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Newsmaker of the Year: No. 7, The battle for No. 1

Brooks Koepka
Getty Images’s No. 7 newsmaker is all about the depth exhibited in both the men’s and women’s games this year.

In fact, it may be historic.

We saw that in all the battles waged for the No. 1 world ranking this year, in the musical chair nature of that struggle.

The top ranking exchanged hands nine times in the men’s game. That’s more times than any year in the history of the Official World Golf Ranking, since it was initiated in 1986.

The ranking changed hands seven times over the last three months, with the possibility for continuing change in the immediate future as just .01 average world-ranking points separate No. 1 Brooks Koepka from No. 2 Justin Rose (as of the publishing of this story).

The top spot changed hands four times in November alone.

Rose captured what the ranking means when he moved to No. 1 for the first time on Sept. 10.

“It’s boyhood dreams,” Rose said. “Today is all about the process, and there will be next week to win a tournament, but to get to world No. 1 is unbelievable. It’s something I can say now in my career, ‘I’ve been the best player in the world. I’ve been to the top of the game.’”

The previous high mark for world-ranking changes in a calendar year was eight, back in 2015.

The top ranking changed hands four times in the women’s game this year.

On the men’s side, Dustin Johnson started the year at No. 1, but he took turns moving on and off the top spot with Koepka, Rose and Justin Thomas.

On the women’s side, Shanshan Feng, Inbee Park, Sung Hyun Park and Ariya Jutanugarn took turns at No. 1.

Newsmakers of the Year: Full list and reveal dates

When you look at the overall state of the men’s and women’s game, the battles for No. 1 are evidence we may be in a golden era as deep as any in the history of the game.

The ‘70s were loaded with star power in the men’s game.

Jack Nicklaus competed with stars from the end of one era and the beginning of another during that time. He was still battling Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Billy Casper at the start of the decade and then Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Seve Ballesteros, Raymond Floyd, Johnny Miller, Hale Irwin, Jerry Pate, Tom Weiskopf and Lanny Wadkins through the rest of the decade.

That era pre-dated the world rankings, but it likely would have come with some serious musical chair struggles for No. 1 if there had been rankings.

History will ultimately measure how this era’s depth stacks up, but the number of proven major championship winners in the mix for No. 1 today, including the reinvigorated Tiger Woods, and the potential for emerging stars like Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Tommy Fleetwood and Tony Finau to get into the mix, adds a golden shimmer to today’s competition.

The women are experiencing the same phenomenon with the worldwide depth of the LPGA even more apparent, with women from four different countries holding the world No. 1 ranking over the last 18 months.

“It’s extremely tough to win out here,” said Canadian Brooke Henderson, who ranks with American Lexi Thompson among young stars who are expected to add to the rotating cast of No. 1s as they seek to gain the top ranking for the first time.

Getting to No. 1 may be difficult today, with the breadth of talent, but holding on to the top ranking is proving tougher than ever.