Category archive: Martin Kaymer

Martin Kaymer's record-setting pace

June, 13, 2014
Jun 13
2:42
PM ET

Martin Kaymer is at 10-under (130) through two rounds, which is one shot better than Rory McIlroy's 131 through 36 holes. 

PINEHURST, N.C. - Martin Kaymer started his second round in the U.S. Open on Friday morning with birdies in three of his first 10 holes to jump to 8-under for the tournament. There to take it all in was his older brother, Philip Kaymer, a good amateur player in their native Germany.

"Martin looks very confident," Philip said. "It's good to see him playing so well."

Philip said that Martin has grown immensely as a player since he won the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits -- a year when the 29-year-old Dusseldorf native won four times worldwide.

In 2011, when Martin entered the Masters as No. 1 in the world, he struggled to hit the demanding draws off the tee at Augusta with his driver, and it hurt his confidence.

"Martin is a more complete golfer now," Philip said. "When he won the PGA he was able to hit the draw, but now he can hit it whenever he wants to hit it."

The 31-year-old Philip travels with his brother to five to seven events a year.

After Martin's first-round 65 on Thursday, they didn't talk much about the round. Instead, they went to a local Outback Steakhouse for ribs.

It's never easy for a sibling or a parent of a player in contention at a big tournament. On Friday morning, Philip followed his brother around Pinehurst No. 2 with Martin's manager, Johan Elliot.

"From time to time, I get nervous when I watch Martin," Philip said. "When he stood over that winning putt during the Ryder Cup at Medinah, I think I was way more nervous than he was."

Martin is one of the methodical and organized players in the game, not unlike his countryman Bernhard Langer, but he has a lighter side.

"He's that way on the golf course, but he's a pretty funny guy when he's away from the game," Philip said.

Philip is confident that his brother will not lose his focus and start looking too forward ahead to what might be if he won the U.S. Open on Sunday evening.

"Martin always says that he's not thinking about the other players," Philip said. "He does get affected watching the leaderboard, but he really does try to concentrate on hitting one shot at a time."

Elliot was happy to see that Martin's putting has rounded into good form.

"If you look to the past, he's been a very good putter, especially pressure putts," Elliot said. "You could say for a time that he didn't make as many as he used to, but the way he is putting now is more like what he expects from himself."

Martin, who won the Players Championship in May, has a chance to become the first German to win a U.S. Open.

European prowess clear in world rankings

March, 1, 2011
03/01/11
9:36
AM ET

To the surprise of no one who follows the sport week-to-week, the top of this week's Official World Golf Rankings have a distinctly un-American flavor.

The new king is 26-year-old defending PGA champion Martin Kaymer. It's an ascension that feels like the rankings now accurately reflect what has been true for several months: that the German is undoubtedly, right now, the best player in the world. Kaymer has five wins -- including that major -- on the PGA and European Tours since the beginning of 2010. No one else has more than three in that span on the world's two marquee circuits.

At just about 26 years and 2 months, Kaymer is the second-youngest player to ever sit atop the rankings, trailing only Tiger Woods, who was 21 years, 5 months when he first reached No. 1 back in 1997. He's the second German player to ever reach No. 1, too; Bernhard Langer held the spot for the first three weeks the rankings existed back in 1986.

Trivia question

The last time European players occupied spots 1-4 in the world rankings, what American was No. 5? (Answer below.)

In other European overlord news, Luke Donald never trailed in any match at the WGC-Accenture Match Play en route to victory and the world No. 3 ranking. The deepest any of Donald's matches were all square was just 10 holes. None of Donald's matches even reached the 18th hole.

Not only that, but Graeme McDowell eclipsed Tiger Woods in the rankings -- meaning that Nos. 1-4 in the world all now belong to European players. The last time that happened (March 1992), the first George Bush was still in office, Barry Bonds played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kaymer was 7 years old.

On the other side of the spectrum, Woods has ventured into territory not seen since his historic 1997 Masters victory. This is the first time Tiger has been outside the top four in the world rankings since May, 1997, when he was fifth for the four weeks immediately following his victory at Augusta.

For about 15 years, any evaluations of American golf have been weighted heavily by Woods, so claiming the American touring pros are struggling at a time when Tiger isn't at his best certainly isn't unprecedented. But for all the clamor in the PGA Tour's marketing campaign regarding their next generation of stars, the current rankings certainly do not reflect positively on Americans, specifically the younger ones.

Consider this: There is no American player younger than 32 currently ranked in the top 10 in the world. At 32, Matt Kuchar is the youngest American who is No. 10 this week. Of the top 30 players in the world, only nine are American. Of those nine, only three are younger than 30: Dustin Johnson (14th), Hunter Mahan (19th), and Rickie Fowler (30th).

Compare that to the Europeans -- the No. 1 (Kaymer), No. 3 (Donald), No. 4 (Graeme McDowell), No. 7 (Paul Casey), and No. 8 (Rory McIlroy) are all 33 or younger. There are 13 Europeans currently ranked in the top 30. European Tour players won three of the four major championships in 2010, and the only American to win one last year is on the wrong side of 40.

In some eyes, this is an awful downswing for American golf, decreasing interest in the sport stateside. In other eyes, it's a golden era for the European game, and a sign of the strong global balance and reach of this truly international sport. Both are probably true.


The Honda Classic this week offers up a tremendous field that will feature five of the world's top 10 players, 22 of the top 50 and 16 different major champions. The course they will be taking on is one of the more challenging ones on the PGA Tour. The PGA National Champion Course has ranked among the top 10 most difficult on tour each year since the event began playing there in 2007.

In fact, last year the par-70 course played to an average of 71.640 (+1.640), second-toughest on tour behind only Pebble Beach the week of the U.S. Open. Among non-majors, the course ranked first, fourth, sixth and fourth-hardest each year since 2007.

Part of what makes the course so difficult is the famed "Bear Trap," a three-hole stretch constituted of the 15th, 16th and 17th holes. Last year, the stretch played to nearly a full shot over par -- 10.803 strokes on the par-3, par-4, par-3 sequence.

The two par-3s in the group were both among the 50 toughest holes on the PGA Tour a year ago. The 16th hole played a bit easier, but still ranked among the 200 most difficult. Among all par-3s on the PGA Tour last year, the 15th hole ranked second-toughest, behind only the famed 17th at Pebble Beach during the U.S. Open.

Trivia answer

Question: The last time European players occupied spots 1-4 in the world rankings, what American was No. 5?

Answer: Fred Couples, in March 1992

It's not just the Bear Trap, though, that will give the world's best golfers fits. The par-4 sixth hole played as the second-toughest par-4 on Tour last year among non-majors. In all, four holes last year ranked among the 50 most difficult on the PGA Tour in 2010. To put that into perspective, Whistling Straits, where the PGA Championship was played, had just three in the top-50.

Justin Ray has been a studio researcher for ESPN since June 2008 and is the lead researcher for "The Scott Van Pelt Show." Send comments and suggestions to Justin.Ray@espn.com.

MARANA, Ariz. -- I had the opportunity to spend some time with Martin Kaymer last week and among the many things I asked him was this simple query: "Who is the best golfer in the world?"

His answer was both predictable and politically correct.

"I think the No. 1 in the world, Lee Westwood," he replied. "The way he's played golf over the past two years. He was so close to winning majors; the way he played TPC Sawgrass last year, he was so close. So because he's played so consistently, he's No. 1."

Considering his deference to the Official World Golf Ranking formula, I was even more interested to ask Kaymer the same question Saturday, after he reached the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. That's because no matter how he fares in Sunday's championship match against Luke Donald, when the newest ranking is formulated Monday morning, it will show Kaymer as the 14th top-ranked golfer since its inception in 1986.

So, Martin, tell us now: "Who is the best golfer in the world?"

"Still Lee Westwood," he said, then paused and added, "until Monday."

For such a stoic guy on the course, Kaymer can actually be quite an engaging personality. That response drew some laughs from the assembled media, but when pressed for an answer about the world's best golfer starting Monday, he was finally forced to put an end to the humility.

"Well, when the rankings say that I'm the No. 1, then I'm the best player in the world," he explained. "And if they say so, then that's the truth."

They will say so whether Kaymer defeats Donald in Sunday's 18-hole final or not, but the ascendancy will feel hollow and anticlimactic should the impending top-ranked player fail to clinch his sixth worldwide title since the beginning of last year.

It's a notion he is struggling with already.

"I'm in the middle of the tournament," he said. "It would be fantastic [Sunday] if I could win, then it really feels like I deserve to be the No. 1. I'm not saying that I don't deserve it, but it would make me feel better if I would win instead of finishing second [Sunday]. So, yes, it is a little strange."

Much like many observers don't often believe the Bowl Championship Series is the greatest way of determining the best college football team, there are those who believe golf's world ranking is similarly flawed. The system arranges players using a mathematical algorithm over a two-year rolling period, failing to take opinion into account.

Kaymer, though, is among those who still believes the computers get it right. And so sometime next week, after he's had a day or two to digest it, he'll finally come to the realization that he is now the best player in the world.

"Maybe on Tuesday or Wednesday, when I see my name up there," he said. "I'll definitely take a picture of that moment."

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn.com.

Numbers support Martin Kaymer's climb

February, 22, 2011
02/22/11
9:36
AM ET

Blame it on our diminished attention spans.

Fans, writers, pundits and followers of any pastime are always looking for what's next. If you're a fan of music, there's always an intrinsic value for the artist or band that's new.

Trivia question

Who is the only German golfer to ever be ranked No. 1 in the world? (Answer below.)

In sports, people are constantly excited by what's new -- Blake Griffin has had a fantastic rookie season in the NBA no matter how you slice it, but the element of being new has added to the public's interest, as well. A player with 20 points, 10 rebounds and a thunderous dunk comes wrapped in shinier paper if it's his first season in the league.

In golf, writers and fans have been looking for the next Tiger Woods since about mid-1997. The topic never seems to drift away, despite the unrealistic expectation that there will ever be another phenom of that caliber in the sport again.

Sometimes, "next" doesn't explode into the sporting consciousness. Sometimes, it's the less popular gradual ascension into stardom.

Last year, while much of the American sporting public fixated on Woods' struggles when presented their golf news, "next" came out of the European circuit and went and won the PGA Championship.

Since the beginning of 2010, no one has won more on the PGA and European tours than Martin Kaymer. Kaymer has five victories in that span -- only three other men have even three wins in the same time period on the world's two most prominent tours: Jim Furyk, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Graeme McDowell.

But to call 2010 Kaymer's breakout season is a disservice to everything he previously accomplished. Kaymer, now 26, won at least twice on the European Tour in 2008 and 2009 before doing it last year. In '09, Kaymer was fifth on the European Tour in scoring average. Both his driving distance and accuracy have gone up each of the last three years. His greens in regulation percentage has topped 70 percent for three straight years, too. Dating to 2008, only one player in the world has more PGA/European tour wins than Kaymer: Woods, with 11, and none of those have come since the end of 2009.

Kaymer's win at the PGA Championship came at the expense of a few Americans of a similar age: Nick Watney (29) held a 3-shot lead going into Sunday, Bubba Watson (32) got beat by Kaymer in the three-hole playoff, and Dustin Johnson (26) had maybe the most famous 2-shot penalty in golf history coming down the stretch. With the backdrop of young American players coming up short, consider this: only two men currently under the age of 30 have major championships: South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen (28) and Kaymer.

In the Official World Golf Rankings, Kaymer has ascended from 13th at the beginning of 2010 to No. 2 today. He has put a full point of separation in the average points column between himself and current world No. 3 Woods. Kaymer is undoubtedly on the brink of the world No. 1: at 26, he would be the second-youngest player to ever reach the zenith of the rankings, trailing only Woods. Since 1990, only three players under age 30 have reached No. 1 -- Woods, David Duval and Ernie Els.

As legends are the only barometer for Woods' career, he has become what we gauge every young golfer in the world against. To further illustrate the point that using Woods as a barometer is an impossible standard, let's look at what Woods had already accomplished at Kaymer's age: 26 years, 1 month and 26 days as of Tuesday.

What Kaymer has done so far is nothing to sneeze at: a nine-time winner on the European Tour with a major championship already under his belt. At Kaymer's age, Woods had already won six major championships and a staggering 29 times on the PGA Tour. That would already be enough for a tie for 17th in the history of the circuit.


The future (and to an increasing extent, the present) of professional golf is aggressive, talented and global. Kaymer, a 1-seed this week at the WGC-Accenture Match Play, might be the ambassador of that movement.

In that vein, young is the theme this week in Arizona, which features the top-64 ranked players on the planet.

The average age of the players in the field this week is a scant 32.46 years old. There are 23 players in the field under the age of 30; 14 of whom are from outside the United States. There are nine players 25 or younger in the field -- seven from outside the U.S.

And if you would really like to feel old, please read the following sentence: Three players in the field were born in the 1990s: Matteo Manassero, Ryo Ishikawa and Seung-yul Noh.


With another WGC event upon us this week, it's worth reminding the world just how incomprehensibly dominant Woods has been in these events throughout his career.

Tiger has made 33 career starts in WGC events. He's won 16 of them, good for a win percentage of 48.5. In 29 of those 33 starts, he's finished in the top-10.

Woods is the only three-time winner of the match play event, and his 32 career match victories are the most all time. He's also the only player to make the finals of the event four times and holds the record for consecutive matches won with 13, doing so in 2003-05.

Trivia answer

Question: Who is the only German golfer to ever be ranked No. 1 in the world?

Answer: Bernhard Langer, who was No. 1 for three weeks in 1986.

Lee Westwood is the overall No. 1 seed this week. Should he win, he would be just the second different 1-seed to win it. The only one to do it? Who else: Woods.

Justin Ray has been a studio researcher for ESPN since June 2008 and is the lead researcher for "The Scott Van Pelt Show." Send comments and suggestions to Justin.Ray@espn.com.

There are plenty of topics the current top three players in the Official World Golf Ranking -- Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Tiger Woods -- might discuss during their opening 36 holes together at the Dubai Desert Classic.

Such as recent results. The trio has totaled six victories in the past 12 months, but four of those have come from Kaymer, including the recent Abu Dhabi Championship. Westwood and Woods, on the other hand, have combined for finishes of T-44, T-64 and MC so far this season.

Or maybe major championships. Woods remains stuck on 14 for his career and Kaymer won the most recent one, but Westwood is one of four players to have reached the top spot in the rankings without first claiming a major. The other three each did so within two years.

Or even the OWGR itself. In this week's edition of "As the World [Ranking] Turns," it's worth noting that Kaymer can ascend to No. 1 with a victory, but Woods can only climb as high as No. 2. Meanwhile, the latter joins Phil Mickelson as the only non-European players currently inside the top seven on the list.

Or -- ahem -- failed business ventures. Note to Westwood and Kaymer: If Woods starts talking about a "great investment opportunity in Dubai," just nod your head politely.

Chances are, though, each player will simply be concentrating on his own game for the first two rounds, trying to outduel his fellow superstars. While none of the three will fess up publicly to wanting to prove himself in this ultimate litmus test, they all know the eyes of the world will be focused directly on their threesome.

Not that they'll admit to having any extra motivation.

"I think we shouldn't really see it as a rivalry," Kaymer said Tuesday. "We are out here to have fun and play good golf and show the people that we do our job with passion and love. It's not about winning or losing in the end of the day. It's about challenging each other and having fun."

If the grouping will be fun for the players, it should be downright enthralling for fans, who will get an opportunity to watch the world's three top-ranked players in the same threesome for the first time since Woods drew Mickelson and Adam Scott during the early rounds of the 2008 U.S. Open.

Already this season the PGA Tour has revised a long-standing policy and attempted to produce a handful of "featured groups" at its tournaments. It's nice to see the European Tour -- which never alluded to any such rule -- also see the benefit of creating attractive groups for on-course observers and television viewers.

And there isn't a more intriguing one right now than the Westwood-Kaymer-Woods group we'll see in Dubai for the opening two rounds.

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn.com.

video

Triple dipping in the desert

February, 8, 2011
02/08/11
6:10
AM ET

As the top of the world rankings have featured a progressively more European flair over the past several months, events on the European Tour schedule have looked more and more attractive to golf fans.

Trivia question

Dustin Johnson goes for his third straight AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am win this week. Who is the last player not named Tiger Woods to win a tour event three straight times? (Answer below.)

This week, the European Tour will have something the PGA Tour did not feature a single time in 2010. The Omega Dubai Desert Classic will feature the top three players in the world: Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Tiger Woods.

Take all the non-major, non-WGC events out of the equation, since these are events sanctioned by both the PGA and European Tour. Amazingly, the PGA Tour -- almost universally regarded as the premier pro golf circuit on the planet -- did not feature a single event in 2010 that had all three of the current top-three players in the Official World Golf Rankings.

According to the European Tour itself, this marks the first time since 1994 that each of the top three have been in the same European Tour event -- including those same qualifiers (non-major, non-WGC).

Six of the top 10 players in the world are Europeans playing predominantly on the European Tour. A win this week for Kaymer, and we'll have a new European as No. 1 in the world.

A win by a non-American at Augusta this April would make it four straight majors won by players from outside the U.S., and five of the past six. The only time that we've seen four straight non-American major champions since World War II was in 1994, when no American player won a major. Never in that span have we seen five straight majors played without an American winner.

And yet, with all this European power, it isn't hard for many golf fans to imagine that scenario taking place in 2011.


The old No. 1 in the world, Tiger Woods, has had a great deal of success in Dubai throughout his career. Tiger has played the event five times, won it twice, and never finished outside the top-5; he's played just one round worse than par out of 20 in his career. His scoring average is 67.9 in the event, and he won the tournament the last time he played it in 2008.

Woods has enjoyed enormous success in smaller worldwide events like this one over the course of his career. Since 2000, Tiger has started 19 events held outside the United States that were not major championships or WGC tournaments. Tiger has won nine of them, finished in the top-5 16 of 19 times, and finished outside the top-10 just twice.

Of course, this isn't the Tiger Woods of old. The last comparable event to this one (played outside the U.S., not a major) was last year's JBWere Australian Masters, in an admittedly less daunting field. That was also the last time Tiger teed it up in an event and was the defending champion. Woods surged on Sunday there with a 65, but finished three shots back of winner Stuart Appleby.

Two weeks ago at Woods' home course/ATM machine Torrey Pines, Tiger 2.0 looked like the Woods we've come to expect the past 14 months during the weekend. After firing back-to-back 69s to start the event, Tiger was over par on both Saturday and Sunday. To put that into perspective: In Woods' first 45 career rounds at the now-named Farmers Insurance Open, Woods had just 1 round over par.


Winning an event three straight times on the PGA Tour is apparently as difficult as it sounds.

Dustin Johnson will try to do that this week at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. The back-to-back winner almost won his first major championship at last summer's U.S. Open there, too. Johnson held a 3-shot lead heading into the final round before famously evaporating before our eyes with a front-nine 42 on Sunday.

Let's try to put winning a PGA Tour event three straight times into perspective. It's been done 25 different times throughout the history of the PGA Tour, dating back to Young Tom Morris winning the British Open four straight times starting in 1868.

But since the 1980s, it's been a far less frequent occurrence, especially if you consider that basically one name appears in the record book next to the feat during that time frame -- repeatedly.

Tiger Woods has won an event three or more straight times on six different occasions in his career. Since 1981, Woods is one of only two players to do it even once. The other: Stuart Appleby, who won 3 straight at Kapalua from 2004 to 2006. Appleby's accomplishment is absent from the PGA Tour record book -- an earlier version of Numbers Game reflected that mistake.

Tiger is the only player since Gene Sarazen in the 1920s to win an event four straight times -- and he's done it twice.

Trivia answer

Question: Dustin Johnson goes for his third straight AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am win this week. Who is the last player not named Tiger Woods to win a tour event three straight times?

Answer: Stuart Appleby, who won at Kapalua 3 straight times from 2004-06.

Since 1960 to 2000, the list of players to have won an event three straight times looks like the register from the World Golf Hall of Fame. Arnold Palmer won the Texas Open from 1960-62 and the Phoenix Open from 1961-63. Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller and Tom Watson are the other three to pull it off, in addition to the six times Tiger has accomplished the feat.

A win by Dustin Johnson this weekend would put him in some heady company. It would also be another precursor to what golf fans expect will be a fantastic professional career.

Justin Ray has been a studio researcher for ESPN since June 2008 and is the lead researcher for "The Scott Van Pelt Show." Send comments and suggestions to Justin.Ray@espn.com.

Rankings formula? It's complicated

November, 2, 2010
11/02/10
11:32
AM ET

The Official World Golf Rankings are simple to understand, yet difficult to explain.

Trivia question

There's a possibility that after one week, Lee Westwood will lose his No. 1 ranking. Before this week, Westwood's first week atop the rankings, who was the only player to hold the No. 1 ranking for a single week? (Answer below.)

They rely upon a complicated, rolling two-year formula that evaluates tournaments around the world based on field strength, and in turn, grades a golfer's performance in said tournament. A golfer's average performance, weighted chronologically, is given a numerical value and compared to his peers.

And as convoluted as that attempt at an explanation sounds, it's actually more complicated than that.

Yet, simply put, only one number matters to fans: 1. As in 1, Lee Westwood. Not Tiger Woods. Not Phil Mickelson. Not a major champion.

While team sports annually crown their best team, golf merely declares who was the best in the world that particular week -- whether it be at Augusta, Whistling Straits, or Bay Hill. One can make evaluations about who the best golfer of the year was (Martin Kaymer or Jim Furyk, for example), but there's no definitive, undeniable champion. Yet for five and a half years, one man was the best in his sport, based on this aggregating, long-winded system: Woods.

Since June of 2005, we've seen six different World Series Champions, four different teams win the NBA Finals, four different Super Bowl champions, five different teams hoist the Stanley Cup, and 14 different major champions in men's golf. And before Sunday, a single world No. 1 in men's golf.

That consistency atop the sport made Woods' descent from his perch newsworthy this week. Yet, in the coming months, there could be a battle for that top ranking essentially every week, all around the world. It can change in China this week at the HSBC, where four different men control their own destiny in terms of the world No. 1 ranking: Westwood, Woods, Kaymer and defending champion Phil Mickelson can all be ranked first in the world with a victory.

There are literally a countless number of different scenarios this weekend where these men can attain that distinction, but for now, let's break down the contenders of the moment for the world's top ranking.

Lee Westwood
World rank: 1
Worldwide wins last 18 months: 3
Career major victories: 0

Westwood (who was 266th just 7 years ago) and his ascent to No. 1 is a testament to several things. One, of course, is consistency. Westwood is the only player in the world to have finished in the top three in four of the last six majors -- and one of those, he didn't even tee it up (missed the PGA Championship this year due to injury). He has four official wins on the European Tour since the beginning of 2007, and an additional one on the PGA Tour. No one is questioning whether or not the Englishman belongs among the world's elite.

But is he the elite player on Earth? His rise to No. 1 is also a testament to what some golf fans and analysts see as a flawed system. Westwood is the top-ranked player in the world despite having just one victory on the PGA Tour, which is universally regarded as the top circuit on the planet. And that event he did win in Tennessee, held a week before the U.S. Open, didn't have Woods, Mickelson, future U.S. Open winner Graeme McDowell, Ernie Els or Furyk in its field.

In a sport most recognized during its four biggest annual events, a man who has never won any of them is now regarded as the game's best golfer at the moment. A fantastic accomplishment, clearly, but how long will he stay there?

Tiger Woods
World rank: 2
Worldwide wins last 18 months: 6
Career major victories: 14

With the HSBC Champions being declared an "official" PGA Tour event this year, Woods has one final chance to avoid his first winless season ever on the PGA Tour. Among the all-time victory leaders on the Tour, a winless season before turning 40 is not completely new. Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus and Billy Casper all went calendar years in which they started 10 or more events on Tour before turning 40 in which they did not win.

With that defense being made, it's impossible to justify Woods remaining atop the rankings if he isn't winning golf tournaments. Because the rankings system is based on a two-year average, Woods has been buoyed in recent months by the fact that he didn't play after the U.S. Open in 2008. Like a hitter on the disabled list who's average isn't affected because he's not getting at-bats, Woods wasn't losing as much ground as someone who just went winless for half-a-year while playing.

In January of 2011, Woods' world ranking will be based on a time period that emphasizes the 13 weeks leading up to that moment, and, overall, accounts for the time period from January 2009 until that point. What this in a nutshell means, is that if Tiger doesn't win soon, he's going to fall further, and fast.

Still, if he wins in China, he's back on top again. With one more week at the top of the world rankings, Woods would have reached 12 full calendar years as the top-ranked player in the world.

Martin Kaymer
World rank:
3
Worldwide wins last 18 months: 6
Career major victories: 1

If the system were ranking, right now, who the best golfer on the planet was, it would be nearly impossible not to deduce that the winner of that title would be Kaymer. Kaymer has won eight times since the beginning of 2008, six times in the last 18 months, and three times since the beginning of August. While the world anxiously anticipated Rory McIlroy's seizure of the title of golf's next young superstar, Kaymer went ahead and won the PGA Championship, and positioned himself to become the No. 1 player on Earth.

Kaymer had a slightly more prolific 2008 on the European Tour, with more total top-10's and one more runner-up finish, but the value of his accomplishments the following year are stronger. This should help him out moving forward in the world rankings by a small amount. With the way he's been playing though, it's not going to matter. No one will be shocked if he wins this week in Shanghai.

Phil Mickelson
World rank:
4
Worldwide wins last 18 months: 3
Career major victories: 4

The recurring storyline seemingly every week on the PGA Tour in 2010 was, "Phil just needs to do blank, and he'll be the No. 1 player in the world." As you know, every week, there was the same result. The idea of Westwood or Kaymer overtaking Woods has to be refreshing for some people fatigued by that same 'what if' that never seems like will happen. Still, Mickelson is right there -- a win, and he's the world's No. 1 for the first time.

Trivia answer

Question: There's a possibility that after 1 week, Lee Westwood will lose his No. 1 ranking. Before this week, Westwood's first atop the rankings, who was the only player to hold the No. 1 ranking for a single week?

Answer: Tom Lehman, who had it for one week in 1997.

Mickelson hasn't played since the Ryder Cup one month ago. A bad omen: the last time he took a month or more off was between the U.S. Open and Open Championship, and he finished tied for 48th there. Still, Mickelson is the defending champion at the event this week, and no one should short his chances to win it again.