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Came across an interesting article today, and I had absolutely no choice but to throw it on the blog. I think it’s the perfect time to clear the airwaves a bit, and separate a lot of notable myths from reality.
I will casually read some of Martin Dempster’s stuff from time to time, as he seems to have a reasonable pulse on European Tour happenings. But HIS MOST RECENT COLUMN was not one of his best efforts. In fact – it could be the most dreadful post as I’ve ever read from him. I’m going to select some quotes from the article and make my own commentary. I’ll allow you to be the judge of what is or isn’t off base.
“Last time Westood topped the heap, our American cousins didn’t like the fact he had ended Tiger Woods’ long reign at the top without him having won a major. Now they’re grumbling because he regained the No 1 spot by beating a field of “nobodies” to win the Indonesian Masters.”
Despite it being one of the weakest fields in golf, and despite Westwood accepting appearance money (which most European writers deem regrettable when it happens to be an American on the receiving end) no one is grumbling this week because Lee Westwood moved to the top of the world rankings. In fact – most Americans are more than eager to see someone other than Tiger Woods sitting atop the OWGR Penthouse for a change. Speaking of which – maybe now is a great time to reiterate the common perception on this side of the pond, and that perception is this: The Official World Golf Ranking system might mean something to the players themselves, but it’s merely window dressing for the rest of us. The fact that a player could basically be idle for nearly 2 seasons, of which Woods essentially was with injury and scandal for most of the time from 2009 and onward, and hold such a great margin that his #1 status went unchanged for nearly an entire season – it more or less proves that the system itself isn’t overly reliable.
“According to another US-based observer, the Englishman needs to “win something that matters” and “beat somebody who matters” to “give us a reason to believe you really deserve that No 1 world ranking”. In other words, win something on the PGA Tour. That, of course, won’t be in The Players’ Championship, its flagship event, in a fortnight’s time. Westwood isn’t playing at Sawgrass and that is part of the reason he’ll not get the plaudits he deserves for becoming the first player to regain the top spot since Woods got it back from Vijay Singh by winning the 2005 Masters.”
While yes – ideally beating “somebody who matters” or winning a tournament “that matters” would certainly seem to add to the perception that a player (like Westwood) is deserving of the “Best in the World” status, most of us who actually follow golf well enough to attempt to understand this imperfect system also recognize the value of consistent performance. If we use major championships alone as the key barometer – then couldn’t we make the argument that Phil Mickelson should be ranked higher than Lee Westwood? And we know that this isn’t the case. As it relates to which continent he competes in – the PGA Tour has always been the measuring bar of success, the biggest stage with the biggest purses in all of golf. Despite the likes of Kaymer, Westwood, McDowell, and McIlroy opting to stay loyal to their home tour – that’s not going to change. Not that players should follow the money and migrate to another continent, uprooting their families and starting a new life just to prove how great they are against the likes of Woods, Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, etc…. but if that’s ultimately the goal, then obviously they have a decision to make. Contrary to popular belief – very few fans here take offense to any of those players staying loyal to where they live. Would we like to see them competing more here? Sure. But we respect the reasons why they don’t.
“Sure, the field Westwood beat to win in Jakarta was one of the weakest assembled anywhere in the world this year and, if truth be told, he was only there himself because he was being paid a handsome appearance fee. But, on the day of his 38th birthday, Westwood became the first player in six years to have arrived at an event knowing he had to win to become No 1 and actually pull it off. No-one has failed more miserably in that position than Phil Mickelson yet many Americans seem more interested in picking holes in Westwood’s feats than asking why ‘Lefty’ has under-achieved to the extent he has in recent years.”
How insensitive of a prick can one be…. How would Lee Westwood have fared upon learning that both his wife and mother were diagnosed with cancer? And then, a year later, learning that he himself had a rare, incurable form of chronic arthritis that got so bad that he actually thought he might never play golf again? Martin Dempster – you sir are quickly becoming an under-achieving writer to use this guy as an example of why Lee Westwood is great, of which isn’t needed in the first place.
“What makes the apparent reluctance to accept Westwood as the best player on the planet at this moment in time all the more frustrating is that the American viewpoint would have been different if another Englishman had secured the No 1 ranking on Sunday. Needing to win The Heritage, Luke Donald certainly gave it his best shot, almost holing from a bunker at the 72nd hole before losing in a play-off to Brandt Snedeker. In six starts this season, Donald has secured five top 10s, including a win in the WGC-Accenture Match Play and a share of fourth in The Masters. Without question, he has the best short game in the business right now and holes those six to ten-footers with the same regularity as Woods once did. Yet, compared to his fellow countryman, Donald still has a lot to prove in terms of being a regular contender in majors. The Americans like Donald. He went to college there, lives in the States and plays most of his golf on the PGA Tour. They’re not so keen on Westwood, who didn’t go to college there, lives in Worksop and declined to become a member of the PGA Tour because spending quality time at home with his family is more important than jumping back and forward across the Atlantic.“
As I noted earlier, most American fans don’t have an issue with European players opting to play where they wish. Or their fellow American players for that matter. But this is more than we can surmise about you, as you obviously take issue with Luke Donald’s decision to play in America. And for that reason – you’re attempting to discount him because of his performance in the majors, the same thing that you essentially tout as the fictitious reason why Americans feel that Lee Westwood doesn’t belong. The more you write, the more desperate and irrational you become in proving your point it seems.
“Yet it has thrown up a scenario that can only be good for the game, as the now dethroned Martin Kaymer was the first to acknowledge last week when he was asked about how he felt about his position as No 1 being under threat from both Westwood and Donald. Kaymer himself has no complaints about Westwood being back on top of those rankings, admitting his Ryder Cup team-mate has been the game’s most consistent performer over the past couple of years. It’s just a pity that very few on the other side of the Atlantic seem prepared to acknowledge that fact, though we all know, of course, that some people just won’t be content until Woods is back as No 1. They’ll be the ones with the long faces as the game enjoys an exciting period as the battle for the hottest seat in sport continues.”
Unless you happen to be in the minority of people who continue to overlook the current situation surrounding Tiger Woods, which now not only includes his inability to return to the winner’s circle, but maybe even more significantly – the cloud of uncertainty surrounding his most recent knee injury – very few people expect Tiger to return as the undisputed top player in the world anytime soon, if ever. His most loyal of supporters think otherwise… they continue looking to the past without surveying the present. Even if his left knee had to be amputated, they would still claim him to be the best in the world currently. But they are in the minority, sir. The rest of us who watch the game from an unbiased viewpoint don’t see things the way they do, or the way you do for that matter. The only time the US vs THEM sentiment arises is every other year during the Ryder Cup. Stop making this out to be something it isn’t.
In closing, Lee Westwood is a great player on a tour that has exploded with talent over the past several years. I think it’s good for golf, period. But the elitist attitude that assumes the European players aren’t getting their due attention because of their lack of affiliation with the PGA Tour is not only unfounded, but utter nonsense.