If Lee Westwood moves up to No. 1 in late Sunday night’s release of the newest Official World Golf Ranking, it’s a fantastic story.
It also promises to be controversial.
On the fantastic side, Westwood’s story inspires. To come back from the mystifying slump he endured, to fight his way back to No. 1 in the world rankings, it says a lot about the nature of the man, about his resilience and perseverance. After climbing as high as No. 4 in the world rankings in 2000, Westwood inexplicably lost his swing. Three years later, mired in a slump, he plummeted to 264th in the world rankings. That he rebuilt his game so formidably is admirable.
On the controversial side, Westwood, 37, has never won a major championship. Every player who’s ever held the No. 1 world ranking has won a major. Not all of them, however, won their majors before climbing to the top spot.
Of the 12 players who’ve risen to No. 1 since the Official World Golf Ranking was created in the spring of 1986, three won their majors after becoming No. 1.
Ian Woosnam won his first major exactly seven days after claiming the top ranking. He ascended to No. 1 on the Monday before the 1991 Masters and then won the Masters that week. Fred Couples won the 1992 Masters two weeks after he became No. 1. David Duval won the 2001 British Open two years after he first gained the No. 1 ranking.
Also on the controversial side, Westwood could gain the top ranking despite having won just five tournaments in the last seven years, four on the European Tour and one on the PGA Tour. That’s sure to stir debate about the legitimacy of the world rankings. Martin Kaymer’s won six times in the last 15½ months, including the PGA Championship.