Lee Westwood supplanted Tiger Woods as the No. 1 golfer in the world Sunday, but Westwood’s Ryder Cup teammate Graeme McDowell doesn’t expect the Brit’s reign to last long.
“The face of the golfing world has changed here in the short term,” McDowell said in a recent interview, “but I predict another five years of Tiger Woods’s dominance in the game. I think he’ll be No. 1 in the world comfortably for the next five years.”
McDowell said he based his assessment on Woods’s play in the Ryder Cup last month. Woods won three of his four matches at Celtic Manor in Wales, looking most impressive during his 4-and-3 dismantling of Francesco Molinari in their Monday singles match. In 15 holes against the Italian, Woods made eight birdies, including a stretch of five straight.
“I thought he looked ominously back at the Ryder Cup,” McDowell said. “I thought he quietly went about his business and had a good week in an event where historically he’s not been very good.
“I think his return to form is inevitable,” McDowell added. “I just think he’s been slowly but surely getting his head around the game. I fully expect Tiger to re-enter the golfing world the way he used to be.”
The way he was in 2000-01, when he concurrently held all four major titles?
“2000 dominance is a lot to ask for,” McDowell said, “more like ’05 dominance.”
Woods won six times in 2005, including two majors.
With his own win in Spain on Sunday, McDowell cracked the top 10 in the World Ranking for the first time. The Northern Irishman is in the midst of a career-altering year during which he won the Wales Open (also at Celtic Manor), the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, and now the Andalucia Valderrama Masters. McDowell, 31, also became a Ryder Cup hero by defeating Hunter Mahan in their dramatic anchor singles match.
As McDowell revealed last month, his 2010 success was in part made possible by Woods. When Woods withdrew from the Chevron World Challenge last December, his absence allowed McDowell into the field. McDowell went on to finish second, which gave him enough World Ranking points to qualify for some other top-tier events which in turn earned him an exemption into the U.S. Open.
McDowell said he has not yet thanked Woods for inadvertently helping McDowell to kick start his season, but he expects to see Woods at this year’s Chevron, Dec. 1-5 in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Said McDowell, “We may have a beer and a chat about that.”