Now, the question rages: who is second best? Weve gone through a roller-coaster of opinions this year already, and we havent even reached the first major.
Davis Love III is the flavor of the day now. He was terribly impressive Sunday in winning The Players Championship. Fred Couples said Love played either, A) the best round Freddie had ever seen, or B) the best round Freddie had seen Love play ' I couldnt tell which. But thats OK ' Love played magnificently all four rounds in winning a very difficult championship.
But before there was Davis, there was Ernie Els. You remember, dont you? He won the first two events, won a third in Australia, and lost a playoff in Malaysia in his next start. By the time he got back to America, though, his great early start was forgotten. Now hes hit a punching bag the wrong way at his London home and is out of commission.
Vijay Singh was next, but he pulled a rib muscle, missed six weeks, and he, too, seems forgotten.
Up stepped Mike Weir to win a couple of times and everybody started thinking ' Is he the one? But Weir faded to the back to be replaced by ' Tiger?
Scott Hoch and Justin Leonard filled in briefly while Tiger was taking vacations. They both were quite impressive. Hoch hurt his wrist, though, and stepped aside, who gave way to Leonard, who gave way again to Tiger. Suddenly everyone started thinking clearly again ' Tiger was the one who was gone for awhile while he rehabbed his knee, but sanity prevailed and everyone was able to see the big picture in a little clearer light.
So now its Davis ' again. Davis is a few days shy of his 39th birthday and has spent the last few years battling one ailment or another. He had a terrible back problem. And his neck gave him fits. But this year both cleared up, and what do you know ' this guy can really smoke it! He looks like he might be the genuine article.
So Love is the new No. 2 but wait a minute! What about Padraig Harrington! What about Jay Haas! What about the young guys ' Adam Scott, Aaron Baddeley, what about Chad Campbell? Dont forget Stewart Cink, Nick Price, David Toms or Robert Allenby!
Wait ' Sergio Garcia is changing his swing and will be back in a matter of a few months! Retief Goosen is just a little worn out and will recover that old magic as soon as he recuperates. And Phil Mickelson ' he had some family business to attend to, but hes back this week.
Hey, some of the fellas, guys like Fred Couples, Brad Faxon, Jim Furyk and Corey Pavin are beginning to stir a little. Have you forgotten them? And youngsters like Charles Howell III, Luke Donald and Matt Kuchar ' surely before the year is up, we will hear from those guys!
Er - Chris DiMarco, did I mention him yet? By the way, Jerry Kelly, Rocco Mediate, Frank Lickliter ' Frank Lickliter won at Tucson! Cant forget him.
Its difficult to believe that when last year ended, Rich Beem was the name on everyones lips. By the way, when was the last time Mark Brooks, John Daly, David Duval, Lee Janzen or Tom Lehman contended? Couldnt they just as easily pull a Davis Love and get right back in this thing? How about Greg Norman ' yeah, how about Norman, even with a trick back? And Jose Maria Olazabel, Bernhard Langer, Jesper Parnevik, maybe Hal Sutton? How about Nick Faldo and Mark OMeara?
Thats about 50 guys to consider. Its so easy to forget. So many great players, so little an imagination. Week by week, month by month, the present nom de jour is rushed over and another one is inserted in his place.
Sure, Davis Love was very impressive. Give all the praise accorded him. But just remember to keep these underlying truths in your mind at all times: Number 1, there are a lot of guys who are going to be the second-best player before the year is over; and No. 2, there isnt a hint of doubt who is No. 1 - Tiger Woods.
The mature gents are climbing back into the ring, reduxing past glories all over the place. Love is the latest ' wasnt he the one to beat some time ago? He was ' but times change, and situations change. Now its Davis. Forgotten is some guy who only a month or so ago looked unbeatable. Now ' hes beatable. Tiger must be smiling at us.