At 43, professional athletes are supposed to be either retired or nearing the end, having lost the competitive edge on the field that defined them in their younger days.
Well, add Tiger Woods to that list of exceptions, because not only did Woods win the Masters in April, he’s followed that up with his first appearance in the top five of the Official World Golf Rankings since 2014.
Curiously, he managed to do this despite missing the cut at the PGA Championship earlier in May.
Woods rose to sixth in the rankings in the wake of his triumph at Augusta National, a position he held throughout the rest of the spring. He was able to move into the No. 5 spot thanks to Justin Thomas not playing a hole of professional golf since the Masters as he nurses a wrist injury.
Since part of the calculation for the rankings is a rolling average of past performances, the longer a player is inactive, the more the high points that propelled him into the rankings age off the chart and therefore the lower his rank falls.
But at the same time, rolling averages mean you can’t just ride one big win into the top five, and Woods’ strong performance in his comeback all season long played as much of a role as winning the Masters did.
Brooks Koepka, who won the PGA Championship, remains No. 1 in the world.
Koepka and Woods bookend the top five with Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy holding down spots No. 2 through 4.
Johnson was second at that same PGA Championship, he and Koepka demonstrating how wide the gulf is at times between them and those chasing them.
Below Woods in the top 10 stand Thomas, whom Woods leapfrogged, along with Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele and Rickie Fowler.
— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) May 23, 2019
The rankings are of particular import as the U.S. Open approaches. While the top 10 have nothing to worry about as far as qualifying, the bubble gets interesting around the cutoff point of No. 50 in the world.
Kevin Na, by virtue of winning the Charles Schwab Challenge over the weekend, got off the bubble and moved from No. 52 to No. 31, a timely win that sets him up well for golf’s third major of the year.
Andrew Putnam went from No. 62 to No. 49 after taking a T-3 in Fort Worth, the third-place payout of $423,400 served with a chance to make even bigger money on Father’s Day Weekend.
C.T. Pan, who himself earned $423,400 as the other guy in the bronze medal slot at Colonial, moved from No. 54 to No. 47 and qualified for the Open.
I can’t tell you how many people I heard say “Tiger will win again but he’ll never be a top 5 golfer in the world again” just a few months ago. https://t.co/ORyMwSnq5H
— Ethan L. Culver (@ethanlculver) May 27, 2019
And Jim Furyk managed to move up in the rankings by just one spot when he finished tied for 13th, but when the one spot is from 51st to 50th, he might as well have jumped 50 spots from the point of view of his golfing fortunes.
But it was the guy who wasn’t even at the Charles Schwab Challenge who made the biggest golf news of the weekend.
Tiger Woods is back, folks, and he’s staking one heck of a claim for the best over-40 athlete in the world.
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