A brief, unauthorized history of U.S. players dominating the top of the World Ranking

October 23, 2017

Following Justin Thomas’ most recent victory at the CJ Cup, there’s a lot of red, white and blue atop the Official World Golf Ranking. For the first time since May 9, 2010, three Americans own the top three spots with Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Thomas ranking above all others.

While it may seem significant—especially considering two of the three are just 24 years old—and while it will certainly be something to consider when analyzing team events like the upcoming Ryder Cup, this coincidence is altogether not that rare.

Americans have held the top three spots numerous times in the 31-year existence of the ranking. In fact, Johnson/Spieth/Thomas is the seventh trio of Americans to top the rankings.

The first group to do it, in August 1998, was Tiger Woods, David Duval and Mark O’Meara. During that same stretch Davis Love III jumped to fourth in the ranking, marking the first time four Americans held the top four spots. (Ernie Els had previously held the No. 2 spot, but when Duval won the 1998 World Series of Golf and Love finished third, Els dropped to fifth in the ranking.)

Those four Americans would combine to hold the top three spots in the ranking for much of the next six months. The next American trio to own the top three spots, in July 2001, were Woods (1), Duval (3) and a 31-year-old Phil Mickelson (2), when Lefty was still searching for his first major victory.

In August 2006, Woods (1), Mickelson (2) and Jim Furyk (3) would hold the top three spots, shortly after Furyk finished second (to Woods) at the 2006 Buick Open. Coincidentally, Stricker’s rise in the ranking occurred just one year later, and by January 2008, the top four names read: Woods, Mickelson, Stricker, Furyk.

So, two questions remain: Will DJ, Spieth and JT’s reign last, and if so, can another American join that trio to make it four-deep American dominance? A top-2 finish by Hideki Matsuyama at this week’s WGC-HSBC Champions (an event he won last year) would vault him past Thomas, who is set to take some time off. As for a fourth American, Rickie Fowler sits at No. 7, but he would need multiple victories to join the top 3. He’s also not playing this week. Sorry to burst your red-white-and-blue bubble.