world rankings. Jimenez did win three times in 2010, so his position is a worthy one – even if it doesn’t seem to fit.

• • •

Five who sit within the top 50 who are most likely will fall out:

Peter Hanson (39), Y.E. Yang (40), Ryan Moore (46), Hiroyuki Fujita (48) and Alvaro Quiros (49).

Nothing personal, mind you, but Hanson’s best effort in 10 major championships is a T-23. Quiros, loveable that he might be, has been equally dismal in the majors, missing six cuts in eight starts.

Moore is a difficult read. Wouldn’t surprise me if he actually went the other way and roared into the top 20, but he’s been very hard to warm up to and the gut tells me he’ll move south, not north.

Yang in 2010? How about a 74.375 scoring average in the season’s last three major championships, and in his final 14 tournaments of the PGA Tour year, he missed four cuts and never finished better than joint 23rd.

As for Fujita, I know, 10 wins in Japan. But shouldn’t you do something – anything! – in Europe or the U.S. before you are allowed inside the top 50?

• • •

The top 100 names you better pray you don’t get asked to write a book report on:

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Joost Luiten.

OK, so you and the missus were just talking last night at the dinner table about the 2006 Dutch team that won the Eisenhower Cup, and she raved about Luiten’s play that year.

But don’t tell me you’ve been watching his progress the past few years. Yes, he’s recorded a runner-up spot for each O in his name, and he was 28th in the Order of Merit in 2009, yet if you were asked if Luiten ranked 96th or 396th, my guess is you’d say the latter.

And you’d be wrong.

• • •

Two who belong within the top 20

Understandable, given the way he soured on golf last year that Geoff Ogilvy would fall to 26th. No surprirse, given the way he tinkered with things that Padraig Harrington would tumble to 28th.

But, please. There aren’t 15 players better than either one of them.

• • •

Now, back to that No. 3 guy

It’s probably more of a surprise that Woods isn’t lower in the rankings, given the lackluster year he had. Then again, it’s not like the man in the top spot, Lee Westwood, is maintaining order like the leader has in years past.

At 8.69 points, Westwood is coming off a season in which he only won once – and that was in the U.S. The last time Woods sat third in the world order, Oct. 31, 2004, he registered 11.31 in the standings and had a year in which he won once and finished second three times.

But he was overtaken by remarkable play – Singh winning nine times on the PGA Tour, Ernie Els three times.

This time, Woods lost the top spot mostly on the strength of lethargic play brought on by a personal-life meltdown.

• • •

And some other world ranking thoughts:

Woods has won 14 major championships; the other 19 guys within the top 20 have won 13 combined. ... A dozen players who sit in the top 20 have never won a major. ... The longest winless droughts for those ranked in the top 20? Retief Goosen (No. 14) hasn’t triumphed since March 2009, Paul Casey (No. 9) since May 2009, and Woods since November 2009. ... Only four Americans ranked in the top 10? You sense panic, I embrace perspective. Twenty years ago this week, the top four spots in the world order belonged to non-Americans (Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Jose Maria Olazabal, Ian Woosnam) and only four Americans were in the top 10. So far as I remember, the game did not shut down.

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