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Sunday, January 23, 2011

The New World Order?

Of course, I'm talking about the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) and the shake-up that's about to take place.

All the big names are playing in Abu Dhabi this week. Well, all except Tiger, but he's not playing anywhere until next week... at which point we could have another shake-up. On the outside chance you haven't been keeping up with the tournament over there, Martin Kaymer has pretty much shocked everybody by leaping out to a 5-stroke lead over Rory McIlroy. After taking some time off, he came back out as if he hadn't missed a day.

And if he keeps it up -- he needs to win, since he drops a T2 off the back of the rankings this week -- Tiger will drop to #3 in next week's rankings. When was Tiger last out of the Top 2? And Phil, at T39, will drop out of the Top 5.

Granted, it's not such a big shock, given how they played last year. But it's only one aspect of the shake-up. If things stay the way they are now -- with Westwood near the back of the pack (currently T65) -- here's how the OWGR will look Monday:
  1. Lee Westwood
  2. Martin Kaymer
  3. Tiger Woods
  4. Graeme McDowell
  5. Steve Stricker
  6. Phil Mickelson
And Kaymer will be only about .6 behind Westwood, putting #1 well within the German's grasp.

I heard some interesting stats this weekend. Apparently, if Kaymer wins this tournament, he will have won 7 of his last 33 events -- a little better than 21% of them. That's a Nicklaus- or Tiger-esque number, don't you think? I don't know if he can keep it up, but it's certainly impressive and it should give you an appreciation for how well he's been playing over the last 18 months or so.

I'll also grant you that things can change next week. Of the six, only Woods and Mickelson will tee it up at Torrey Pines. (Or anywhere, for that matter.) Good finishes there could certainly change the complexion of the OWGR yet again. But there can be little doubt that Kaymer is in the driver's seat right now. He and Graeme McDowell are clearly the two hottest golfers on the planet at this point and, as long as they continue to play well when they tee it up, everybody else will have to scramble.

Here's what we're looking at:
  • McDowell played very little early in 2009, which are the tournaments that will be dropping off the "back end" of the OWGR. The only tournament he'll drop before March is a T24 two weeks from now. Only two more tournaments will drop in March -- a T33 and a T66 at the Accenture and Doral WGCs. If he continues to play like he's been playing, Graeme could be contending for #1 by the Masters.
  • Kaymer is in much the same boat. He drops a T31 next week, then a T4 the week after. And he too drops mediocre scores at the WGCs -- a T17 and a T35.
The good news for Tiger is that he still has a window of opportunity. He will only lose 2 tournaments before the Masters -- a T17 and a T9 at those 2009 WGCs. These are decent finishes that he'll need to replace, but he's got a full month before then to post good finishes without losing points from past finishes. In essence, the new Top 3 will start next week almost neck and neck!

The run-up to Augusta is shaping up to be an exciting race... and it's pretty much up to Martin Kaymer to get it started today.

Unless he misses his tee time, I suspect he'll get the job done.

1 comment:

  1. yes - 21% is impressive - but hold the phone on putting him in the same sentence as Nicklaus and Woods, who have entire careers with a higher winning percentage. Woods is closer to 25% going on 15 years.

    This is going to be a fun season. Westwood will still be consistent - Kaymer is still getting better - and Woods does not like the idea of someone taking his place.