Tiger Woods will finish the 2013 calendar year atop the world golf rankings, but he may be hearing footsteps as Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson, each with a win last week, stalk the world No. 1’s hold on the throne.
Scott, who can complete the hat trick Down Under with a win in two weeks at the Australian Open after Sunday’s successful defense of his Australian Masters title on top of last week’s Aussie PGA triumph, is now some 115 total points behind Woods in Monday's OWGR tally.
Back-to-back Ws within two weeks gave Scott four worldwide wins for the year, including first-place finishes at Augusta and The Barclays. Since April, when he became the first Aussie to don a green jacket, Scott’s confidence has soared, and last week he served notice that he was taking aim at Woods’ position.
"That's like the wild childhood dream,'' he said about the possibility of surpassing Woods on the leader board. "For so long, No. 1 was so far from being attainable for me. I sat there and watched Tiger Woods be double the points ahead of the second player in the world. It never really entered my mind, but I've never been closer now."
Scott has two more opportunities to chip away at Woods’ advantage, with the upcoming ISPS Handa World Cup of Golf and next week’s Australian Open. Double the PGA Tour of Australasia’s minimum 16 OWGR points are up for grabs in the latter, according to the tour, which noted that completion of the "Scotty Slam" would put the 33-year-old Aussie native just a point behind Woods heading into next year.
Stenson, the first golfer to win the FedExCup and Race to Dubai titles in the same season, after cruising to victory at last week’s World Tour Championship, is also poised to challenge Woods for rankings dominance.
"He's had an incredible back end of the year, and you know, best player on the planet right now," said Ian Poulter, who finished as runner-up, six shots behind Stenson’s 25-under in Dubai, and must pay up on the wager the duo had riding on the outcome.
Former No. 1 Luke Donald agreed.
"I don't think there's been a better player in golf the last six months," Donald said after sharing fifth place with two other ex-No. 1s, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood, on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates. "Henrik looks in complete control."
Stenson, with the easy win under his belt, acknowledged that the Tiger chase was on.
"It's going to take a lot of good golfing from where I am to reach No. 1, but I'm going to keep on trying," he told reporters. "Like someone said, everyone that's won The Race to Dubai managed to be world No. 1 at some stage, so it wouldn't be fair not to try then, would it?"
Woods, who has ruled supreme since reclaiming the top ranking in March, is unlikely to give up bragging rights without a fight. He can pad his lead with a strong performance at his Northwestern Mutual World Challenge next month. With Scott and Stenson surging, however, the battle for top dog should heat up next season.