Thanks to his bum knee, Tiger Woods’ seemingly insurmountable lead in the World Golf Rankings has dwindled to something more nearly described as slim.
Woods has held the number one ranking since June 12, 2005—a streak of 183 weeks. But that’s now in danger.
On January 1, 2008, Woods had 19.225 points in the rankings, and World number two Phil Mickelson had 8.555. Today, Woods has 12.88 points while number two Sergio Garcia is making it close with 8.42 points. Thus, Woods’ lead has shrunk from eleven to just four points.
Whether Woods is able to retain his number one position largely depends upon how fast he can fully rehab his knee, which has kept him out of competition since the 2008 US Open. Do the math on this one: Following the US Open at Torrey Pines, Woods had 21.138 points. In December 2008, he has fallen 8.25 points to 12.88. That’s an average of .344 points per week.
If Garcia simply holds ground and Tiger continues miss tournaments, he’ll fall behind Garcia in about thirteen weeks. It’s likely then that Garcia is the World Number One heading into the Masters sixteen weeks from now.
Sergio Garcia’s rise has been remarkable. In January 2008, he was ranked number 12 at 4.785 points. Today, following a strong season, and having finished in the top five in his last eight events, Garcia has 8.42 points.
Padraig Harrington’s terrific summer also has put him into contention. Ranked eighth in the first week of 2008, he rose to fourth on the strength of a strong summer, putting him just five points behind Woods.
Also rising quickly are Robert Karlsson and Henrick Stenson. Karlsson has risen from 42 to six since January 2008, and Stenson from 16 to seven. Other contenders are Camilo Villegas and Anthony Kim. A year ago, Kim was 74 and now is at twelve. Villegas has risen from 58 to eight.
Still, I think the most likely scenario is that Garcia stages a palace coup and seizes the crown following the Masters. Even if Woods returns earlier than expected, it will be a while before he returns to his former glory.
The good news for professional golf is that Woods’ injury has put some suspense back into the game for the next couple of years. The World Golf ranking use a rolling two year average, so missing most of the summer of 2008 will continue to haunt Woods until the latter half of 2010. Whereas his previous lead made it almost mathematically impossible for anyone to overtake him, sitting out six or more months has effectively reset the scoreboard. With strong play from Garcia, Harrington and others, there will be a real dogfight for the top spot in the World Rankings in 2009.