When the Official World Golf Rankings are updated on Monday, the top four spots will be held by players from across the pond. Europe that is, and it’s really remarkable to look at the top ten. The top five players in order go like this; Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, and Graeme McDowell and Tiger Woods. The win by Luke Donald this weekend at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and the great play by Martin Kaymer secured Europe will hold the top spots for now, with Paul Casey and Rory McIlroy not far behind.
So that brings up an interesting question. Who will be the next American to overtakd #1 again? Tiger Woods is the closest, sitting at #5. Phil Mickelson is close behind at #6 and Steve Stricker and Matt Kuchar close out #9 and #10. What does this say about United States golf? Is American golf doing something wrong? Are youngsters growing up in the United States not as determined as their counterparts? These are all great questions that are really hard to answer.
Let’s first take a look at Tiger Woods. There is no hiding the fact Tiger is struggling right now. He seems to be fighting his swing and losing confidence faster than he’s losing sponsors. If Tiger goes through 2011 with no wins again, he might not ever track down Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.
The next closest is Phil Mickelson. Phil is 40 years old. He is battling arthritis and puts his family ahead of golf, which he should. Vijay Singh won many times over in his 40’s, and I don’t think Phil is done winning, but he has had numerous chances to overtake #1 and never been able to get over the hump. I just don’t think it will be Phil.
Rounding out the top ten are Steve Stricker and Matt Kuchar. These guys are fantastic golfers but do not have the personalities to be #1. Listening to Johnny Miller and Roger Maltbie today on the NBC telecast question whether Martin Kaymer even has the cache to hold the #1 spot makes me think that Stricker and Kuchar definitely don’t have it, although both of them are good enough golfers to get there. I mean look at the players who have held #1: Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Greg Norman and many more who all have the skill but also hold the intangible “IT” that can propel you to the top.
So where are the next players going to come from? Dustin Johnson is #14, Bubba Watson is #15 and Hunter Mahan is #19. The next Americans after Mahan is Rickie Fowler at #30 and Nick Watney at #31. These five players are better start winning all over the world if they want to move closer to the top.
In my mind, Tiger Woods is the only hope for American golf to get back to #1 in the WGR. He is going to need to get it going and get it going quickly, so he doesn’t fall too far behind. Right now, he is one or two big wins away to overtake #1 again. That could be The Masters or U.S. Open and one other win along the way.
The bottom line is Europe is definitely dominating the worldwide golf landscape right now and the way Tiger Woods is playing there is going to be no changing that anytime soon.