Resilient Lewis claims No. 1 ranking
And how soon might Tiger Woods regain the No. 1 spot on the men's side?
So what are golf fans to make of this jostling at the head of the class? Our experts tackle those topics and more in the latest edition of Monday Four-Ball.
1. Stacy Lewis rallied to win Sunday and take over the No. 1 world ranking. If you had to pick one word to describe her, what would it be?
Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Determination. She has said she wanted to be world No. 1 and her own caddie costing her 2 strokes Saturday couldn't keep her from winning for the second time this year. That victory got her to the top of the rankings.
Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Patient. The 28-year-old Houston native probably could have turned pro out of high school like so many of the talented women players, but she opted to attend the University of Arkansas, where she was a four-time All-American. Then after turning pro in 2008, she wasn't immediately successful on the LPGA Tour. She didn't get her first win until 2011 at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Now she's the No. 1-ranked female player in the world. She was a good junior player. Much less talented girls have made the leap without going to college.
Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Resiliency. Lewis has overcome a difficult physical hardship, a back problem that made playing golf seem far-fetched, let alone at this level. Overcoming that 2-stroke penalty Saturday is a more recent example.
Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Resilient. How many golfers, when told after their third round that a 2-shot deficit just doubled because of a penalty caused by their caddie, would hang their heads and fade away? Not only did Lewis not do that, she came back with nine birdies and matching 32s on the inward and outward nines Sunday to take over No. 1 in the world for the first time in her career. And we're not even getting into any of the serious medical issues she has battled throughout her life.
2. Kevin Streelman's victory in Tampa was the 12th straight by an American to start the season. What's behind this red, white and blue run?
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Michael Collins: Well, only five of the 12 were first-time winners on the PGA Tour and last year we had an early surge of nine U.S. victories before Rory McIlroy ended the streak. I think everything is ebb and flow. We saw a time when it seemed the Europeans were dominating for no particular reason and I think the pendulum has now just swung back the other way.
Farrell Evans: For as long as there has been a PGA Tour, the U.S. has had more good players than any country. All this stat proves is the depth of good American players.
Bob Harig: It's more fluke than anything. Last year, Americans won the first nine before Rory McIlroy won at the Honda Classic. Some of this is numbers, some is a preponderance of Europeans starting their season later and other international players competing overseas.
Kevin Maguire: A little bit of luck, to be sure. Some of it is a numbers game as there are, by far, more American players on the PGA Tour. But to be fair, it goes to prove that top to bottom, the best players in the world are on the PGA Tour and that circuit is made up of a majority of Americans.
3. What are the odds that Tiger Woods regains the No. 1 world ranking prior to the Masters?
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Michael Collins: Tiger Woods will be No. 1 in the world on Monday, March 25 after his win at Bay Hill. Unfortunately for him, he'll be back at No. 2 the following Monday after Rory McIlroy wins in Houston, just fueling the argument over who is really the best golfer in the world. There's going to be a dogfight in Augusta and it's going to be awesome.
Farrell Evans: I like Tiger's chances to win Bay Hill and get back to No. 1 in the next few weeks.
Bob Harig: Whatever the odds are for him winning at Bay Hill. Because that is what it is going to take. A victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational puts Woods back at No. 1. While Woods has seven victories there, he also has had plenty of lackluster results at Bay Hill. Winning is never guaranteed. And if McIlroy has a good tournament the following week at Houston, it could all change again.
Kevin Maguire: I'll go 75 percent. A win this week probably will give him that top spot, depending on the strength of the field at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Tiger's recent run and the form we've seen from Rory McIlroy so far this year doesn't bode well for the Northern Irishman to remain No. 1 for much longer. And it doesn't hurt that Woods has won at Bay Hill, this week's venue, seven times in his career.
4. Brandt Snedeker, the 2013 PGA Tour money leader, hasn't played in more than a month. What should we expect from him this week at Bay Hill?
Michael Collins: I expect a top-20 finish for Snedeker, which for him is a very rusty comeback seeing as he has finished outside the top three only once this year in five starts. He's very smart in the fact that he is making sure he's 100 percent healthy before playing again and not letting the free money or world ranking points of the WGCs influence his comeback. We know many guys who wouldn't be as smart.
Farrell Evans: Sneds might have some rust on his game, but it's doubtful that the layoff can stop the momentum that led him to a win, two seconds and a third in his first five starts of the year.
Bob Harig: Rustiness. Snedeker hasn't played since winning five weeks ago at Pebble Beach. A good bit of that time was spent staying away from golf while his rib injury healed. Bay Hill is not an easy course to work your way back in. He might need some time.
Kevin Maguire: Coming off a break that saw him skip two WGCs to nurse a rib injury, Snedeker returns to a venue at which he doesn't own a top-10 finish in six career starts. That being said, you don't get to be the PGA Tour money leader with only five appearances without doing something right. A victory in Orlando doesn't seem likely given the long layoff, but a top-20 seems more realistic.
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