Tiger feeling young pups at his heels

IAN HUTCHINSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:45 AM ET

Whether tiger Woods gets his game back to reclaim the no. 1 ranking in the world that he's about to lose is only half of his challenge going forward.

The other half will involve swinging his driver at the pack of young pups on his heels and with the showings this year of youngsters such as Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy among others, staying one step ahead of the pack is something Woods is destined to struggle with for the rest of his career.

That's assuming Tiger gets back the legendary game that vanished into the mist of scandal a year ago only to appear in short bursts that weren't convincing enough towards the end of the season, so that remains a blinking, neon question mark as the pups turn into predators.

If he can't do that, then the new topic of conversation is how far behind the No. 1 position in the world will Woods fall after wearing that crown like he owned it since reclaiming it from Vijay Singh back in 2005?

Singh, at the time, seemed a natural fit to be the king of the hill if Tiger wasn't, just as Phil Mickelson is now, but Mickelson seemed almost disinterested in being No. 1 in his several opportunities to claim top spot this year.

So, we have a changing of the guard coming with Tiger due to fall out of top spot by Halloween, but it's not yet time for the pups mentioned above. That will come, but for now, they can concern themselves with trick-or-treating.

The lead candidate right now is Lee Westwood, who will hold No. 1 without a major championship in his resume, assuming he gets there.

Oddly enough, Westwood was on the sidelines for months with a calf injury and, after his Ryder Cup appearance, was injured again at last week's Dunhill Links Championship at St. Andrews won by Martin Kaymer, one of the youngsters at age 25 with three straight victories, including the PGA Championship.

Kaymer was fourth in the world last week, but a win at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters in Spain, which ends on Halloween, would vault him into top spot in the rankings. Then, it gets interesting the following week with Woods, Mickelson, Westwood and Kaymer playing in the HSBC Champions in China.

Then, a battle begins like we haven't seen in ages with so many dogs in the yard, assuming Mickelson stays interested. There are plenty of players not far behind if he isn't.

What makes this fight for No. 1 especially interesting is that it has such potential for international pride to run wild, especially after Europe won the Ryder Cup with both Westwood and Kaymer on the team.

Consider also that Europeans held five of the top nine spots in last week's rankings, so when one takes over No. 1, there's a case to be made for European world dominance, which won't sit well on this side of the Atlantic.

So, just when we thought the season was about over, up pops this battle for No. 1 which will likely carry into next season and beyond. If only we could figure it all out.

As is usually the case in golf, the two-year formula that determines the rankings can only be understood by mathematicians, which is also the complaint with the Fedex Cup standings. The game loves snuffing the fun in favour complicated equations.

It may take a rocket scientist to figure out a way to propel any individual into the comfy position at the top of the rankings once held by Woods. Solo missions into that stratosphere seem to be a thing of the past.

hutchgolf@netzero.com


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