Is Woods the true No. 1 player in the world?

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 2, 2012, 10:00 pm

Tiger Woods won the AT&T National Sunday at Congressional C.C. by two shots over Bo Van Pelt. It was his PGA Tour-leading third victory of the season, all of which have come in his last seven starts. He is currently fourth in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood. But, is he the true No. 1 player at the moment? senior writers weigh in.


Tiger Woods entered the AT&T National as the fourth-ranked golfer in the world, then won the tournament and rocketed all the way up to … you got it – No. 4.

Treading water may sound like a curious byproduct of a victory, but the fact is, you can’t argue math. And the Official World Golf Ranking is all about math, with no room for thoughts and feelings and opinions mixed in.

That’s probably why we’re being asked this question right now. Forget the statistical formulas and numerical breakdowns. Is Woods the No. 1 player in the game today?


If I had a vote in some sort of world ranking-type poll, he would certainly sit atop my list right now. The reason is twofold. First, Tiger owns three wins in the past three-plus months, a claim which no other player on any major tour can make. Second, nobody else is making a serious run at that title right now. It’s not like the three players ahead of him on the OWGR – Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood – have been tearing it up. And those who have played well – Hunter Mahan, Jason Dufner, Matt Kuchar, Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson, to name a few – have seen success only in spurts.

So yeah, naming Tiger Woods as the “true” No. 1 player in the world is sort of a process of elimination from the competition, but it’s also a testament to his recent play. Don’t be surprised if the real world ranking – you know, the one that uses math – follows suit soon enough.


With three victories in three months, yes, Tiger Woods has reasserted himself as the top player in the world today.

But with so much history at Woods' fingertips again as his game and confidence come back, what the Official World Golf Ranking says seems inconsequential.

No. 1 Luke Donald, No. 2 Rory McIlroy and No. 3 Lee Westwood aren’t the players Woods must see standing out in front of him.

Jack Nicklaus and Sam Snead are the guys who stand in the way of what Woods wants most. Nicklaus is there with his record 18 major championship titles, Snead with his record 82 PGA Tour titles.

So now it gets fun.

With Woods practically stepping out of the way for three years, we have seen the confidence and games of a number of players grow. We have seen Donald, McIlroy and Westwood take turns at No. 1. We have seen Webb Simpson, Bubba Watson, Charl Schwartzel, Hunter Mahan, Dustin Johnson, Jason Dufner, Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler step into bigger games.

It’s as if Woods’ shadow moved out of the way so these other players could grow into their games. Now, if Woods keeps building this run, we get to see how those other growing games really measure up. We get to see if any of these guys can become what Tom Watson and Lee Trevino became for Nicklaus, formidable thorns in Nicklaus' side in his run at history.

There could be as much fun watching the emergence of the next Watson and Trevino as there is the re-emergence of Woods.


With all due respect to the world golf ranking math, not to mention the foursome of Europeans who have split time atop the world pack ever since the spot came vacant in October 2010, Tiger Woods is the world’s best player.

The ranking’s two-year rolling window may guard against unrealistic spikes and unfair free falls, but on this it seems to ignore the red-shirted elephant in the room.

Woods now has three victories in his last seven starts. If one tracks back to last November, when his body and swing finally began working in tandem, he has four wins (although the Chevron World Challenge is not an official Tour event it does receive ranking points) and seven worldwide top-10 finishes.

During that same time frame, current world No. 1 Luke Donald – who has, in all fairness, been the game’s most consistent player for some time – has two worldwide victories and seven top 10s. You do the math.Or, take it from Bo Van Pelt, who went the final 36 holes at last week’s AT&T National with Woods.

“I'd have to say (Woods),” said Van Pelt when asked who he thought the world’s best player is. “No offense to any of those other guys, but I think he's the only guy to win three tournaments on Tour this year, on three demanding golf courses, and he was leading the U.S. Open after two days. So I'd say that he’s playing the best golf in the world right now.”

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

"It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

Piller declined an interview request when sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

“I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

And that’s a magic word in golf.

There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.

Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery

A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

“The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

“It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

Parity was the story this year.

Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

“I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.