The Last Word: Accept it, Westwood is best in world

When Worksop's finest ends Woods' 281-week reign as No 1 tomorrow, the whingers from across the pond must eat their words

Let's get one thing clear. If and when Lee Westwood displaces Tiger Woods as golf's world No 1 tomorrow, it will have absolutely nothing to do with the "vagaries of the ranking system". It will be the exact opposite.

The dictionary on my desk informs dolts like myself that a "vagary" is "an unexpected and inexplicable change". Westwood's accession has been trailed for weeks, if not months and – if Martin Kaymer does not produce a miracle and finish second at Valderrama today – would be about as unexpected on this particular Monday morning as congestion in Piccadilly Circus. Furthermore, as the ranking system is worked out with calculators and spreadsheets and not with wands and magic dust, it could be considered just as inexplicable.

Of course, none of this would or will stop the doubters trotting out the cliché to demerit Westwood's achievement in becoming Britain's third golfing No 1 and the first since 1994. As it happens, the grumblers are already in full whinge – which sort of disproves the "unexpected" element – and when it comes to the "inexplicable", the fact the biggest noise is coming from the United States is right up there with the two-times table.

Fancy that, the man who refuses to join the US Tour – also known as the centre of the golfing universe – being pilloried for ending the 281-week reign of Woods – also known as the centre of the centre of the golfing universe. No, Westwood will not be overly surprised to discover the odd grimace among the welcoming party waiting to greet him at the summit.

Even now, he has heard quite enough of the "V" word, although he would understandably be more offended with the "C" variety. "Controversial" seems to be the adjective of choice on the other side of the pond to describe Westwood's impending coronation. It's daft, they say, that a golfer who has had the brunt of three months off with an injury can find himself rising to the top spot; what a mockery, they scream, that a golfer who has won only once this year is hailed as the world's best player; "show us your major" they bellow, most vehemently.

Of course, this is just the hysterical view, but even his many admirers over there are damning Westwood, whether unwittingly or not, with the apparently unanimously held opinion that this is essentially all about the fall of Woods rather than the rise of anyone else. What an absurd argument that oh so conveniently disregards the true meaning of "vagary". Sportsmen and sportswomen come and go for a variety of reasons; some of them unexpected, some of them inexplicable. Whether it's age that gets the champion, or injuries, or fatigue, or foibles, none of them lasts forever. Except some experts seem to think Woods' status should be eternal or that, at the very least, the person daring to replace him should soar above him like Superman.

The truth is that the rankings, for whatever reason, were incepted to draw up a pecking order and identify the best player in the world, the second best, etc. The boffins soon realised this was a task almost as tricky as it was thankless and had to decide over what time span the players would be judged. By common consent – yes, even in America – two years is the fairest period to do so in a sport in which form can be so temporary.

Put crudely, that means points have to be taken off as well as put on and as soon as one realises this, one must also realise the hows and whys of Westwood's succession. To understand this, but then also to be baffled by it, is quite frankly disingenuous.

Over the last two years, Westwood has proved himself to be the world's best golfer. Even for all those obsessed with the majors, he has outshone the opposition. No one else can claim a big-stage consistency which has seen him notch up two runner-up placings in the three majors he played this year as well as the two third places which came last season.

In that time, he has also happened to win three titles on three different continents, one of which was America, and compile a staggering record of more than 20 top-10 finishes.

The deserving is in the detail, just where it should be in a system that cannot begin to deal with the emotive. It has nothing to do with Westwood's courageous comeback from a dramatic slump. That does not make him any more deserving in the rankings. And neither is it about 20-foot putts across the 18th green at the majors and victorious jigs or claims of immortality thereafter.

So much of the ranking system is about consistency and that is the "C" word which should be used whenever anyone discusses Westwood these next few days. It has been an inexorable and impressive grind to the top, which would have come a lot quicker but for his injury setback.

If anything can be confidently predicted in life, and certainly in the sporting crapshoot that is golf, then it is that Westwood would have carried on collecting ranking points in the last three months and taken Woods' mantle in what his critics pompously deem to be "the right way".

But there you are; a calf muscle unexpectedly and inexplicably ruptured and he was left to bemoan the vagaries of the human body. That much should be remembered when the rankings are published tomorrow morning. Perhaps it is a system with sentiment after all.

j.corrigan@independent.co.uk

Suggested Topics
News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress among those on 'master list' of massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey fans rejoice, series five returns later this month
TV
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor