Lee Westwood’s Reign in the Age of Parity

Lee Westwood’s Reign in the Age of Parity 1FOR LEE WESTWOOD, THE MAN who replaced Tiger Woods as the world’s top-ranked golfer, the “R” in OWGR (Official World Golf Ranking) could stand for “rankling” instead of “ranking.” The 38-year-old Englishman has resented persistent comments that he doesn’t deserve to sit atop the golf world because he has yet to win a major.

Commenting on the OWGR a week ago, John Feinstein wrote, “It is about blowing them up and starting over again.” Feinstein didn’t stop there. “The fact that Westwood—who has never won a major title—is ranked No. 1 would be reason alone to question the rankings.”

PGATour.com correspondent Melanie Hauser asked why Westwood should have to apologize for his top ranking. “This one just makes you want to scream.”

Golfweek’s Jim McCabe pointed out that three of the 12 players who preceded Westwood to the top spot were majorless. They were Ian Woosnam, Fred Couples and David Duval. They all won majors after being ranked No. 1.

I sympathize with Westwood. First, with some near misses, he could have bagged a major by now. Few if any would question his worthiness if he possessed a Claret Jug or Green Jacket. Second, the OWGR points system is not his brainchild. His three European Tour victories and high finishes in the last 18 months have put him on top. That’s not his fault, and the criticism is getting on his nerves.

I lean Feinstein’s way, preferring a No. 1 who wins majors and is clearly the world’s best golfer. But, as we know, winning majors and ascending to the top of a points system are two different things. Plus, dominance is out. Parity is in. These days, few players win multiple majors. World No. 1 could be a revolving door for months or years to come.

Meanwhile, Westwood won his second tournament in two weeks, the Ballantine’s Championship in Seoul, South Korea. “It’s always nice when you’re world No. 1 to show everybody why you’re in that position,” he said.

Touche, Lee. But I’m still waiting for your first major. And setting aside the No. 1 debate, I believe you are, too.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo credit: Courtesy of Ballantine’s)

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Neil Sagebiel

3 thoughts on “Lee Westwood’s Reign in the Age of Parity”

  1. But it comes down to one thing: Rating the "best" golfer depends on what your definition of "best" is. The OWGR defines best as "most consistently good play over a period of 2 years." You could theoretically pass that test by placing Top 5 every week and beat out a guy who wins a couple of majors but misses most of his other cuts.

    In my own RGWR, you don't even qualify unless you've won on the PGA or ET in the last 12 months, and my rankings define "best" as "most wins and Top 5s in the last year." Jhonattan Vegas is #87 in the OGWR, but he's #5 in my rankings on the strength of 3 worldwide wins. Different criteria are why we have different ranking systems.

    I'm not so sure the "best" golfer in the world can ever be identified by a rating system that uses a single number. We can only say they are tops in a given category. And by that criteria, Westwood is #1 for now. Next week… well, we'll see. 😉


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