In April 1986 the World Ranking, as we know it now, debuted and Bernhard Langer was the first to be crowned king of the golf world. The irrepressible German was the defending Masters champion, having overcome the worst affliction known to golf—the yips—not once but on several occasions. He held the top spot for only three weeks but is one of just 14 men who can say that he was the best golfer in the world at one point in his life. The others are Seve Ballesteros (61 weeks), Greg Norman (331), Nick Faldo (97), Ian Woosnam (50), Fred Couples (16), Nick Price (44), Tom Lehman (1), Ernie Els (9), David Duval (15), Vijay Singh (32), Tiger Woods (623), Lee Westwood (17) and Martin Kaymer (2).
This is an article from the March 14, 2011 issue
Note that 10 of the 14 former No. 1s are international players and that six of those 10 are Europeans. In all, there have been about 1,300 weeks of rankings, and if you take out Tiger's 623, the U.S. has held the top spot for only 32 weeks. This means that the "trend" of Europeans dominating the World Ranking we've been hearing about lately is no trend at all. It's a longstanding fact of world golf obscured for a long time by Tiger's brilliance. Without him at the top of his game, the Euros may reign for years to come. Not only is Kaymer (above) ranked No. 1, but the top four and six of the top 10 are also Europeans. Right now Tiger and Phil are nothing but questions, while the Europeans look like a series of answers. In the U.S. we may believe "These guys are good," but in Europe they say, "Bloody hell, we are great!" Actually, that rolls off the tongue quite well, ol' chap. Cheers.
Brandel Chamblee is a 15-year PGA Tour veteran and a Golf Channel analyst.