Is see-saw No. 1 good for golf?

And what are the chances we see a Tiger win at Bay Hill?

Updated: March 19, 2012, 3:19 PM ET
ESPN.com

Golf has a new No. 1 in the world (who used to be the old No. 1 in the world). Ernie Els' Masters invitation was nearly delivered Sunday -- until a bogey-bogey finish at the Transitions Championship.

And Tiger Woods, coming off an injury that saw him WD at Doral in his last start, will play a two-day exhibition tournament this week.

Just another wild week in the 2012 PGA Tour season.

Our experts analyze all that and more in our latest edition of Monday Four-Ball.


1. Luke Donald takes over No. 1 in the world after his win Sunday. Is the top spot flip-flopping good for the game?


Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Heck yeah! Especially since both guys are now playing well. The only thing that's gonna stink about it is the fact that they're both gonna play so much in Europe.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: I don't see a period in the foreseeable future where we'll have a dominant player to hold down the ranking for long stretches. There were critics who thought that Tiger's long run was bad for the game and there are those who think that parity is boring. Ultimately all the flip-flopping just brings more attention to the world ranking than to the game itself.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: It doesn't hurt. Having some drama, some interest, among the top spots keeps things interesting. And now the watch will be on to see if Rory McIlroy can regain the top spot, if Donald holds onto it, or if perhaps Lee Westwood can again ascend to No. 1.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: It's great for the game, but only if the players take it seriously.

Woods looked at the rankings merely as a by-product of his playing well. In recent weeks, we've seen subtle -- and not-so-subtle -- jabs between players about enjoying the view from the top spot. If the players get into being No. 1 in that fashion, then that can only help raise the stakes for all involved.


2. Tiger Woods decided to play in the Tavistock Cup after WD'ing from Doral on March 11. Thumbs up/thumbs down on the move?


Collins: My knee-jerk reaction was thumbs down, but since he's taking the week between off, I've switched to thumbs up. Seven rounds in a row ... he's gonna know exactly how much his "old" body can take.

Evans: How is the possibility of playing seven days in a row good for a player coming off a strained Achilles? He'll play the two days of exhibition, a pro-am at Bay Hill and then four days of the tournament. I don't get it.

Harig: Thumbs down. Nobody should blame Woods for leaving Doral, where he feared a recurrence of the problems that kept him out for most of last summer. So why take a chance at a two-day exhibition? With the Arnold Palmer Invitational also on his schedule this week, there is plenty of opportunity to test his game. This seems like a needless risk.

Maguire: Thumbs down. If we are to believe that Woods' goal is to contend at the Masters, and we're just over a week removed from his WD at Doral, then why would he even contemplate risking re-injuring himself at an exhibition event?


3. True or false: Ernie Els -- who finished bogey-bogey Sunday at the Transitions to miss out on a playoff -- will qualify for the Masters.


Collins: False. Even for a veteran like Ernie, a crash and burn like his Sunday means his mind was drifting to Augusta and you can't play like that at this level. Gonna be strange not seeing the Big Easy there.

Evans: True. He's got too much pride to go out without a fight.

Harig: False. That finish is going to be difficult to overcome for Els. The putter, which has been such a source of frustration for Els in recent years, let him down again. He moved from 68th to 62nd in the world but the Bay Hill field this week will be a bit weaker than the one at Innisbrook, which means he probably has to win to make the Masters field. If not, his last hope would be the Houston Open -- where only a win gets him in.

Maguire: Sadly, false. Els' best -- and probably only -- chance to make the Masters field came Sunday at the Transitions Championship. Sure, he could catch lightning in a bottle and win at Bay Hill this week or the Shell Houston Open the week prior to Augusta, but don't bet on it. The emotional letdown from this collapse could last quite a while.


4. Assuming Tiger's healthy, what percentage chance do you give him to win this week at Bay Hill?


Collins: I'll say 50 percent. It all comes down to the same thing it has for the past year: Can he turn that one bad round (par or worse) into a good round (par or better)? Whether it be a bad day putting, iron play or off the tee, he needs to remember how he used to grind a 68 out of what was gonna be a 73. Evans: He's only won Arnie's tournament six times. So I give him a 50 percent chance of winning his seventh. If Tiger is in contention late on Sunday, he'd play on two broken legs.

Harig: It is difficult to give him more than a 50 percent chance, which is actually quite good. Woods has won six times at Bay Hill, but he's also had some lackluster finishes at the venue. He seems to have it or he doesn't. His game was coming along nicely before the Doral withdrawal, so that bodes well.

Maguire: I'll say 25 percent. Woods' game was trending up prior to the injury and even though he never really was in contention at Doral, he didn't seem more than a strong nine-hole stretch away from making the leaders sweat. Of course, six career wins at Arnold Palmer's place in Orlando won't hurt his chances, either.