Bunker Mentality

Wayward Woods still the ultimate event

Bunker Mentality

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You can take the boy out of top spot, but you can't take top billing out of the boy. Not content with the challenge of fighting Tiger Woods for the moniker of the world's number one golfer, Europe's leading lights now appear to be squabbling over him. 

Tiger Woods has dropped to an unbelievable fifth place in the world in the wake of another uninspiring performance in last week's Accenture World Match Play event in Arizona.

While he was being dumped out of the event in the opening round by Denmark's Thomas Bjorn, Martin Kaymer of Germany and England's Luke Donald were making significant strides forward in the tournament and the game's rankings.

Kaymer lost the final 3&2 to a smokin' hot Donald, but his run to the final was enough to topple Englishman Lee Westwood from the summit of the rankings. For the moment at least.

Donald moves up to number three after the biggest win of his career with Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell, the defending US Open champion, perched one spot above Tiger at number four.

Europe occupy the four leading spots in the rankings for the first time since the days when US Masters winners Ian Woosnam, Nick Faldo, Jose Maria Olazabal and Seve Ballesteros were regular pursuers of the Green Jacket.

With England's Paul Casey at number seven and another Northern Irishman in the form of young Rory McIlroy occupying the eighth spot, this is a golden era for European golf, but Tiger is never far from the thoughts of others.

Woods remains four majors short of Jack Nicklaus's total of 18, but he should not listen to McIlroy any time soon if he is having doubts about reaching that mark over the next decade or so.

With Woods missing the Honda Classic this week and struggling with an inconsistent swing pattern, it is conceivable that McIlroy could rise about the American in the rankings once this weekend is over.

"I'm not sure we are going to see him dominate again the way he did," said McIlroy speaking to an American television channel yesterday. "He never seemed like he would make a mistake.

"It's not that he's playing badly. He's simply playing badly by Tiger's standards. He's playing like an ordinary golfer."

Such comments brought a stern rebuke from Westwood, who believes it is too early to predict Woods' demise in the game.

"That's the answer that a 21-year-old would give. A 37-year-old is a little wiser," said Westwood.

"Class is permanent, form is fickle. Tiger is the classiest player I have ever played with, and I'd be wise enough to know not to write him off.

"I have seen him play poorly and win tournaments, so he doesn't necessarily have to get back to where he was."

Bunker Mentality agrees with Westwood. We are not yet ready to write off arguably the greatest figure to play the game. For the good of golf, it would be nice to see Woods back at his best, rather than dominating the news agenda with his ill-advised antics on and off the course.  

Amid all the whooping and hollering in Europe over the rich health of their tour, it should be noted that Tiger is installed as the favourite for the US Masters in April.

Bunker Mentality believes bookmakers are always a better judge of value than the world rankings.

TWEETS OF THE WEEK: Amid all the nonsense that circulates twitter, there is nobody like John Daly to bring home the bacon..or anything else he fancies.

"Chips & homemade salsa for bedtime snack--- nothin like the real fresh salsa in Cancun, now that ain't bad!" Not bad at all 'Wild Thing'. Nice to share those thoughts with the world at large. We really wanted to know that. 

Lee Westwood obviously enjoys teasing McIlroy: "Had to get dinner again! Somebody tell Rory that only schools take dinner vouchers! Can't believe there's a supplement for a high chair!"

WINS OF THE WEEK: A double dose for you. Luke Donald has gone from plodder to prince in the space of a week. His win at the WGC Match Play tournament is the biggest victory of his career. It came four years after he won the Honda Classic, but must surely give him the hunger to press on in this season's majors.

Martin Kaymer lost the final, but is the new world number one. He looks as assured in his sport as Franz Beckenbauer did in football. He is Der Kaiser of golf. Three cheers for Martin, a figure who is as classy off the course as on it. 

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