Can Lee Westwood Second-Place Himself to No. 1 in the World?
By Merf under British Open

The latest World Golf Rankings are out, and Lee Westwood is breathing down Phil Mickelson’s neck in the race for the heir to Tiger Woods’ throne as the game’s No. 1 player.

With his sneaky second place at the British Open on Sunday, Westwood made up almost all of the ground he trailed Phil Mickelson, the No. 2 player in the world. Woods lost more points with his tie for 23rd, but he maintained his perch atop the standings with an average of 10.14. Mickelson also dropped with his tie for 48th, settling in at a new average of 9.38, while Westwood climbed from 8.09 to 9.15 with his latest runner-up.

Sounds like there’s a new name to add to the weekly story: Woods can lose his No. 1 ranking if…

Considering that Woods has lost more points than anyone in the world during the the ’08-’09 window (his wins get devalued over time), he’s gained the least amount of points out of anyone in the top 30 this year, and his play is becoming increasingly mortal this season, his days at No. 1 appear numbered.

And while Mickelson has been touted as the heir for his semi-permanent position at No. 2 in the rankings, and he has four majors during the Woods era, could someone who has never won a major take over? Through the two-year window of the world golf rankings, yes, it’s possible.

Westwood earned more points (60) for his runner up at the British Open, than his win at the St. Jude’s Classic (44). So while Westwood makes us doubt him every time he’s in contention isn’t dazzling us with wins, he has a pair of seconds and thirds in majors the last two years. Couple that with two wins on the European Tour last year, and his first at the St. Jude’s, and Westwood is one more runner-up at a major from potentially passing Woods, who had six wins on the PGA Tour last year.

Fair or not, this is the situation Woods has created by not winning a major in the last two years, and not doing anything of note this year.

No one has won more than one major during the current world golf rankings window, so if someone can eventually pass Woods, his resume is going to have more holes than a practice putting green compared to the greatest player of this generation.

But majors are weighed so heavily that Louis Oosthuizen is already ranked 15th, and Graeme McDowell is 11th. A month ago, both players were living in anonymity.

The No. 1 player in the world won’t have quite the authority as when it was Woods’ prefix, but it’s not a title based on career stature. It’s: What have you done for me lately? And lately, men’s golf has had as much parity as the women’s side.

[AP Photo/Alastair Grant]