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How Westwood can become world number one

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Iain Carter | 15:04 UK time, Thursday, 21 October 2010

Higher mathematics has never been a strong point of mine, so I've been struggling to get to grips with this equation: one victory + one full tournament appearance in 14 weeks = world number one.

That is the scenario for Lee Westwood at the end of the month, provided Martin Kaymer finishes outside the top two at next week's Andalucia Masters.

Given that the German is on a three-tournament winning streak that began with it is not completely certain the Englishman will succeed Tiger Woods as officially the best golfer on the planet, but the odds still point to Westwood rising to the top of the rankings.

Never mind that a calf injury has severely curtailed his tournament appearances since mid-June, or the fact that he has won only one event all year and has never won a major, the carefully compiled statistics of the golfing world are likely to result in him becoming the new number one when we head into November.

So how do these rankings work? "We all tend to be used to traditional annual ranking lists that have a start point and an end point," explains Ian Barker, the man in charge of the Official World Golf Rankings.

Westwood's consistency has put him within touching distance of the number one spot. Photo: Getty

"The key difference with the world rankings is that there is no start or end, they just roll on because we have devised a way to reflect the loss of ranking points as well as gaining them."

The situation which could see Westwood rise to the number one spot while sitting at home rehabbing a leg injury has arisen because of the decline of Woods, who in previous years has amassed 400-450 ranking points each year.

This year, however, no-one has lost more ranking points than Woods (337.38) and only world number 39 Stewart Cink in the top 40 has accrued fewer points than the current world number one.

Open Champion in 2009, Cink has added a mere 78.91 points this year, while Woods has added just 90.53 - most of them earned by finishing joint fourth at the Masters and the US Open, his best results in 2010.

The standings are calculated over a two-year period, with points gradually diminishing in value from 13 weeks after they have first been earned.

The total number of points is then divided by the number of tournaments played over a two-year period (the minimum number has to be 40) and this average figure is the one used to determine where you stand in the golfing world.

At the height of his powers, Woods's points average was as high as 16, but has now slipped to 8.5.

More points, earned two years ago, are about to disappear, so his average will fall below that of Westwood unless he changes his schedule - and plays again before his next scheduled appearance at the HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai in the first week of November.

Despite his injury problems, Westwood has gained 279.11 points in the last year. He was runner-up at the Masters and at the Open - the two majors that offer the most ranking points - and he won the St Jude Classsic in Memphis.

In calculating Westwood's ranking, those results have to be added to his stellar 2009 season in which he won the Dubai World Championship to confirm his status as Europe's top player.

However, that status is now under immense pressure from Kaymer, who has added 330.02 ranking points this year, more than any other player in the world.

Tiger Woods' year has been dominated by problems in his personal life. Photo: AP

The majors may be done until the Masters next April, but golf is into an intriguing period at the top of the game.

"Any one of four players could make themselves world number one with their performance at the HSBC Champions event," Barker points out.

Woods could return to the top of the rankings, Phil Mickelson - who will be defending champion - is another who could go to the top as could Westwood or Kaymer.

World number one status is a big deal because sponsorship contracts are drawn up with lucrative bonuses to reward players for achieving such an elevated position in the game.

"It definitely looks like we are in for a period of flux unless someone can go on an amazing run," Barker added. "We have not seen anything like this since the early summer of 1997 when the number one ranking changed five times in seven weeks.

"Tom Lehman had his one week at the top of the rankings, Greg Norman, Ernie Els and Tiger Woods were the others involved. Now we can look back at that time and say it was the end of the Norman era and the start of the Woods period," said Barker.

Having enjoyed an unbroken spell of five years at the top Woods will be loathe to allow a Westwood or Kaymer to settle at the top of the tree for long.

It will be fascinating to see whether he can find the necessary form to satisfy the stats that so govern the modern game.


  • Comment number 1.

    I think that it is a very fair system and over the last 2 years Westwood does deserve to be world number 1.....but it will never replace a major victory....for that reason Woods is still the best and Mickleson his biggest challenger for the title of best player in the world. No-one can deny that Kaymer has had a fantastic season, he deserves world number 1 as much as Westwood.

    World number 1 is a measure of consistency. Westwood needs to back it up with major success or it will count for very little.

    Even Monty has found a place in history for his performances in the Ryder Cup both as player and captain. How will Westwood be remembered? All of the above world number 1's have majors, he won't want to be remembered as the only world number 1 never to win a major.

  • Comment number 2.

    When he is good, even now, he is untouchable.

    Expect a far better showing for him next year.

    To either Westwood or Kaymer*... congratulations!

    *I do hope it is the Englishman though!

  • Comment number 3.

    The world number ONE ranking will be well deserved for Westwood. But as someone has already mentioned, nothing beats winning a major. That really is the ultimate achievement for any professional golfer. It also commands respect from all the other players on the tour. Westwood is a class act and at present he's the most consistent golfer in the world, but if truly baffles me why he hasn't won a major yet. It's an evident missing gap on an otherwise very impressive resume. I still think Woods will regain the World number one ranking at some point in the future..most probably next year. He's too good not to.

  • Comment number 4.

    Good Blog Iain, it's about time these rankings were explained............

    It's a measure of Woods unbelieveable first half of 2009 that he has maintained the No.1 spot so long into 2010........................

    Hope estwood gets it but if Kaymer does the business in Spain, then he will deserve the will be great for the sport if there is a regular battle for the No.1 spot and will provide a sub-plot for every tournament over the Winter till we get back to the serious stuff in Augusta.

  • Comment number 5.

    Westwood is a fine player but a system that makes him world number one has to be questioned. Woods' private life has made this season a bit of a write-off although two 4th placed finishes in Majors would be regarded as a great achievement for just about any other player. Can't help but feel that the rankings should be calculated over a longer period and weighted so that there is more emphasis on recent results. Let's not forget that Woods won his last Major only a little over 2 years ago and, after a lengthy injury lay-off, he returned in 2009 to win 7 big tournaments, the Fedex Cup and more than USD10M. 14 Major wins, 16 WGC wins and 71 PGA wins - it's a matter of when and not if he's back at number one. Kaymer and McIlroy (if he can improve his putting) could prove the biggest longer term challengers.

  • Comment number 6.

    The more golfers chase the #1 ranking, the more likely it is that they will screw up their planning for Major Championships.
    This is the time of year that Woods goes round the world pot-hunting and, more important, playing for appearance millions and owgr points.
    Sadly it will all culminate in early December when the duelling Chevron and NEDBank exhibitions will spit out beaucoup owgr points for players in what is essentially a closed shop.
    Who cares about #1? It's Majors that define a golfing legacy: Woods 14, Phil 4, Kaymer 1, leewestwood1 0.
    If Lee compromises his fitness by going for #1, it is likely he'll also compromise his readiness for his true objective: Augusta National, April 2011.
    Say it ain't so, Lee.

  • Comment number 7.

    It's a bit of a joke. I know he's a Brit, so the press are all going doolally as we haven't got near the Number 1 ranking since Faldo swept all before him...BUT...the man has never won a major. It's a bit like the women's tennis rankings. Goog luck to you Lee, but number

  • Comment number 8.

    #5, how long a period would you have for to count the ranking points......3 or 4 years??
    I think the present 2 year "rolling" period is pretty ok....................
    #6 Kwini, i dont believe for a second that Westwood would ever change his schedule to chase the No.1 ranking.

  • Comment number 9.

    8 (John G): Tough one - perhaps 3 years. I'd need to really understand it more but, at the moment, it does seem too volatile with a player suddenly able to jump way up the rankings after a win or a couple of high finishes. I agree with LSR - Tom Lehman was number one for a week but I doubt he even cares about that when compared to his Open win.

  • Comment number 10.

    It would just be westy's luck if Kaymer did pip him for #1. That would sum up his year, so near, so far. Nobody wants him to get there more than me. I'm a Notts lad who wants to see this happen. Been waiting for years. Kaymer, dont be the fly in the ointment. That would be too cruel.

  • Comment number 11.

    It is probably worth making the point that Westwood has said that everything he is doing now is aimed at making sure he is at his best for the Masters. Nothing motivates him more than landing that elusive first major title.

    I'd also like to point out that all four majors carry an equal weighting of 100 points and that the Open and Masters aren't given added significance, as the piece above suggests. Not quite sure how that happened!

  • Comment number 12.

    #9, I'M sure Westwood wouldn't care either if he missed out on No.1 if he could get that Major.................and i hope he does...........

  • Comment number 13.

    This can start a topic of best golfer never to have won a major. Monty has to be up there. So does Sergio, who was 1/2 inch away from winning at Carnoustie and probably should have won a USPGA title at least once.

    Westwood has to win a major to go down in the annals of time as a true great, for how he came back from obscurity it would make a great story.

    Who remembers that Ian Woosnam was world number one, or who remembers that Woosnam won the Masters..?
    Exactly - No 1 in the world is nice, but nothing compared to winning a major.

    Bad Mick

  • Comment number 14.

    Jerseymike, your comments are both inherently contradictory (if you extend the ranking period, by definition you are reducing the emphasis on recent results) and don't seem to appreciate that golf already emphasises recent results far more than any other sport. As the article states, any result older than 13 weeks begins to lose their value. In most sports, players will keep the ranking points for at least a year. The UEFA team rankings keep their points at full value for 5 years!!

    And why should results from 3 years ago indicate who is the best player at the moment? Whilst I'd be happy to argue that Tiger is still the greatest player in the pack and his time is likely to come again, there is no way he could be considered to be the best golfer at the moment and he should have lost his #1 ranking quite a few months ago.

    Moreover, you cannot "jump up the rankings after a win or a few high finishes". Your points are divided by at least 40 (so you can't be a new kid on the block) and both Kaymer and Westwood have scored more points than anybody over the last 12 months (Westwood has had 8 top4 finishes including runners up spots at 2 of the last majors).

    I agree that, like women's tennis, you question a system that has a #1 player without a major, but both tennis and golf have good rankings systems, it's just a factor of not having a consistent dominant player than allows that situation to occur. You could up the points for a major win to avoid it, but the only real change that would make is that Tiger would have lost his #1 ranking earlier to either Mickelson or Kaymer.

  • Comment number 15.

    i for one hope kaymer gets it- not b/c he is german, but b/c it will be the bolt out of the blue NOONE spoke of. in the last year the overall opinion in golf media around the world was that westwood would eventually take over #1. nobody spoke of kaymer 6 months ago while he was back in the pack building steam. think there has ever been a german #1 while a german also led the us seniors at the same time? or the european seniors even? not in my young lifetime i don't think. that would be interesting and funny if another sport stereotype is crumbled..sure would tick off some though, hahah

  • Comment number 16.

    Sponsorship bonuses aside, what does the number 1 ranking actually mean?

    Surely golf fans and journalists are better qualified to judge the best players in the world than a computer ranking system?

    Let's not get our underwear in a twist about it. If Westwood is the world's best player at the moment, then so be it. If Kaymer is better, some arbitrary formula isn't going to tell us so.

    Beware of false prophets

  • Comment number 17.

    Why cant a committee of sorts give every pro tournamenmt in the world a points system maybe winning a major 100 points second 75 third 60 and so on down the field then give maybe a lesser tournament maybe in china 50 points for first and so on down the feild then calculate monthly the players with the most points to be number 1,2 etc at least this will reward the active players and those in form

  • Comment number 18.

    And why should results from 3 years ago indicate who is the best player at the moment? Whilst I'd be happy to argue that Tiger is still the greatest player in the pack and his time is likely to come again, there is no way he could be considered to be the best golfer at the moment and he should have lost his #1 ranking quite a few months ago.
    They dont though, they indicate the best golfer over the past two years. ALL rankings do that, without a period of longevity to judge over all you get is a meaningless statistic. What is "of the moment" after all? This year? this month? this week? the last 10 minutes?

  • Comment number 19.

    Surely golf fans and journalists are better qualified to judge the best players in the world than a computer ranking system?

    People have opinions but always differing criteria, there will almost never be a consensus on a #1 if you let people judge, even during Tigers most dominant periods there were a few idiots who claimed this guy or that guy was only a fraction away.

  • Comment number 20.

    Kaymer should get it, he has been the best player in the world this year and will only get better, he is going to go on and win many more majors. Will become a great.

    Lokking forward to seeing what Tiger does next year.

  • Comment number 21.

    @#20 the voice of reason.

    Kaymer is on the road to greatness. In my opinion, he will outshine McIlroy as the leading figure of European golf over the coming years. I think the next great rivalry in the game will be Kaymer v Johnson (if it is not the great rivalry already).

    Westwood is a tremendously consistant golfer. Quite amazingly so. But his legacy is likely to be the same as Montgomerie's: an excellent golfer, but not quite good enough in any particular week to win a major. If Westwood gets to number 1 it will a temporary blip before Kaymer takes over.

    Tiger will get himself sorted out and make a comeback eventually, but I'm convinced that he'll never dominate again like he did before.

  • Comment number 22.

    Iain, perhaps you could have a chat with Jonathan Overend about the way things are done in tennis - because it seems to me that they seem to be a fairly accurate reflection of things, and there are some real similarities I think.

    #1 - Nadal - winning majors for fun. Very clearly the best player overall, but still prone to occasional loss (rarely over 5 sets).
    #2 - Federer - has the claim to be one of the all time greats in terms of outstanding pedigree and record, but recently coming up just short in the big tournaments
    #3 - Djokovic - has won a major and always consistent, but very little to separate from...
    #4 - Murray - no majors, but a couple of near misses (a la Westwood?) and seems to hoover up in the smaller competitions - very consistent in terms of semis reached etc...

  • Comment number 23.

    #22: Quick_Single:
    Perhaps Jonathan Overend will tell Iain Carter that Kim Clijsters dropped in the WTA rankings following her US Open win, overtaken among others by Zvonereva who she thrashed. I understand why that was, but it illustrates that even the tennis rankings throw up some idiotic weekly variances from time to time.
    And: Exactly how many Majors have Safina, Wozniacki, Jankovic won between them? All recent number ones.

  • Comment number 24.

    Despite the media's focus with Westwood being number 1, we should all remember that Kaymer was also the best player in Europe last year until an injury prevented him from playing half of the year. Even with this, he ended up 3rd (I believe) and did that through a combination of winning tournaments and being up there when he does not win.

    Unfortunately, Westwood will need to chalk up that first major to be seriously considered the best golfer in the world. His major performances in recent years have been exceptional and surely next year he will get over that finish line.

    Kaymer's the man of the moment for me though. Best player in the world over the past couple of years even with a lengthy spell on the sidelines. (Interesting that all 4 battling for the number 1 spot have not played consistently for the past couple of years?!?)

  • Comment number 25.

    Interesting article, but you don't spell "loth" like that. As a respected journalist I would expect better from you.

  • Comment number 26.

    22, you could probably apply this example to golf...

    1 - Kaymer, lots of wins over past 2 years. Will prob start winning majors for fun now the seal is broken.
    2 - Woods, all time great that is going through a tough patch
    3 - Mickelson, major winner but maybe not consistently good enough
    4 - Westwood, no majors but consistent finishes

  • Comment number 27.

    #25 Here's what my dictionary says: loathe
    I loathe their so-called music: hate, detest, abhor, execrate, have a strong aversion to, feel repugnance toward, not be able to bear/stand, be repelled by.

  • Comment number 28.

    #25, #27:
    Surely, Iain, Your dictionary also contains "loth" or "loath": "Unwilling, was loth to depart".

  • Comment number 29.

    What we have here people is the battle of the Adjective vs The Verb, and the confusion this battle creates!!. The following was taken from Encarta dictionary (link supplied at end of message).

    loath, loth, or loathe? Do not confuse the spelling of loath (or its variant loth) and loathe. Loath (or loth) is an adjective meaning "unwilling or reluctant" and is usually followed by to, as in I was loath [or loth] to admit it. It is also occasionally encountered in the fixed phrase nothing loath (or nothing loth).

    Loathe is a verb meaning "dislike intensely": I loathe this kind of music.

  • Comment number 30.

    The world ranking system is compromised by dividing by the number of tournaments played. It penalised players that play more. If it just used total points won over the two-year period, the top 4 would be Westwood, Kaymer, Mickelson, Woods. That seems to be more representative.

  • Comment number 31.

    For me, it is Kaymer who should just nick it for 'Best Golfer In The World'.
    Results over last 2 years:
    2009 - three top 5 finishes and 2 wins
    2010 - two top 5 finishes and 4 wins

    Compare this to Westwood:
    2009 - four top 5 finishes and 2wins
    2010 - four top 5 finishes and 1 win

    These two, along with the rising of the likes of Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler...I think we've seen the end of 'The Tiger And Phil Show'...


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