Before BM rains on Lee Westood's parade, it has one, heartfelt thing to say:
Huge congratulations to Westy for becoming world
number one. He's a brilliant golfer and a credit to the game, demonstrating
that sporting excellence can go hand-in-hand with no-nonsense affability.
Several weeks ago, Bunker Mentality wrote a column
explaining exactly why Westwood would never make a convincing world number
one until he has won a Major championship.
BM is not going to retread all those arguments about whether
Major championship victories or ranking positions are the true measure of
golfing greatness. Some people agree that they do - among them Nick Faldo, the last
European to ascend to that lofty position - while others disagree.
For what it's worth, BM stands by everything it said last
time: the long-term yardstick by which true golfing genius is measured is the
number of Major Championship victories won. Even Westwood knows this; and
although he was a happy man on Monday morning that joy will be as nothing
compared to that future day when he lifts a Major championship
trophy for the first time.
The guys who run the world rankings understand as well as anybody that Majors are critical
in golf. That's why the Majors carry the biggest points, and winning
even one of the big ones is enough to launch a player into the top 100 - as American
journeyman Ben Curtis found out when he jumped from world number 396 to world
number 35 by winning The Open in 2003.
But they also know they can't give too much weight to the
big four events. It would have been ridiculous for Curtis not to have leapt
into the top 50 after that week; but it would have been equally ridiculous if
he had leapt into the top five on the back of one outstanding week.
Because of that, the rankings have to take into account all
tournament performances, with every top-10 and missed putt having a tangible effect on players average rankiings points. The net effect of all this is that consistent top-20 finishes rack up points pretty
quickly, while the odd bad week can be a real set-back.
It's not an unfair stance to take. After all, when Tiger
Woods is on anything like his normal form he almost never finishes outside the
top 15 in any tournament he plays.
Yet by effectively emphasising consistency ahead of outstanding
achievement, the rankings end up biased towards players who tend not to have bad
Thus, great players who are streaky performers - guys
including Steve Stricker, Miguel Angel Jimenez or Dustin Johnson - are punished
in comparison to 'Steady Eddies' such as Luke Donald and, of course, Westwood.
Yet to BM's mind, winning regularly is at least as important as
finishing consistently well. To suggest otherwise would be like
suggesting that five trips to the Everest base camp is better than one trip to
To put it another way: the cleverest kid in Britain isn't the
one who gets 13 A*s at GCSE. It's the one who gets a PhD in physics at the age
of 14 but couldn't care less about knowing that 'chapeau' is French for hat. (If indeed it is; BM's GCSE French is pretty rusty.)
This is even more true in sport. Any football team would choose winning the Champions League yet finishing eighth in the Premier League over losing the Champions League final while also being runners-up in the domestic title race.
Winning is, and should be, disproportionately important in top-level sport. And put to this test, Westwood's claims to the top spot look
just as shaky as they do in the light of his failure to finish the job in
In the two-year period covered by the rankings, the
Englishman has won three times. Compare that with seven victories for world
number two Woods in the same period, six for number three Martin Kaymer, five for number four Phil
Mickelson and five for number five Stricker.
Jimenez has three victories in that period, but is down at number
24 in the world. Graeme McDowell also has three wins in that time - including the US
Open - but barely scrapes into the top
10. And it's even more telling that although Woods has not won a tournament in over a
year, it has taken him until now to drop down from top spot due to his high finishes in a number of tournaments.
Don't get it wrong: BM has been a big fan of Worksop
wonder Westwood for over a decade, and has no doubt that he will one day go down in the
history books as one of Europe's best ever golfers.
But the moment when he takes his place alongside the likes
of Faldo, Ballesteros and Lyle is still not quite here yet.
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With all that said, there's one burning question remaining. If Lee Westwood shouldn't be world number one, who should?
Think of it this way. What if, instead of points, the world number one spot was allocated according to votes from a panel of experts?
If that had been the case, Tiger Woods would have still been number one for the past five years or so; and before that, previous number one Vijay Singh's 11 wins in the space of 14 months would have left him the undisputed top dog.
Today, it would be difficult to arrive on such an easy consensus. There's no doubt that Tiger Woods was the best golfer of 2009; and it's equally hard to deny that Martin Kaymer's miraculous summer has earned him bragging rights as the best player of 2010. And despite a relative lack of visits to the winners' circle, it'd be hard to ignore Westwood's consistency and four podium finishes in Majors over the past two seasons - the exact period that the rankings judge.
But if you were on that imginary number one voting panel, who would you give the nod?
It's a tough decision but, hand on heart, BM would probably still have to give Tiger the edge. Feel free to disagree in the comments box down below...
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Fact of the Week:
Tiger Woods might be world number two, but only due to the vagaries of the
system. The rankings assume a minimum of 40 tournaments played over the past
two years in order to stop red-hot rookies climbing disproportionately high. Westwood
has played 46 tournaments in that time, while Woods - due to his knee surgery
and marital problems - has played only 31 events. Divide Woods's total world
ranking points by those 31 tournaments instead of the arbitrary 40 and you get
a true average of 10.49 - well above Westwood's 8.29.
Acerbic quote of the week:
"It's interesting how times have changed, where you can get to world
number one without winning a Major. I'd won four Majors before I got to world
number one and the fifth Major probably helped. It's nice, but Majors are
obviously the one because you've got to go and win them, you have to finish
them off." - Nick Faldo on Lee
Westwood's ascent to the top of the tree.
Congratulatory quote of
the week: "(Not having won a Major yet) doesn't make any difference. He's
been a consistent performer and Tiger hasn't won a tournament in a year - does
that make him worthy of the number one title? It's fantastic. It's a great
change and it's a change for global golf. No disrespect to Tiger. He's fired up
to come back. He's been through a tough time and his golf has gone through a
tough time and you can't stay number one forever." - Greg Norman, on Lee Westwood's ascent to the top of the tree.
'Shots' of the week:
Goes to Colin Montgomerie, who asked his caddie to move an advertising hoarding
to let him play a shot at a £1m pro-celebrity event in China. The board turned
out to be (in the eyes of golf's rules) and immovable obstruction, meaning
Monty was obliged to take a free drop instead of moving it. The resulting two-shot
penalty cost the Ryder Cup captain a spot in a play-off for the cash at - wait
for it - what was a winner takes all event. Ouch!