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Just because a player is No. 1 in the world doesn’t mean he’s the world’s best player. Anyone who has watched Woods over the course of the season can figure that out. It also was pretty clear in 2004 that Vijay Singh was the best golfer on the planet, yet the Fijian didn’t rise to No. 1 until the sixth of his nine wins that season.

Being No. 1 simply means that player has compiled the best average (net points divided by number of tournaments) during a two-year period. The world ranking used to measure three years. The board could decide it should be only one year. Or one month.

In the last two years, Woods won seven times and finished in the top 10 in 58 percent of his tournaments. No one else has done that.

Mickelson has been No. 2 for most of the year, and he has been No. 2 longer than anyone in the history of the world ranking without reaching the top. Lefty has only himself to blame for that. He had 13 consecutive starts this year with a mathematical chance to replace Woods at No. 1 and didn’t get it done, including a 78 in the final round at Firestone and a 76 in the final round at the TPC Boston.

Perhaps the player with the best case is Kaymer.

Not only has he won four times, he captured his first major at the PGA Championship, had top 10s in two other majors and has accumulated the most ranking points of any player in 2010. Then again, it’s not only about winning, and it’s not just about the majors. And the ranking is about more than one year.

That’s where Westwood fits in.

During the last two years, Westwood has three wins, four seconds and four thirds. He was runner-up at the Masters and British Open this year, tied for third in the British Open and the PGA Championship last year. He won the Order of Merit on the European Tour. And he had to sit out for two months in peak form because of his calf injury.

Asked why he did not plan to take up PGA Tour membership last year, Westwood shared something that his manager, Chubby Chandler, had told him.

“Why would you take up membership in the States when you’ve been the most successful player in the world this year, through the injury, and you still have the great chance to go to world No. 1?” he said at St. Andrews. “You’ve come in second in two major championships. You must be doing something right.”

It would be an amazing comeback for Westwood, who was No. 4 in the world in 2000, then fell out of the top 200 during a three-year slump. He never imagined back then that he could one day reach No. 1.

Not many could have guessed it might happen like this. Westwood’s only win this year was the St. Jude Classic, made possible by Robert Garrigus taking triple bogey on the last hole. If Kaymer doesn’t win at Valderrama, Westwood will rise to No. 1 without lifting a club, much less holing a putt. That would be OK with him.

“It’s something I’ve always dreamed of, and it would be great if it happened,” he said.

Sure, it might be anticlimactic, but that can happen when a ranking is based on math _ addition, subtraction and division. It brings to mind the summer of 1999, when Woods easily dispensed of David Duval in that Monday night exhibition known as the “Showdown at Sherwood.” A week later, when neither played, Duval went back to No. 1 in the world.

The following week, Woods won the PGA Championship and was No. 1 for the next five years.