- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 12, 2010

About all anyone can say with certainty about No. 1 in the world is that it won’t be Tiger Woods at the end of October.

It won’t be Phil Mickelson, either.

Lee Westwood hobbled home from the Dunhill Links Championship at St. Andrews to rest his calf injury. He doesn’t plan to compete again until the HSBC Champions in Shanghai at the earliest. By not playing, and through a gradual reduction of points, he will have a higher average than Woods in the ranking published Nov. 1.

But that doesn’t guarantee Westwood will be atop the world ranking for the first time in his career.

Martin Kaymer moved to No. 4 with his fourth win of the year at the Dunhill Links, and the 25-year-old German can go to No. 1 if he wins the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama the last weekend in October.

“At the moment, for me, Lee Westwood is the best player in the world,” Kaymer said.

Not yet.

And maybe not for long.

They all could meet in Shanghai _ assuming Westwood is fit to play _ and all four could have a shot at No. 1.

For most of the last decade, any debate about the world ranking took place around No. 50, not at the top. Aside from incentives in endorsement contracts, the real value of the ranking came from the majors giving exemptions to the top 50 (or the top 100 for the PGA Championship as it tries to assemble the strongest field).

Even those who didn’t even try to understand how the ranking worked rarely quibbled about No. 1. That much was obvious.

Woods returned to No. 1 a week before the 2005 U.S. Open, and he stayed there by doing in five years what it has taken Westwood a career to achieve _ 32 victories (along with five majors) and 15 runner-up finishes.

The question is why he stayed there so long this year.

Not only did he take off five months when his personal life imploded, Woods has only two top 10s this year, a tie for fourth in the Masters and U.S. Open. Because points are gradually reduced over a rolling two-year period, Woods has lost more world ranking points this year (330.105) than any other player has earned.

But it’s important to understand what the world ranking is _ and what it is not.

Story Continues →