May 12th, 2014 by Patrick Hodgson
Did you know that during the last 15 years, the title of No. 1 men’s golfer in the world has only been held by six different golfing superstars? It’s a great tidbit for a trivia question. Curious to who’s on the list? The exclusive club consists of: Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Martin Kaymer, and Rory McIlroy. But the title hasn’t been equally split. Since 1999, Woods has held the No. 1 spot for 554 of those 586 weeks. But this year, a seventh golfer will likely join this group since Woods, who currently occupies the top spot, is almost certain to miss time after the U.S. Open due to back surgery recovery.
Three golfers with the best odds of surpassing Woods include Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, and Bubba Watson. Currently Scott trails Woods in average points by 0.28, Stenson by 0.46, and Watson by 1.11. A transformation of No. 1 golfer in the world could have come into fruition as soon as Mother’s Day weekend, after The Players Championship.
In order for Scott to leap up a spot in the official golf world rankings, the 33-year-old Australian had to finish in the top 16 of the tournament. Sounds pretty feasible, right? But Scott has not finished better than 15th during the previous five times he’s competed at the event. His last appearances at the Players resulted in the following ranks: 19th, 15th, 26th, and he’s been cut twice. However, the No. 2 golfer in the world does had some momentum to counter disappointing past performances. He shot a record-setting 10-under-par 62 first round at Bay Hill during the Arnold Palmer Invitational. On Sunday Scott finished 38th. Similar play to the Arnold Palmer Invitational should help him realize his quest for golf supremacy in future tournaments.
Stenson’s pathway to becoming golf’s best required a top six finish. In seven events played on the Tour prior to the Players, the veteran has been top 10 of the leaderboard only once. This 2013 European Golfer of the Year does have four top 25 achievements to feel confident about. If he expects to become the world’s top golfer, Stenson will have to build on his play at Augusta, where he tied for 14th. However, don’t discount him yet. Perhaps some of Stenson’s magic on that day could resurface at this year’s tournament.
And what about Watson, fresh off his second green jacket in three years? He needed a second place finish to seize the No. 1 ranking. Unlike Scott and Stenson, Bubba had never won a Players Tournament. Nevertheless, in ten events played this year, the “Golf Boys” band member has been nothing less than stellar. He has two PGA wins, two second place finishes, six top finishes, and seven top 25 finishes. This makes Watson an enormous favorite to be in contention to overtake Woods.
While Watson is having the best year among the trio of challengers vying to become the next No. 1 golfer in the world, both Scott and Stenson’s best play is still ahead. For the individual that does become the new king of golf, how long will it last? Will he be able to sustain that honor? One thing is for sure, whoever claims the championship will be haunted by the Nike red shirt for the rest of the year. No pressure to the next No. 1 golfer in the world.