Justin Rose deserves his place in most exclusive club
Phil Mickelson is one of 15 players to reach world number two without taking extra step
Justin Rose has become the 22nd world number one. Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Nobody could possibly begrudge Justin Rose his rise to the pinnacle as far as the official world rankings are concerned. He has more than served his dues, especially when you think back to his travails early on in his professional career when he missed 21 straight cuts and seemed to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Now, he has no weight at all on his shoulders; and the view from the top must be a rosy one, guaranteed as it is to extend beyond a one week wonder and, given his form of the past year, which saw him play 25 times during which time he had no fewer than 18 top-10s, including four wins. That is a form-line that can’t be argued with in any shape or form.
The official world rankings started back in April 1986 when Bernhard Langer had the distinction of being the first player to hold the accolade. Rose is the 22nd player to achieve the feat. Yet, it is perhaps worth looking at those who never reached the Number One spot to understand the achievement fully.
In fact, 15 players have reached world number two without taking the extra step. By a country mile, Phil Mickelson is the one who suffered most of all: “Lefty” had the misfortune to live in the shadow of Tiger Woods, a player who would occupy the top spot more than any other player. Mickelson spent a total of 270 weeks during his career as the world number two and, although he got so close to reaching the top, he was thwarted time and time again.
None of the others got to endure as much pain as Mickelson. Over five years of his life indeed was spent within touching distance. After Mickelson, Jim Furyk (39 weeks), Jose Maria Olazabal (35), Henrik Stenson (24), Colin Montgomerie (24), Sandy Lyle (23), Sergio Garcia (18) and Mark O’Meara (15) were the only other players to reach double-digit weeks as world number two without ever getting to the promised land. And, of them, Monty is the odd-man-out in that he never managed to win a major either.
The question is, which is the greater achievement? Winning a Major; or getting to world number one?
To a man, players will inevitably nominate lifting the Masters trophy, the US Open trophy, the Claret Jug or the Wanamaker Trophy as the more defining in a career.
However, the reality is that climbing the summit in the world rankings is actually the more difficult.
When the first world ranking list was introduced, with Langer at the top, Jack Nicklaus won the Masters the following week. In the time since the introduction of the rankings, Langer and 21 others have been able to savour the accolade of being a world number one; in the same time, however, no fewer than 82 different players have won Major titles. So, it is clear which is the more exclusive club: 22 versus 82.
Rose is entitled to enjoy his time at the summit, regardless of how long it stretches.