Scott ascends to No. 1, but staying there will be tough

Adam Scott moved to World No. 1 on Monday, moving past Tiger Woods.

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Considering that he’s a month shy of the 14th anniversary of his debut as a professional golfer, you could say Adam Scott has traveled a long road to reach No. 1 in the world.

Unlikely his reign there will be as time consuming.

That’s not a knock on Scott, however. Though he did not play last week, Scott officially surpassed Tiger Woods by the slimmest of margins (7.9936 to 7.8495) and he’ll tee it up as the No. 1 player in the world at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial this week.

It will be the first of three starts in the next four weeks, so the 33-year-old Aussie will have the opportunity to cement his top spot.

The thing is, recent history has proven how difficult it is to stay there for any length of time.

Now it never used to be like that, not when Woods was able to make the No. 1 spot his for unthinkable chunks of time like 264 weeks (1999-2004) and 281 weeks (2005-2010), or for a mind-boggling 669 weeks total in his career.

But since Woods’ longest run at No. 1 ended around Halloween of 2010, the top spot has been a proverbial hot potato.

It’s gone from Woods to Lee Westwood to Martin Kaymer back to Westwood, and then it became a curious back-and-forth with Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy. Between March of 2012 (when McIlroy took the top spot following a win at the Honda Classic) and late March of 2013 (when a guy named Woods jumped back into his accustomed spot), Donald and McIlroy both were No. 1 on four different occasions. The only thing is, you might have missed a few of them had you gone to the kitchen for a cup off coffee.

One of Donald’s reign was for one week, another time it was for four weeks. Three of McIlroy’s stops never went longer than three weeks.

Not exactly the dominating stuff we had been used to, eh?

All told, Westwood (22 weeks), Kaymer (8), Donald (56), and McIlroy (39) combined to hold down the No. 1 spot for a mere 125 weeks, so modest when compared to the behemoth performances by Woods.

If Scott is to maintain the No. 1 spot, he’ll have to do what Woods did often and the other four names didn’t do enough of: produce a series of great tournaments, preferably victories. Once they got to No. 1, these players didn’t exactly seize upon the opportunity. To whit:

• Westwood’s two stints between Oct. 31, 2010 and May 29, 2011 were for a combined 22 weeks, but he played just nine times as No. 1. He did win the Ballantine’s in May 2011, but it was a weak field and was consistently hurt by the fact he wasn’t playing PGA Tour events back then, those tournaments with larger world rankings points.

• Kaymer’s eight-week run between March 13-April 17 in 2011 offered very little inspiration. He played just four times and his only top 10 came at the Maybank Malaysia.

• Give Donald credit for three times taking No. 1 by storm – a playoff victory over then No. 1 Westwood at the 2011 BMW PGC Championship, a win against a solid field at the Transitions in March of 2012, and another win at the BMW PGA in May of 2012. But once in the top spot, Donald in his 56 weeks played just 25 times on the U.S. and European Tours and won just twice, the 2011 Scottish Open and 2011 stop at DisneyWorld.

• As heralded as McIlroy is, his four stops at No. 1 have only totaled 39 weeks. There was that forgettable two-week stretch in May of 2012 when it looked like McIlroy was allergic to the top spot, because he missed the cut at The Players and the BMW PGA Championship. His longest stretch at No. 1, 29 weeks, began in convincing fashion, with a dominating win at the PGA Championship, and he validated that honor in Woods-like fashion by winning three times in eight tournaments. But he played poorly to start 2013, lost points rapidly and was overtaken by a guy who truly knows how to be No. 1: Woods.

All of which is to say that Scott could discover what the others have – that getting to No. 1 is a long, tough process, but staying there is sometimes a short and not-so-sweet experience.

Woods being the exception, of course.

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