Par 5 Moving Up in the World


Setting the week’s agenda with five questions for the world of professional golf at large . . .

Is Martin Kaymer ready to ascend to the top of the world rankings?

Talk about precision German engineering.

Kaymer must have looked like a birdie machine to world No. 1 Lee Westwood when Kaymer won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship two weeks ago in the last start for both players.

Martin Kaymer
Martin Kaymer won this year's Abu Dhabi Championship. (Getty Images)
After finishing 26 shots ahead of Westwood and leaping over Tiger Woods to No. 2 in the world rankings, Kaymer is in position to make the biggest world-ranking move of his career. While he can only move up one spot at the European Tour’s Commercialbank Qatar Masters this week, it’s one giant spot. Kaymer can become the 14th player to gain the No. 1 spot since the Official World Golf Ranking was created in 1986.

Kaymer will end Westwood’s 14-week run at the top if he wins the Qatar Masters and Westwood finishes lower than second. Kaymer can also ascend to No. 1 if he finishes second and Westwood finishes outside the top 22.

The fact that Westwood and Kaymer are both in the field marks the first time Europeans ranked Nos. 1-2 in the world have met in a tournament since No. 1 Nick Faldo squared off against No. 2 Bernhard Langer at the Irish Open in 1993.

Kaymer’s seeking his sixth European Tour victory in 13 months, Westwood his first in that same span, but it won’t be as easy for Kaymer as it was at Abu Dhabi, where he’s so comfortable. Westwood favors this week’s Doha Golf Club layout

“It’s a golf course that suits me down to the ground,” Westwood says in a story on the European Tour’s website. “When you get rough like you do in Doha, it is a good driver's golf course, so I would expect it to suit me. It's almost like a major championship setup with firm greens and thick rough. With its firm greens, you can get close to the flags – but you need to be mentally strong, as it is a thinking man's golf course.”

The Qatar field also features world No. 6 Paul Casey, No. 7 Steve Stricker, No. 12 Ian Poulter, No. 15 Retief Goosen, No. 16 Robert Karlsson and No. 19 Louis Oosthuizen. John Daly and Sergio Garcia are also scheduled to play.
Is Phil Mickelson about to see Tiger Woods in his rear-view mirror?

There’s an old saying, something like, “If you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes.”

In that regard, Phil Mickelson’s view hasn’t been so good for awhile, as it relates to the world rankings.

Mickelson, like all his colleagues, has been looking at Woods’ backside for a long, long time, but nobody’s been closer than Mickelson. Last year, Mickelson spent 29 weeks at No. 2 directly behind Woods. The year before that, he spent 39 weeks at No. 2 behind Woods. With Mickelson’s strong finish at Sunday’s Farmers Insurance Open on Sunday, he jumped two spots to No. 4, back into a familiar spot directly behind Woods, of course.

It’s been nearly 14 years since Mickelson’s ranked ahead of Woods.

Going to the Masters in 1997, Mickelson ranked No. 9 in the world and Woods No. 13. That’s the last time Mickelson’s ranked ahead of Woods. A week later, with his ’97 Masters’ victory, Woods climbed over Mickelson to No. 3.

This is the week Mickelson could finally change his world ranking scenery.

With a strong finish at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Mickelson can move his ranking ahead of Woods for the first time since April 6, 1997. Mickelson can move ahead of Woods with a first-, second- or third-place finish, depending on what happens at Qatar.
Can Bubba, Lefty and Jhonny re-enact their Torrey Pines drama?

Bubba Watson, Mickelson and Jhonattan Vegas are all in the field at the Waste Management Phoenix Open after finishing 1-2-T3, respectively, last weekend.

Mickelson’s won twice at TPC Scottsdale and finished second another time. Watson has one top-10 finish there in four tries, but he’s a birdie machine who ought to do well with all the confidence percolating from last week’s victory at the Farmers Insurance Open. Watson handled his cauldron of emotions beautifully coming down the stretch, making you think this guy’s seriously moved to another level. Vegas won a birdie blitz in the desert at the Bob Hope Classic two weeks ago and showed he’s got the game for nearly any kind of track with his finish at Torrey Pines. All three of these guys look like they could have huge springs if not huge years.
Who are the animals around TPC Scottsdale’s 16th hole going to devour?

Ian Poulter got a full dose of the lunacy that reigns around the wildest hole in golf last year.

After carving his tee shot to 7 feet in the final round, he was lustily cheered. After missing the birdie putt, he was just as lustily jeered and booed.

Walking off the green, Poulter scratched his nose with his middle finger fully extended. Poulter tweeted that he was merely getting something off his face, but a message was delivered. The animals can be amusing and insulting and quite creative in managing both at the same time. Poulter, by the way, isn’t in this week’s field. He’s almost as far away as you can get at the Qatar Masters.
Does the Australian Women’s Open mark the start of the women’s season?

The LPGA season doesn’t start for another two weeks at the Honda LPGA Thailand, but there are a lot of LPGA pros getting their years started at the Australian Women’s Open this week.

Yani Tseng, the 2010 LPGA Rolex Player of the Year, is teeing it up as defending champ at Commonwealth Golf Club outside Melbourne. So is Rolex No. 1 Jiyai Shin. Four-time Australian Women’s Open champ Karrie Webb is in a marquee pairing with Stacy Lewis and 15-year-old American phenom Alexis Thompson. Laura Davies, a two-time winner of this event, is also in the field along with American Christina Kim and major championship winners Karen Stupples and Eun Hee Ji.