Can Bubba Watson be #1 Ranked in the World?

Friday, April 13, 2012

**UPDATE** This is an article I wrote more than 18 months ago, and my prognostication seems to be coming true.  I predicted that a Mike Austin style swinger who could put all the facets of the game together and master mental imagery would step forward and dominate the world of golf.  Well, Bubba is definitely a candidate to make my statement.  Here are the latest Official World Golf Rankings:

1 Luke Donald, Eng 9.61 499.92 52 -121.88 80.34
2 Rory McIlroy, Nir 9.53 476.53 50 -86.37 174.31
3 Lee Westwood, Eng 8.23 378.80 46 -89.11 105.09
4 Bubba Watson, USA 6.53 320.19 49 -49.81 185.70
5 Hunter Mahan, USA 5.89 306.08 52 -53.75 157.44
6 Steve Stricker, USA 5.64 225.42 40 -57.19 64.13
7 Martin Kaymer, Deu 5.58 279.21 50 -83.28 28.42
8 Tiger Woods, USA 5.54 221.80 40 -32.07 110.18
9 Phil Mickelson, USA 5.31 260.05 49 -66.99 116.72
10 Justin Rose, Eng 5.28 274.33 52 -54.45  

Wow - 5 Americans in the Top 10!  That hasn't happened in years.   I also predicted Tiger dropping out of the top 10 - but he did make it back!  He's too good to hold down forever.

Although Bubba is now #4 in the world, he is some distance in points behind the top three.  So a #1 charge will probably not be fulfilled until 2013...unless he were to win another major.  His best shot will be at the PGA Championship, as the U.S. Open and British Open may not be in his wheelhouse just yet. 

The Original Article:

For the first time in his career, Bubba Watson has jumped into the top 10 in the Official World Golf Rankings.   He has 3 wins in the last 12 months, and lost in a playoff at the PGA Chamionship last year.

The question at hand is, can and will he make it all the way to the top?  I have predicted in the past, that golf would be dominated someday by someone who plays the game differently - someone who could hit the ball 360 straight on occasion, who matches it with good touch and solid putting.  I said someday there will be a player who puts Mike Austin swing principles together with a solid mental and tactical game.

So let's look at the current top 10:

1.  Lee Westwood

2.  Martin Kaymer

3.  Luke Donald

4.  Phil Mickelson

5.  Graeme McDowell

6.  Rory McIlroy

7.  Tiger Woods

8.  Paul Casey

9.  Steve Stricker

10. Bubba Watson


As you can see here from the total points, Bubba is already really close to being #8.  I believe he is playing better than Stricker (9) and Paul Casey (8), and will pass them soon, possibly even by next week. 

Tiger is now #7, and really doesn't have all that big of a lead over Bubba either.  Tiger is currently injured and going to miss this week's tournament.  He is trying to get healthy and come back for the TPC at Sawgrass.  But with this being the same knee injured again, along with an achilles tendon injury, can Tiger really come back and play well that soon.  Could he possibly be hurt worse, but is not letting on?  Because it is the same surgically repaired knee he is having problems with, there is a good chance.

Next comes Rory Mcilroy, who will not be easy to get by.  In fact, these two may be big rivals in the next 5 years.  I see both Bubba and Rory continuing to climb in the next two years.

Graeme McDowell I believe will now fall after his peak at the U.S. Open last year.  Both Bubba and Rory will pass him on his way down.  Phil Mickelson is next, and will again be difficult to get by.  But Phil really seems to have an aversion, a mental block if you will, to being #1.  He had many chances last year as Tiger faltered, and seemed to always perform poorly when he could attain the #1 spot by playing well for just one more round.  It may take awhile, but Bubba is going to pass him too.

Donald, Kaymer, and Westwood are all solid players, and will be around for a number of years.   I think Kaymer has also peaked after the PGA last year.  I also see Westwood faltering a bit.

So in 12 to 18 months, look for the rankings to look like this:

1.  Rory McIlory

2.  Bubba Watson

3.  Phil Mickelson

4.  Luke Donald

5.  Martin Kaymer

6. Paul Casey

7.  Dustin Johnson

8.  Nick Watney

9.  Charl Schwartzel

10.  Tiger Woods

So, it will be tough for Bubba to get past the last few elite players on his rise to #1, and, although it may be hard to imagine, look for Tiger Woods to fall out of the top 10.

What do you think?  Will Bubba charge to #1 soon?  Should the ranking criteria be changed, given that Luke Donald is #1 and has never won a major?

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