Breakdown: No. 1 Golfers in the World

On Monday, the US’ Jordan Spieth became the 18th man to be ranked No. 1 in the world by the Official World Golf Rankings, which began in the early 1980s. Spieth supplanted Rory McIlroy after the latter’s 54-week reign.

Being ranked No. 1 in the world is a tough gig. If you throw out the extreme lengths enjoyed by Tiger Woods (683 weeks) and Greg Norman (331 weeks), the average golfer makes it 32 weeks – eight months -at No. 1, so Jordan should enjoy himself while he can, it’s often fleeting.

And that’s just total weeks at No. 1, doing it consecutively over a long stretch is even tougher. Only Tiger Woods has ever made it past 100 weeks straight as No. 1 (doing it twice). Only three other men have held the No. 1 spot for more than a year straight – Norman, Nick Faldo, and McIlroy, who was at week 54 when Spieth snapped his streak.

For first timers like Spieth, winning a Major is a sure fire way to get to No. 1. Eight of the last 11 first-time No. 1 players have won a Major in the year they took the top spot.  The last player to win two Majors in the same season he first became No. 1 was Nick Faldo, who won The Masters and the Open Championship in 1990 before reaching No. 1 that fall, although he only stayed there for six weeks on his first ascent.

As mentioned in an earlier blog, Spieth is the second-youngest player to reach No. 1 for the first time, trailing only Tiger Woods in 1997. The oldest-ever first-time No. 1? Vijay Singh, who was 41 in 2004 when he won nine tournaments including the PGA Championship.

Perhaps the most impressive stat for Spieth’s ascension is that he’s the first American not named Tiger Woods to hold the No. 1 spot since David Duval’s 14-week reign ended in July of 1999 – a span of 841 weeks.

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