Rivals closing in on Tiger’s top ranking

There are not many sports in which the best exponent, be it an individual or team, can stay at the top for so long without even playing.

Golf is rare in this aspect simply because of Tiger Woods. The American has been top of the heap for 529 weeks even though he has not played since winning the US Open in June.

Such was the size of his lead that, six months after he decided to end his season to undergo knee surgery, he is still 3.865 points ahead of Spain’s Sergio Garcia in the Official World Golf Rankings.

However, being inactive eventually has its price and he can only stay number one for so long. With Woods unlikely to play for sometime yet, there is a good chance that the chasing pack, which also includes Phil Mickelson and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, could overtake him soon after the turn of the year.

In a Reuters article, OWFR official Ian Barker said Garcia needs 81 points and Harrington 144 from the first seven events of 2009 if they want to overtake Woods before April’s US Masters.

Points are weighted based on the status of tournaments and the strength of the playing fields. Barker said:

“These projections show how, as time passes, Tiger’s position at the top becomes more vulnerable. Sergio needs 81 OWGR points from those events and Harrington needs 144. A WGC (World Golf Championship) event will carry winning points in the 70s so it is possible for both players to overtake Woods but I don’t think either could do it without winning a big tournament.”

Woods, the owner of 14 major titles, first claimed the world number one spot in June, 1997. He lost it briefly to Fijian Vijay Singh but regained the top ranking in June, 2005.

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