World Golf Ranking: History, records, and every No.1

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Everything you need to know about the Official World Golf Ranking, including all of the milestones and every player to have been No.1.

Since the introduction of the men’s Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) in 1986, 25 different players have reached the pinnacle, from ten different countries.

Scottie Scheffler won the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play to become World No.1.

Scottie Scheffler became the latest to achieve the feat with his victory at the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play, but he’s got a way to go if he wants to break fellow American Tiger Woods’ record. The 15-time Major champion has spent more than 13 years combined at the helm during his incredible career.

Before the start of the official ranking, Mark McCormack produced unofficial end-of-year rankings in his World of Professional Golf annual from 1968 to 1985. It listed Jack Nicklaus as No.1 from 1968 to 1977, Tom Watson from 1978 to 1982, and Seve Ballesteros from 1983 to 1985.

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Let’s take a closer look at the history of the official world rankings.

When was the Official World Golf Ranking introduced?

The Official World Golf Ranking started on April 6, 1986.

Nick Faldo is England's most successful golfer and longest-serving World No.1.

How are the World Golf Rankings calculated?

That’s a good question – and has a long answer. But, put simply, players accumulate points over a two-year rolling period, with their OWGR then obtained by dividing their points total by the number of events they have played, to give an average.

To place additional emphasis on recent performances, points awarded for each tournament are maintained for a 13-week period. Ranking points are then reduced in equal decrements for the remaining 91 weeks of the two-year ranking period.

The system is due to change in August 2022.

Bernhard Langer became golf's first World No.1 in 1986.

Who was golf’s first men’s World No.1?

Bernhard Langer. The German spent three weeks at the helm from April 6 to April 26, 1986, before he was overhauled by Spain’s Seve Ballesteros for the first of his five spells at the top.

There have been 25 men's golf World No.1s since the ranking was introduced in 1986.

Which golfers have been men’s World No.1?

Listed in order of first time they topped the rankings. Number of occasions at No.1 and total weeks in parentheses

Bernhard Langer (1 spell, 3 weeks)

Seve Ballesteros (5 spells, 61 weeks)

Greg Norman (11 spells, 331 weeks)

Nick Faldo (4 spells, 97 weeks)

Ian Woosnam (1 spell, 50 weeks)

Fred Couples (2 spells, 16 weeks)

Ian Woosnam and Fred Couples have both topped golf's world rankings.

Nick Price (1 spell, 44 weeks)

Tom Lehman (1 spell, 1 week)

Tiger Woods (11 spells 683 weeks)

Ernie Els (3 spells, 9 weeks)

David Duval (2 spells, 15 weeks)

Vijay Singh (3 spells, 32 weeks)

Lee Westwood is a former World No.1.

Lee Westwood (2 spells, 22 weeks)

Martin Kaymer (1 spell, 8 weeks)

Luke Donald (4 spells, 56 weeks)

Rory McIlroy (8 spells, 106 weeks)

Adam Scott (1 spell, 11 weeks)

Jordan Spieth (4 spells, 26 weeks)

Jason Day (3 spells, 51 weeks)

Dustin Johnson has had multiple spells as World No.1.

Dustin Johnson (7 spells, 135 weeks)

Justin Thomas (2 spells, 5 weeks)

Justin Rose (5 spells, 13 weeks)

Brooks Koepka (4 spells, 47 weeks)

Jon Rahm has been the World's No.1 golfer.

Jon Rahm (4 spells, 43 weeks)

Scottie Scheffler (1 spell, 1 week*)

*Current No.1, weeks to date

Which golfer has spent the most time at World No.1?

Tiger Woods. The 15-time Major champion has had 11 spells at the world’s helm, spending an incredible 683 weeks at the top in total. Woods’ longest spell as No.1 came between June 12, 2005, and October 30, 2010 – a whopping 281 weeks. Unsurprisingly, that is the current record and, in our opinion, will never be broken.

No other golfer has ever spent more than 100 consecutive weeks at the top. Greg Norman is the closest with 96. The Australian spent a combined 331 weeks as No.1 across 11 spells.

Woods has also spent 906 weeks inside the world’s top 10, followed by Ernie Els (788) and Phil Mickelson (775).

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Tom Lehman was World No.1 for one week.

Which golfer has spent the least amount of time as World No.1?

American Tom Lehman was the eighth man to top the rankings when he replaced Greg Norman on April 20, 1997, but spent just one week at the helm before the Australian returned to the top.

Which golfer reached World No.1 the fastest?

It’s that man, Tiger Woods, again. Tiger took just 21 (yes, you read that right, 21) professional starts to top the rankings. Jordan Spieth needed just 77, and Scottie Scheffler, golf’s newest World No.1, took 92. Impressive.

Tiger Woods and Greg Norman have each been World No.1 on 11 separate occasions.

Which golfer has been World No.1 the most times?

Greg Norman and Tiger Woods have both topped the Official World Golf Rankings on 11 different occasions.

Norman first became No.1 on September 14, 1986, with his last spell beginning on September 7, 1997.

Woods first reached the summit in 1997 with his most recent spell coming on March 25, 2013, and lasting until May 17, 2014.

Rory McIlroy has been World No.1 on eight separate occasions. He reached No.1 for the first time on March 4, 2012, and most recently took the top spot on February 9, 2020.

Dustin Johnson has been at the helm seven times, first achieving the coveted No.1 spot on February 19, 2017, and most recently on July 11, 2021.

Rory McIlroy has been World No.1 for more than 100 weeks, while Tiger is the youngest World No.1 to date.

Who is the youngest golfer to reach World No.1?

As if he doesn’t hold enough records, it’s Tiger. Woods was just 21 years and 167 days old when he topped the rankings in 1997.

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Vijay Singh was the oldest golfer to reach World No.1.

Who is the oldest?

Vijay Singh. The Fijian was 42 years and 93 days old.

Has anyone been World No.1 without also winning a Major in their career?

Yes, three players.

England’s Luke Donald spent a total of 56 weeks at the top of the world rankings and has yet to win one of golf’s big four titles, while fellow countryman Lee Westwood was No.1 for 22 weeks and is still seeking his first Grand Slam win.

It’s a little harsh to include Scottie Scheffler in this list as he’s only just reached No.1 and is at the start of his career, but he is yet to lift a Major. We wouldn’t be surprised if that changed in 2022.

Luke Donald is one of only three players to be World No.1 and not have won a Major.

How many countries have had players at World No.1?

Players from ten different countries have reached the pinnacle. The United States leads the way with nine players who, as of March 29th,2022, have spent a combined 928 weeks at the top. Fred Couples was the first American to reach No.1, Tiger Woods has spent the longest in the coveted spot, and Scottie Scheffler is the latest to achieve the feat.

Australia is second with 394 weeks across three players. Greg Norman was the first and longest, with Jason Day the most recent.

England is third with 188 weeks from four plays. Nick Faldo was the first and longest, with Justin Rose the most recent.

Then comes Northern Ireland, with all 106 weeks achieved by four-time Major champion Rory McIlroy.

Seve Ballesteros was Spain's first World No.1.

Spain is fifth, with Seve Ballesteros and Jon Rahm combining for 104 weeks at the top, followed by Wales, with Ian Woosnam spending 50 weeks as No.1.

Then comes Zimbabwe (Nick Price, 44 weeks), and Fiji (Vijay Singh, 32 weeks), ahead of Germany, with Bernhard Langer and Martin Kaymer achieving 11 weeks between them.

South Africa completes the list – four-time Major winner Ernie Els topping the list for nine weeks in total.

How many golfers have spent an entire calendar year as world no.1?

Just three. Nick Faldo managed it in 1993, with Greg Norman maintaining the top spot in 1996. Tiger Woods achieved the feat eight times – 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009.

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Phil Mickelson has never reached World No.1, largely due to Tiger Woods' dominance.

Has Phil Mickelson ever been World No.1?

Incredibly, no he hasn’t. When it comes to the world rankings ‘Lefty’ has very much been the bridesmaid to Tiger’s bride. Mickelson, who has won six Majors, 45 PGA Tour events, and 11 European Tour events, has spent a whopping 270 weeks as World No.2 without ever achieving the top spot. To put that into context, Jim Furyk is next on the list with just 39 weeks at No.2.

Fortunately for Mickelson, he does hold the record as the oldest Major winner thanks to his 2021 US PGA Championship win.

Have the world rankings ever been stopped?

Yes, they were paused during the Covid-19 pandemic. Rankings were frozen on March 15, 2020, with Rory McIlroy at the top, and restarted on June 14, 2020. McIlroy’s total weeks at number one do not include this 12 week period.

Jack Nicklaus was never officially World No.1, but is widely considered the greatest golf of all time.

Do the world rankings help us decide who is the greatest golfer of all time?

Because the official world rankings weren’t introduced until 1986 it’s impossible and incorrect to use these alone as the basis for the answer.

There is little doubt in most golf fans’ minds that it is either Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus.

Woods has 683 weeks at the top of the world, 15 Major titles, 82 PGA Tour wins, and 41 European Tour/DP World Tour wins.

Mark McCormack’s unofficial rankings had Jack Nicklaus as World No.1 for nine years (468 weeks), with the Golden Bear winning 18 Majors, 73 PGA Tour events, and nine European Tour/DP World Tour titles.

Tiger Woods has spent more time as World No.1 than any other golfer.

Woods has been the PGA Tour’s leading money winner 10 times, PGA Player of the Year 11 times, and PGA Tour Player of the Year 11 times. He was also PGA Tour Rookie of the Year in 1996.

Nicklaus topped the money chart on eight occasions and lifted the PGA Player of the Year trophy five times.

Both Woods and Nicklaus are members of the World Golf Hall of Fame having been inducted in 2021 and 1974 respectively.

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