An old Tiger era question gets new legs


With Tiger Woods vulnerable, Ian Poulter sees the door to No. 1 open to more than Phil Mickelson.

“I can see anybody in the top 10 in the world, if they play great for a spell of three, four months, have a couple wins and a couple big finishes, yeah, certainly get to the points Tiger is at now, for sure,” Poulter said recently.

With Woods teeing it up at the Memorial this week, where he has a terrific history, we’ll see if that kid at The Players Championship was right. You remember. The kid in the crowd who told Woods: 'Say so long to No. 1. Kiss it goodbye.'

We'll get a better picture this week of just how vulnerable Woods is because he's been so good at Muirfield Village in the past. 

Will he struggle to make another cut and embolden his challengers? Or will he make a statement that dashes the hopes of his challengers and their bids to take the top ranking he's held for the last 260 consecutive weeks?

Here’s the thing: Over the 24-month rolling period that constitutes these rankings, Woods has been inactive for more than a year due to injuries and his self-imposed exile due to the sex scandal that followed his crash into his neighbor’s yard.

This is an old question about Woods' dominance that irritates today's players, but it gets fresh legs with Woods so vulnerable: While Woods’ run at No. 1 is without doubt a testament to his greatness as a player, is it also an indictment of the weakness of his competition in this era?

Think about it. Woods has been inactive for more than a year of this two-year rolling period. He’s played with a broken leg, blown-out knee, injured neck, with serious marital problems, surely a broken heart and a dislocated spirit (yes, of his own making) and still this generation of players can't take the top ranking from him.

History will celebrate Woods’ success as a player, but it isn’t likely to be kind to his competition, especially if it can't take advantage of his vulnerable state this summer.