The Best Depends on Your Timeframe


A day hardly goes by without someone asking me if Tiger Woods really is the best professional golfer in the world.
Well ' not really. Its been a month or two since anyone even mentioned Tiger. Seems like everyone is busy recently talking about Vijay Singh. Vijay Singh is the best golfer on the planet, they say smugly, believing for all the world that they have discovered a golfer no one knows about. The world rankings say Tiger, they note with a certain air of confidence, but the best golfer is Vijay.
You wont get much argument here. The last time we had any statistics to support an argument ' which was Monday at New Orleans ' Singh was the best golfer in the world.
Well, that is, if you discount the European Tour, where Graeme McDowell outlasted Thomas Levet in a playoff. But I think its safe to assume Vijay was the best golfer in the world on Monday of this week.
Vijay was probably the best golfer in the world last week, too. Remember, he won the Shell Houston Open? That makes two weeks in a row is that enough to make him the best golfer in the world?
Forgotten now is Phil Mickelson, who just as recently as the Masters three weeks ago was considered the best. He has a pretty good resume this year, folks ' 10 tournaments, nine top-10s, two victories a win and a tie for second his last two tournaments. Youre sure he isnt the best?
Lets see, though Singh has won three times this year, including the last two. Yeah, hes the best player in all of golf.
Whoops! Where does that leave Ernie Els? Remember him? He was the best around the first of the year, remember? Hes played in the States only six times, but he won the Sony, finished one stroke back to Mickelsons stirring comeback in the Masters, then put a T3 on the boards the very next week at the MCI. Hes taking the week off, but really ' how do you leave him out?
Uh ' remember not so long ago when it was Adam Scott? It seems like decades ago that he was rolling over the greatest field of the year at the Players Championship. He had finished in the top 10 in four of his first five starts. The golf world swooned over the youngster, proclaiming it had discovered the new No. 1. But, he missed two cuts in a row and has since gone back to Europe ' out of the newspapers, out of mind, they say.
And where does that leave Tiger? EVERYONE has forgotten him. But heres a little secret ' over the last two years, even more so over the last three, four or five years, hes the greatest player in golf. Yes ' the best.
You might get a little argument from the Vijay fans, and they could be right. But Woods won five times last year ' no one else did that. Hes won this year at the Accenture Match Play. You can say he hasnt been the best player this year ' of course it isnt even half over ' and no one can argue that. But when it comes to two years or longer, no one can argue that, either.
Tiger says he it's very likely someone will surpass him in the rankings, and he accepts that..
'It's a fact I won't be No. 1 in the world forever,' he said. 'Either someone flat out outplays me, or I might not play at the same level or old age takes over. Whatever the circumstances are, I don't know, but whatever they are, it's going to happen.
'Every street comes to an end. That's just a fact of life. Just like we're going to have, I'm sure, in the future, some new young kid come out here that's going to be a world beater and it's going to surpass Nicklaus's records, my records, whatever they were at a younger age. That's just the way it is, the evolution of sports.'
So, what does it mean when say so-and-so is the best player in golf? Are you talking about right now ' this minute? Come Thursday somebody will birdie three holes in a row and he will be the best player in golf ' for the moment. Do you mean this week? Its Singh. Do you mean the past month? Its either Singh or Mickelson. Do you mean the last two years? Woods. Or do you mean a career? Its still Jack Nicklaus.
The point is, its getting very difficult to make a definitive choice. The best player in golf can be debated all day and all night. Who do you want it to be? Woods? Singh? Mickleson? Els? Or Nicklaus? Yep. Yep. Yep. Yep. And yep.
OK, lets stop debating and just enjoy the golf.
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