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Sunday, October 3, 2010

The New Number One?

Lee Westwood sinks a big putt, picture by Matt Dunham/Associated PressWell, the Americans were on top, now it looks like they might be on the bottom going into the singles matches at the Ryder Cup. One way or another, we'll see how it all plays out today.

But I'd like to focus on a post about Lee Westwood from the Yahoo! Sports blog Saturday. It's called "Westwood Takes Command of the Game " and it quotes Butch Harmon as saying that Westwood "is the greatest player in the world right now. No one is playing better, no one is swinging better. He has it all.” The post also says Westwood will probably collect enough ranking points to take over the world #1 spot later this month. (The picture is from an article about the Ryder Cup in the Augusta Chronicle. Click the pic to read it.)

I agree with both Harmon and the post's writer Martin Rogers, and have felt this way for some time. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that many of you felt the same; and now the fact that he came back from a two-month layoff due to injury and picked up right where he left off is nothing short of amazing. If Lee Westwood does take over the top spot this month, I doubt anybody will question whether he belongs there or not.

What amazed me is that Butch Harmon said it. You would expect him to be touting Phil as the next worldbeater, much the way Sean Foley is now doing with Tiger. (You all read that Foley predicts Tiger will win 22-23 majors, didn't you?) Instead, the one man who may know the games of the current #1 and #2 players better than anyone else says that #3 is already the best and the rankings are just slow to show it.

Personally, I gained a lot of respect for Butch for saying this. It may not have been the smartest timing, given Phil's current struggles at the Ryder Cup, but you've got to love it when you get straight talk from a teacher who has to say his student is currently overrated.

Given that Tiger will probably just sidestep the issue if asked, I guess the big question now is... What will Phil do next?

4 comments:

  1. Phil as the next world beater ? At age 40 ? Who do you think he is - Vijay Singh ? Someone with heart ? :-D

    If Butch is nothing else - he is honest. If one of his guys isn't playing well, he may not come out and say that he's stinking up the course, but he won't blow smoke up your butt and tell you that he is.

    Mickelson has had 2 of the last 3 years to take over the top spot with Tiger recovering from injury and his personal life and he hasn't been able to cloase the deal. Even on weeks where all he had to do was finish top 5 - he has gagged the chances away.

    I'm glad Westwood has stepped up to challenge for the top spot. He's doing it positively with wins and high finishes - not just waiting for Tiger to miss enough events that he gets the spot by attrition.

    At least his Ryder Cup performance hasn't slipped...not that it could. (lol) I can't think of anyone in the European lockerrom who would say "Give Phil to someone else, I'm not up to playing him" for the singles round tomorrow.

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  2. I just read this article. I like Lee Westwood and he seems to have the killer instincts that Phil is lacking. Vijay was the last one to take the crown from Tiger. He believed that he could be #1 and stared him down head to head to take it.

    I see the same attitude in Westwood. I wouldn't be surprised at all. My question is how long he will be able to retain the ranking once he eclipses Woods. Is this the decline of Woods or will we be calling Foley a prophet?

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  3. Sorry forgot to post the link to the article. http://golftwitt.com/772p

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  4. Court -- I used the term "worldbeater" because of the hype we usually hear. These days, it seems that unless you're a bit of a braggart or in the news every week, nobody really takes you seriously. Just look at Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk -- unquestionably the two best American players right now (with the #4 and #5 rankings to boot) -- and yet they usually aren't mentioned in such discussions except as an afterthought.

    Actually, I think Tiger and Phil are both suffering from the same problem in different ways: Neither has ever really been "down" the way they are now.

    Phil is just emotionally worn out from all the health problems his family has had the last couple of years. Trying to get "over the hump" to win a major is small potatoes compared to health struggles. It's taken all the fight out of him for now.

    And Tiger is suffering because of what most people have considered his greatest strength. Everybody says Tiger did it "right" by dominating the junior ranks before becoming a professional -- unlike Michelle Wie, who insisted on taking the biggest challenges she could get. But while Michelle has become one of the most mentally-tough golfers on the planet (go ahead and scoff, you know it's true), Tiger has never learned how to lose. He has no experience living at the bottom of the heap, so he wasn't prepared for it. When Annika said Tiger made excuses the few times she beat him, it shouldn't have come as a surprise. At this point, his self-image is still too bound up in his success. I think that will be the biggest challenge to him making a comeback.

    Dex -- Following that same thought, I think Westwood can hold #1 for quite a while if he manages to take it... and I think he will, possibly before the end of the year. (Remember, the Euro Tour starts the 2011 season a month early.) Westwood has been at the bottom and it was so bad that he considered giving it all up... but he didn't. When he has a bad day, he remembers those days, smiles, and moves on.

    The world rankings include tournaments for only two years. Tiger's last major, the 2008 US Open, has already dropped off. 2009 was a decent year but those tournaments start dropping off next March. Unless he gets it together soon, his world ranking points will drop dramatically next year.

    As for Westwood, he doesn't believe he can be #1... he knows he already IS #1 in terms of play. The burden is now on Tiger to take it back.

    I believe Tiger will get his game back, but I wouldn't be surprised if it took him a year or two to get the ranking back.

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