Back in 2016, the NFL aired an ad during Super Bowl 50 honoring Super Bowl babies — children allegedly born nine months after a team’s Super Bowl win. It’s a cute video and an interesting concept — does a team’s success really have an impact on the birthrate in its home city?
Perhaps more importantly, is this phenomenon applicable in the world of golf? While it’s difficult to link birth rates to a single player’s success at a given time, name popularity can in fact be tracked. So I decided to investigate. Does a No.1-ranked player have any influence on the popularity of his name at the time of his dominance? How many middle-schoolers named Tiger and Rory (Or Luke, Adam and Lee) might be out there?
Since the creation of the official world golf ranking in 1986, 21 different players have held the illustrious title of the No. 1 player in the world (and two of them share the same name, Nick). Using babycenter.com‘s ranking of the most popular baby names over the last several decades, I was able to identify each name’s standing on the list in the year the player attained the No. 1 ranking, and whether or not the name’s standing improved over the following year. Just under half the field actually had a positive movement in the year or years following their ascension to No. 1.
Ready to find out who the most influential World No. 1 has been (at least when it comes to baby names)? Here are the results:
9. Luke Donald: A consistently popular modern baby name, Luke jumped two spots from 2011 to 2012, going from No. 39 to No. 37.
8. Lee Westwood: Lee ranked 676 in 2010 and rose to 673 in 2011 — a three-spot gain.
7. Ian Woosnam: In 1991, the name Ian was comfortably inside the top 100 popularity ranking at 73, but rose to No. 68 in 1992 — a five-spot climb.
6. Adam Scott: A classic and popular name, Adam ranked No. 79 in 2014 and jumped six spots to No. 73 in 2015.
5. Greg Norman: Ranked 544 in 1986, the name Greg crept up to 536 in 1987.
4. Rory McIlroy: Ranked 481 in 2012, Rory jumped 103 spots to No. 378 by the end of McIlroy’s reign atop the OWGR in 2015.
3. Tiger Woods: Yes, it’s true, people do name their kids Tiger! Ranked 1,559 in 1997, Tiger peaked at 1,251 in 1998, a 308-spot climb.
2. Seve Ballesteros: Seve’s name ranked 4,288 on the popularity list when he ascended to World No. 1 in 1986. By 1988, he was at 3,272 — a jump of 1,016 spots!
1. Eldrick Woods: Surprise! Eldrick “Tiger” Woods is the only man in this field with two influencer-status names to track, and the Big Cat’s given name is the clear winner in this contest. Ranked 7,196 in 1998, the name Eldrick rose a whopping 2,767 spots in 1999 to No. 4,429!
Also of note: Luke, Adam and Ian continue to be popular baby name choices. All three are currently ranked in the Top 55 baby names for 2018.