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World Golf Ranking: Are Tiger Woods & the Top 10 Players on the Way Up or Down?

David KindervaterCorrespondent IMay 3, 2011

World Golf Ranking: Are Tiger Woods & the Top 10 Players on the Way Up or Down?

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    Tiger Woods
    Tiger WoodsJamie Squire/Getty Images

    There's been a lot of discussion recently about the Official World Golf Ranking and the "changing of the guard"—if you will—at the top. Ever since Tiger Woods dominated the OWGR conversation for an extraordinary 281 straight weeks, it's really been a matter of "Does So-and-So Deserve to be No. 1?"

    Woods clearly was the best golfer in the world. Now it's not so obvious who's No. 1. In fact, it's downright mysterious.

    The system is what it is. I won't get into a discussion on how it works. You can read that here.

    But if Lee Westwood has been calculated to be the world's best golfer, per se, than I guess Lee Westwood is the world's best golfer.

    In a Twitter Q&A with his fans last week, when asked what he thought of the ranking, Woods said: "It's been revised three times since I've been on tour. I know they are always looking to improve it."

    However the governing body is figuring out who's No. 1, the list is loaded with great talent. Let's take a look at the top 10 players and see if they're on their way up or down.

10. Bubba Watson

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 30: Bubba Watson watches his tee shot on the 11th hole during the third round of the Zurich Classic at the TPC Louisiana on April 30, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
    Hunter Martin/Getty Images

    With his victory at the Zurich Classic this past weekend, Bubba Watson not only got his second tour victory of the year and the top spot in the FedExCup standings, he also vaulted himself into the OWGR top 10.

    There is no question Watson is headed in the right direction in the world ranking. With a new found positive attitude on and off the golf course, there's no telling what he'll be able to accomplish. The numbers don't lie.

    He's currently second on the money list, second in driving distance, and first in greens in regulation. That's evidence of success on the PGA Tour.

9. Steve Stricker

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - MAY 1: Steve Stricker hits his tee shot on the second hole during the final round of the Zurich Classic at the TPC Louisiana on May 1, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
    Hunter Martin/Getty Images

    When you're chipping and putting well on the PGA Tour, you've got a good chance to be in contention at a lot of golf tournaments.

    Enter Steve Stricker, who, at 44 years old, still seems to be doing just enough to keep himself in just about every tournament he enters.

    He's a model of consistency. And that works.

    Stricker has three top ten finishes in eight starts this year. He's second in scrambling, fifth in scoring average and seventh in putting.

    He continues to hang around the OWGR top 10 and I don't see that changing.

8. Paul Casey

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    AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 08:  Paul Casey of England waves to the crowd on the second green during the second round of the 2011 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 8, 2011 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Of all the players in the OWGR conversation, Paul Casey might be the only one on his way out of the top 10.

    Other than a great win at the Volvo Golf Champions event in Bahrain, his best finish was a T12 at the Northern Trust Open.

    Casey is not playing his best golf right now. He's hitting a lot of greens in regulation, but his putting is keeping him from seeing much success.

    Check the numbers—fourth in greens in regulation but 180th in putts per round.

    Yikes.

    If that continues, his days among the world's best are numbered.

7. Tiger Woods

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    AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 10:  Tiger Woods hits a shot during the final round of the 2011 Masters Tournament on April 10, 2011 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
    David Cannon/Getty Images

    The once unbeatable Tiger Woods is now fighting to stay in the world's top 10.

    That's unthinkable when you consider how many weeks he's been at No. 1 on this list (623).

    Woods has shown recent signs of improvement with a revamped swing that earned him a fourth place finish at the Masters Tournament a few weeks ago.

    But he's physically beat up and hasn't played competitively in a month.

    I want to believe that Woods will somehow find his way back to the top, but he'll need to play more if it's ever going to happen.

6. Rory McIlroy

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    AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 09:  Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland waves to fans during the third round of the 2011 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 9, 2011 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
    Andrew Redington/Getty Images

    After crawling into a hole during the final round of the Masters Tournament a few weeks ago, 22-year-old Rory McIlroy has somehow managed to claw his way past Tiger Woods in the OWGR.

    It's a timely promotion as McIlroy gets set to defend his title at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club this week.

    Despite his free fall at the Masters, there is no question McIlroy will find a home in or around the world ranking top five for a long time.

    He shrugged that Masters embarrassment and proceeded to nearly win the Maybank Malaysian Open the following week.

    McIlroy has enough game to be No. 1 and I have no doubt he someday will occupy that top spot—sooner than later.

5. Graeme McDowell

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 28 : Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland walks off the 13th tee during the first round of the Zurich Classic at the TPC Louisiana on April 28, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
    Hunter Martin/Getty Images

    Graeme McDowell hasn't really taken his foot off the gas since his U.S. Open win almost a year ago. And it might finally be catching up with him.

    McDowell has four top ten finishes in eight starts this year without doing anything particularly spectacular. He just seems to know how to keep himself in contention.

    But his recent three-of-four missed cuts might be a result of too much going on around him. That tends to happen when you're the defending U.S. Open champ.

    That being said, I don't expect a slump to set in and I don't expect McDowell to make an exit from the world ranking top five anytime in the near future. He'll pull himself together—just in time for this year's U.S. Open.

4. Phil Mickelson

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    AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 10:  Phil Mickelson watches his approach shot on the first hole during the final round of the 2011 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2011 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
    Andrew Redington/Getty Images

    Like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson doesn't play a whole lot these days. But when he does, he usually makes it worth his while.

    He won the Shell Houston Open the week before a disappointing T27 in his green jacket defense at the Masters Tournament.

    That's right, I said he "usually" makes it worth his while. And he hasn't played since the Masters.

    Nevertheless, Lefty gets a high five.

    He still leads the PGA Tour in birdies (and/or eagles) on par fives. He's in the top five on the money list. And I like his chances of staying in the world's top five.

3. Luke Donald

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 30: Luke Donald of England walks off the second tee during the third round of the Zurich Classic at the TPC Louisiana on April 30, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
    Hunter Martin/Getty Images

    Just a couple weeks ago, Luke Donald was threatening to take over the top spot on the OWGR with a win at The Heritage.

    It never happened. He would lose in a playoff with Brandt Snedeker but his second place finish was good enough to keep him at No. 3 in the world ranking and at least raise awareness that he's playing well enough to someday (soon) take over the top spot.

    Aside from current world No. 1 Lee Westwood, Donald is arguably playing the best golf of anyone right now.

    He has six top-10 finishes in seven starts this season, including a win at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.

    Luke Donald is here to stay.

2. Martin Kaymer

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    AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 08:  Martin Kaymer of Germany watches a tee shot on the second hole during the second round of the 2011 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 8, 2011 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
    Andrew Redington/Getty Images

    Before he won the PGA Championship last year, I don't think a lot of people even knew who Martin Kaymer was. Well, they certainly do now.

    Kaymer was in the world No. 1 driver's seat for a few months before being recently dethroned by Lee Westwood.

    Kaymer missed the cut at the Masters Tournament for the fourth time in four tries and then ended up in ninth place at the Malaysian Open the following week.

    He's hardly playing his best golf right now, but I'm not ready to say he's on his way down the OWGR ranking. Of course, he'll have to step up his play in a hurry if he wants to remain in the top five.

1. Lee Westwood

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    ICHEON, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 29:  Lee Westwood of England in action during the second round of the Ballantine's Championship at Blackstone Golf Club on April 29, 2011 in Icheon, South Korea.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
    Andrew Redington/Getty Images

    Lee Westwood is doing what it takes to retain the world's No. 1 ranking these days—winning golf tournaments.

    In the span of one week, Westwood collected back-to-back wins in Asia at the Indonesian Masters and Ballantine’s Championship.

    The critics can say what they want about Lee Westwood not being the best golfer in the world.

    I guess he needs to win a major to truly convince his doubters. But right now, tell me—who's playing better golf?

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