PONTE VEDRA BEACH - Top-ranked Tiger Woods is set to be dethroned from the rankings summit at this week's Players Championship, with four title contenders able to replace the non-defending champion at number one.
Australian world number two Adam Scott, last year's Masters champion, has the best chance at bumping Woods from the top spot, with Sweden's third-ranked Henrik Stenson, reigning Masters champion Bubba Watson and fifth-ranked American Matt Kuchar all in with a shot at number one.
Woods, a 14-time major champion chasing the all-time record 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus, underwent surgery five weeks ago to ease a pinched nerve. keeping him from playing at last month's Masters or defending his Players crown.
Exactly when Woods, who has topped the rankings for 682 weeks in his career, might return to competition is uncertain.
"Everybody looks at it, when Tiger is not going to play, there are bad things happening," US PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said Tuesday. "I don't look at it that way. When Tiger plays, good things happen. When he doesn't, it's fine.
"When Tiger is in a tournament, I don't care what tournament it is, he dominated the media focus and that's fine. But the negative to that is that the young players coming up don't get the kind of attention that they need to develop and become athletes that fans really recognise, so it kind of holds back the development of our stars."
This week's $10 million event boasts 46 of the world rankings' top 50, with Scott needing only a top-16 effort to overtake Woods and become world number one for the first time in his life.
Scott has had chances to become number one in March and April but could not achieve the feat he says would be a dream come true.
"It's impossible not to think about it," Scott said. "It would be a dream come true to make it to that point."
This year marks 10 years since Scott won the Players title and 20 years since legend Greg Norman, the most recent Aussie to top the rankings, won the Players.
Stenson, the 2009 Players champion, would need at least a top-six finish to have a chance at the taking the top spot in next week's rankings while Kuchar must duplicate his 2012 Players win to have any hope.
- No. 1 same as green jacket -
Watson has to finish no worse than a solo runner-up to anyone other than Scott.
"We've seen guys be number one for one week," Watson said. "We've seen Phil Mickelson, who is arguably (in) the top-five best of all time and he has never been number one.
"It would just show me the rankings are kind of messed up if Bubba Watson has been number one and Phil Mickelson has never been number one."
Watson, who collected his second green jacket in three tries last month at Augusta National, called the top ranking "the same thing as winning the green jacket" but added "it's not going to ruin my life or my career if I never get there."
Watson, in his first event since last month's major triumph, has had a more subdued time after this Masters title than after his 2012 victory, after which he did not win again until this past February.
"I thought I was the coolest guy in the world -- I have a green jacket," Watson said. "This one is a lot different. It's more for myself and after that just go back and play golf."
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