Lefty can end Woods' reign atop rankings

Phil Mickelson (right) can take the No. 1 world ranking from Tiger Woods with a victory at the Colonial this week. With Woods' game in disarray after personal turmoil and splitting with coach Hank Haney, No. 1 is up for grabs.

It has been 12 years since the creation of the Mark H. McCormack Award, given to the player who has been ranked No. 1 in the world for the most weeks during a calendar year.


Tiger Woods is still the only name engraved on the trophy.

Along with his 14 majors, 82 official victories and more than $100 million in earnings worldwide, Woods' dominance of his generation is reflected in the world ranking. Dating to the 1998 U.S. Open at Olympic Club, he has been at the top 93 percent of the time.

Woods doesn't stay there forever. He just doesn't vacate the spot for very long.

David Duval took it away from him by winning The Players Championship in 1999 and stayed there for 14 weeks. Five years later, Vijay Singh replaced Woods at No. 1 by beating him at the TPC Boston for one of his nine victories that year. Singh finished the final four months at No. 1 -- not long enough to win the McCormack Award -- and didn't give it back until Woods won the Masters Tournament the next April.

Phil Mickelson appears to be next in line.

The Masters champion needs only to win Colonial this week to become the 13th player to occupy No. 1 since McCormack, the late founder of IMG, devised the ranking system in 1986. Colonial is more meaningful than ever for Mickelson, for it was last year when the tournament staged a "Pink Out" to support his wife, Amy, who had just learned she had breast cancer.

Mickelson has never been No. 1 at anything in a career that has been second to one.

Despite his 40 worldwide victories and four majors, he has never won the money list, player of the year, the FedEx Cup, the Vardon Trophy or reached No. 1 in the world.

If it doesn't happen at Colonial, it figures to happen soon. A change at the top seems inevitable, more because of what's going on with Woods -- chaos in his personal life, back-to-back weeks out of the money for the first time -- than with Lefty.

What makes this different from previous times that Woods gave up the No. 1 ranking is that if Mickelson fails to catch him soon, there's no shortage of players right behind him.

Lee Westwood, of England, is No. 3, not quite in range but getting closer. He has finished no worse than third in the past three majors, and he appears to have figured out how to play his best golf in the biggest events. Steve Stricker is No. 4, although Colonial will be his first tournament since the Masters because of a chest injury.

Still, Mickelson is in the best position to seize this opportunity. And if it takes Woods more than a year to sort out his game, there might finally be another name to be engraved on the McCormack Award.