LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Tiger Woods each have a chance to be ranked No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking by Sunday evening here at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. So, who will ascend to No. 1 when the Open Championship ends? Our team in England debates.
By JAY COFFIN
This feels like a Lee Westwood week.
It’s been said numerous times that players often don’t win majors, that majors often win players. This is one of those weeks. Major championships have beaten and battered the 39-year-old Westwood so much during his career that it’s time for the suffering to end.
The stars are aligned for Westwood. No one in the game has been in contention more in major championships over the last four years. With eight top-10 finishes since 2009, Westwood knows what it feels like to be in the hunt on Sunday.
Don’t underestimate the importance of this week for Westwood. He’s well aware of how significant it would be for an Englishman to win the Open in England.
“This is the biggest championship in the world for me,” Westwood said Tuesday. “It would obviously mean a lot, not just because Tony (Jacklin) was the last Englishman to win the Open Championship, but because it's the championship.”
This is the week it will be his championship.
By JASON SOBEL
The world’s No. 1-ranked player at the end of this week will be the same player who was No. 1-ranked at the beginning of the week, too: Luke Donald.
Now let’s get something straight. I love Donald’s game, but I don’t love it at this week’s Open Championship. After picking him to win both the Masters and U.S. Open to no avail earlier this year, I don’t like his chances on a Royal Lytham & St. Annes course where driving accuracy will most certainly be at a premium.
So why will he still be ranked No. 1 at week’s end? It’s all about the math.
Donald can be passed – again – by Rory McIlroy if he finishes runner-up or by Lee Westwood or Tiger Woods if either of them win.
Anyone paying attention to the last 15 major championships understands that literally every player in the field should be considered a contender, with field depths growing more extensive with seemingly each major. Not that any of the three contenders to the crown should be discarded as potential champions this week – the truth is, I really like each of them on this course – but there are too many others who can get in the way. In my pre-tournament prediction, I have Justin Rose as this year’s winner, followed by Woods and Westwood. Not that I expect to hit a trifecta, but even that scenario – with two of the three candidates finishing in the top-three – wouldn’t be enough to distance Donald from his current position.
Donald may not triumph this week at Lytham, but expect him to remain No. 1 thanks to a little help from his friends.
By REX HOGGARD
Late Sunday a player will hoist the claret jug into what passes for a summer sky in this corner of the world and will very likely assume the top spot in the World Golf Ranking. That player will be Tiger Woods.
That is, of course, if an assortment of dominoes and divisors fall into place including current world No. 1 Luke Donald finishing outside of the top 3 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. But that minutia is, as Woods would say, not his concern.
Cue cliché: I can only control my own golf ball, and no one is doing that with more regularity than Woods of late. Nor does anyone in this generation do it as well on a linksy think piece as Woods.
For Woods the math will work itself out if the method is sound, and three PGA Tour victories in his last eight starts suggests the experiment has moved beyond the placebo stage.
Besides, of the four players with a chance to bolt the Lancashire coast with the No. 1 ranking – Donald, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Woods – only Woods has won the game’s oldest member-member – three times in fact.
It’s why Woods will take care of the important stuff between the ropes, and the math will sort itself out.