Normally, I take the usual less-than-pithy social media rumblings with a grain of salt.  Anymore, it’s only when I see a comment from someone who normally has objective sports opinions, do I even engage in discussion.

But, I felt the need to respond to this as it came from someone who can be fairly objective at times, but it also seems like commonly shared opinion every single time Tiger Woods finishes outside the top 10, or gets off to a bad start to a tournament (even a non-major).  It’s seems like it’s a constant cycle in the golf world.

The Question From Friend (& others):

How the hell is Tiger Woods the number 1 ranked golfer in the world right now?

Tiger Woods: #1 Golfer in the World

To anyone out there that is currently saying Tiger Wood’s shouldn’t be the number one ranked golfer in the world right now: SHUSH

A major problem I have with this question is that it’s posted after Tiger’s Thursday round at the Honda Classic on February 27th.  Not only are we not going to let Woods finish a tournament in 2014 before we start ripping his #1 world ranking while talking about how he’s finished.  We’re not even going to find out if he makes the cut.

Alright.  Let’s do our best at rational objectivity here.  How about we go and look at the facts.  How about we set aside the comments from the often highly opinionated, yet stubborn & very rigid golf-covering media.   For that matter, let’s also not try to pretend there isn’t any racial bias (subconscious or not) from a few golf commentators, some fans, and the aged tour star who just can’t get used to (or never will get used to) seeing a black guy dominate the golf landscape for almost two decades.

All the time I hear “Tiger Woods: Either you love him or you hate him!”

Why is that?  Why can’t there be a middle ground?  Maybe I am in the minority when I say that I’m not a Tiger Wood’s fanatic but also don’t dislike him.  Perhaps it’s because that I can appreciate greatness when I see it, but I also can’t fall in love with an individual athlete who is playing an individual sport.  Sure, I’ll root for Woods, but I also happily root for Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson, or any likable American tour star if they’re in the hunt on Sunday.  If Mickelson and Tiger are squaring off in a playoff, I really don’t need to root for anyone (unless I bet one of them).  It’s good enough TV as it is.  But, when it comes to who the best player in the world is, “Is there even a rational argument as to who that is?”

Anyway, let’s look at the most basic facts and statistics in 2013 with regard to Tiger’s #1 ranking and respond.  Lets also (at least try to) set aside the absolutely amazing and historical Tiger Woods career resume (as ridiculous as I find it to do this).

So, a short response to his main question:

His 6 wins in 2013 (with around 10 top five finishes) may have something to do with Tiger not dropping to #2

But, this isn’t good enough…..nope….not for Woods; We all know that Tiger Woods continues to (and always will) have expectations that are astronomically high, year-in and year-out.

Friend’s response:

He’s won when the pressure is off. However, in my opinion, when it comes to a tournament when the stakes are raised, he simply does not have it. His performance so far this year has been terrible.

This I really don’t get at all…

This is the point that I decided that I should write a short piece on how the “Tiger is not the #1 player” argument has absolutely no merit at all.

First, he mentions his results when the “stakes are raised”.  Well his career 17 majors, as well as his three top-ten finishes in majors in 2013 will tell you all that you need to know about how Tiger handles pressure in big tournaments (ie: major tournaments).  But, this is the Honda classic you are using as the prime example as to why he shouldn’t be #1 in the world.  So, it’s not relevant.

Regardless, all things considered, is unfair to say “he wins when the pressure is off” as a reason for dropping his ranking, as all the guys in the top-ten have the same level of pressure in every tournament.  Also, his 17 majors show that he can handle pressure just fine.  Another example of his ridiculously high standards that other players don’t have.

In the very next comment (the same post), he talks about how his performances this year have been terrible.

My Response:

Tiger Woods is the only active golfer with 17 (yes, 17) majors (in an era of golf where even ten major tournament wins is an absolutely absurd number).  We all know this.  But, that’s not all…..

He’s the only active professional golfer who isn’t given any credit for his non major wins.  Nope, non-major wins are irrelevant (sarcasm).  We don’t care if he wins 1 out of every 5 tournaments, nor does it matter that he is three wins away from having the most career PGA tour wins.

Again, Tiger Woods has standards are higher than everyone else.

However, Tiger has only played in two tournaments in 2014, and he withdrew on Saturday in one of them.  So, We’re only two months into the year with no big tournaments played (by Woods’ standards).  Both of his two tournaments aren’t majors, thus have no raised steaks.  Again, this is a distinction that applies to Woods only).

It is his….
…..79 career wins, with 6 of them being in 2013.
…..the fact that (of all active golfers) he has more major wins over the age of 30.

That is why he remains the golf world’s #1 player and the man to beat.

Adam Scott, who is #2 in the world, had 2 wins on the PGA tour in 2013 and several wins in Australia.  Yet, in both of Scott’s PGA wins, Tiger was right behind him, finishing in the top five.

But, regardless, we are talking about a point system.

Friend’s response:

I understand his past accomplishments. Still, that should not carry much, if any, weight with regards to his current ranking. The whole golf ranking system is extremely flawed because it takes into account prior performances WAY too much. I still remember Greg Norman being ranked #1 for a large chunk of the mid 90’s when all he did was choke in the majors. I’d take Spieth, Day, Phil, Scott, McDowell, Mahan and Dufner over Tiger at the majors right now. We’ll see in 5 weeks how he does at Augusta. I don’t see him doing well at Pinehurst, I’m not familiar enough with the the Open venue to judge. Valhalla, site of the PGA, is a quirky course so that could be wide open….

My Response (omitting the obvious “Tiger Wood > Greg Norman” mention):

Once again, his 6 wins in 2013 and zero missed cuts in the past year say that he’s playing pretty well recently.

Friend’s Response:

His best win “recently” was at the Players. I watched most of his round today (Friday), he’s simply not playing like the #1 player in the world. Both Bradley and Johnson played better that him. Woods ball striking is erratic and his putting has become very average. At some point current performance has to supersede what he’s done in the past. Otherwise Louisville should be #1 in college basketball all season until the tournament starts. The eye test makes it blatantly obvious that Tiger is not the #1 golfer in the world right now.

His argument is getting weaker.

Do I really need to mention that Louisville has been far less, if at all, dominant in the college hoops, than Tiger Woods has in golf.  Not even in the same galaxy.    

My Final Response & Conclusion

The eye test (on a February Friday in the Honda Classic) doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.  If the eye test in one tournament (much less the first two rounds of a tournament) determined the rankings, they would flip-flop all over the place and players like Shaun Micheel (and players who disappeared after one great weekend) would, at one time or another, be called the #1 ranked golfer in the world.  It is a formula, and it wasn’t created just to help Woods.

And, let’s be real.  He just was nasty in 2013.  Do you really need proof of this (outside of 6 wins and 3 top-tens in majors)?

The golfers he mentions:

  • Keegan Bradley – Bradley doesn’t have a single top 10 finish in all 6 of his 2014 outings, including a missed cut. He’s “0 for” in his last 6 tournament (and that’s in top 10 finishes).  Do you remember the last time, Tiger went 4 tournaments without a top 5 finish?  Bradley is not even in the top 25 of the world golf rankings because, again, he’s not even in the same universe as Tiger (recent or otherwise). Bradley’s last top 10 finish was in October and didn’t even play in November in December. Bradley looks more like a sinking ship than anything right now.
  • Dustin Johnson – Johnson is playing great recently and he’s made his way into the top 10 for a reason.   But, if you want to talk about guys who win when the pressure is off. Before 2014, Johnson has been a disappointment and I think his best finish (outside of August) in a major is outside the top 20. His majors have been atrocious over the past 3 years (2011 to 2014). You can’t just call him the number one golfer in the world for just three months of great play (during a stretch with no majors), especially  guy who just turned 30 and one who everyone has waited for a half-decade to finally have a break-out year .  Sorry, but a horse doesn’t gain the lead for picking up two furloughs on the leader, not if the leading horse has gained 10 furloughs for most of the race (2013), and another 5 furlough at the start of the race (two years and beyond).

As for Tiger’s “recent” tournaments (if that’s all you wish to factor in);

  • He finished in the top five in every tournament he played in at the end of the 2013 calendar.
  • He’s only played in two tournaments in 2014 and one he didn’t finish (the other, you rip him on his world ranking after day 1 of the Tournament where he shot even par). 
  • In his only December 2013 tournament, he lost in a playoff to Zach Johnson, who’s in the top 10 in the world.  Losing to another one of the world’s best in a playoff, doesn’t mean you aren’t the best.   Again, this was in December at Sherwood (both finished -13) and all the tour stars were playing (Bubba Watson shot -9 as the 2nd place finisher after 72 holes). Again, Wood has a “tied-for-1st place” finish in the last tournament he finished (before the current 2014 Honda Classic). 
  • In his only November event (last even before Sherwood), he completed at 20-under weekend, good for 3rd place in the Turkish open.

After that, once more, Tiger has only played in two tournaments thus far in 2014, and the current tournament is his second of the two.  The other, he didn’t finish, but made the cut.

You may have a valid argument if…

1. He didn’t have top-ten finishes in 3 of his last 4 majors (over the past year)…
2. He didn’t have a win as early as 3 months ago (his last tournament where he finished)
3. He wasn’t 4 for 4 in top-five finishes in every event he played in from Oct. to Dec. of 2013
4. Most of all…if he didn’t win 6 tournaments in 2013

Again, if those four facts weren’t true, you’d probably get no argument from me, or a much weaker one.

But, Tiger’s 2013 was beyond great for anyone aside from Woods, which is why he’s still the major exception to every rule in the golf world.  He was probably 50% (maybe even better?) in top ten finishes in 2013 (did I mention, he also hasn’t missed a cut in more than a year)

For crying out loud, Woods won three tournaments in a row, and 4 out of 5, just under 8 to 10 months ago.  That’s not recent enough?!  Even if it was 14-16 months ago, it’s really THAT AMAZING where he should still number one player in everyone’s minds.

Ball Striking?
(Tiger Woods overall 2013 stats)
-1st in approaches from 125-150
-1st in approaches from 150-175
-4th in approaches from 175-200
-3rd in approaches from 200-225

Putting?
-1st overall in avoiding three-putts

(only 31 three-puts in 1080 holes of golf)

Should we just ignore these 2013 stats?
-3rd in Birdie Average in 2013
-2nd in Birdie or Better Conversions in 2013
-23 Consecutive Cuts (5th)
-1st in Earnings (8.5 Million)
-2nd in Par 3 Performance

If a “white” player (especially a young one, under the age of 25 who is universally loved by the golf media), finishes his 2013 with similar results as Tiger, that player would be hyped to no end.  That player would also be the new talk of the golf world for every major in 2014.

Yet, for Tiger Woods, a season with 6 wins (including 3 in-a-row) with 3 more top-ten major finishes, is a sub-par season; due to the fact that he didn’t win a major.

Setting aside the numbers, the truth is that Tiger plays to win regardless, and the majors are the #1 thing on his mind.  Early in the season (January to March), if Woods has 0% chance to win a non-major tournament after moving day (if he even plays), there’s usually only one thing that he cares about; and that’s the tournament in South Carolina called the Masters (top 5 last year too).

In a tournament where Woods has a very slim chance to win, he is more than willing to take some chances on Saturday (to get back in the hunt), rather than  just play “par golf” in order to make sure he passes public’s proverbial “eye test”.  Somehow, he’s still managed to make 23 consecutive cuts over the past 365 days (including the current Honda Classic).

But, I’m just splitting hairs.  The truth of the matter is, Woods is, and will be the favorite to win at Augusta for a reason.

Tiger Wood failing to dominate in his first two tournaments in 2014, according to a good percentage of golf fans, means the end of Tiger’s reign as the best player in the world.  But, again, just remember what you are throwing out the window and completely disregarding when you make this statement; 6 wins in 2013 (with three-in-a-row as well) and his 13-under, 1st place finish in the last tournament he completed.  Yep!  Scratch and ignore this, and his dominating career (and yes, even more than Louisville’s college basketball team has been); all of this because of a slow first two days in the late-February Honda Classic; a tournament that is 4-5 weeks from the 2014 Masters,

The fact of the matter is “How is Tiger Woods still the number one ranked golfer?” is really an obvious question that is easily answered and even more easily explained.  All you have to do is just compare his results (along with performance, achievements, accomplishments) from last season & beyond.  You can compare them to just about anyone (much less the other guys in the hunt for the #1 ranking).  Whether you want to give his 2013 more or less weight is pretty much irrelevant.  He’s still better.  And, counting just two months of non-major play is far more silly than is counting an entire career.

However you want to slice it, one fact remains;

Come Masters time, Tiger Woods is still the man to beat.

He’ll also be the odds-on favorite to win at Augusta.  To take anyone else (at “even money”) right now is foolish.

What else is there?

Update: 3-5-2013:

After a Tiger withdraw from the Honda classic due to back pain, much to no surprise, my friend posted another message.

Tiger shot a smooth 40 on the front today before WD. The guy is an absolute mess right now…..

A “smooth 40″. How condescending. He must not have “putt well today” lol. I bet a lot of pros shot a “smooth 40″ including guys that missed the cut.

My friend actually posted a few messages, all the while ignoring and failing to address any of my points/questions (while I continue to respond directly to every one of his points). What I mean is; for the most part, if someone were to go and remove my messages/responses from the Facebook thread, the reader could go through the entire thread without knowing that there was a debate happening with another person.

But, he did respond to one where I said that Tiger has nothing to prove (and went on about “past accomplishments” as if his 17 majors should factor into him being the best player in the game;

He has nothing to prove based on past accomplishments. My point all along is he’s not the #1 golfer in the world right now. My guess is he won’t be much longer once the numbers are crunched again. I get a chance to talk to Weiskopf on a fairly regular basis. He believes his body is half shot but his mind is even further gone…

Surprise surprise….a past tour player (who has one major to Tiger’s 17) thinks (and probably hopes) that Tiger is falling apart.

For some reason, I felt the need to repeat myself again;

Why do you keep saying “past accomplishments”. That’s exactly what the system grades (what else is it supposed to use). The rankings can’t change live by how a player hit his last shot.

He had an injury just over a year ago too, and in “recent” accomplishments (which are heavily weighted), he won 6 times (yes 6 in past 12 months). He also won a tournament as little as 3 months ago, and tied for first in another one just 4 months ago.

For some reason, this guy, still has yet to respond to my proposition bet where I said he can take anyone right now while I take Tiger Woods. To me that is the true tell-tale sign as to who the #1 player is; Would you take anyone else to win the next major at even-money.

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