Every Men's World Number One Golfer - All 25 Listed

Scottie Scheffler became the 25th different man to top the Offical World Golf Ranking list, but who else has held that title?

Justin Rose, Justin Thomas, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have all topped the Official World Golf Ranking list at some point
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The first Official World Golf Ranking list was released prior to the 1986 Masters as a way of comparing players on all tours across the globe, and especially those splitting their times between tours. The R&A found issuing invitations to play the Open Championship on a tour by tour basis was missing those who played multiple tours. 

The method of calculating the rankings has changed many times over the years. Currently, points are awarded for events on more than 20 tours over a rolling two-year period with points maintained for a 13-week period to make sure there’s an emphasis on the most recent form. After that they are reduced by just over 1% a week until they disappear after 104 weeks.

Players must have played a minimum of 40 tournaments and a maximum of 52 over the two years. Each event is given a ‘strength of field’ rating, using a world rating value and a home tour value that basically grades the field using the previous rankings of the competitors. This is converted into a ‘event ranking’, though Majors are always given a fixed event ranking of 100. Event winners are given 100% of the event ranking, 2nd 60%, 3rd 40%, 4th 30%, 5th 24% all the way down to 1.5% for 60th.

The Official World Golf Ranking list is important because it’s used for invites to tournaments including Majors, plus team events like the Ryder and President’s Cups, and even the Olympic Games. A ranking inside the top 50 guarantees an invitation for all the Majors, all World Golf Championship events and the Players Championship.

In 1986, the first rankings had 31 Americans in the top 50, but it was Europeans dominating the top spots, with Bernhard Langer the first World No.1 and Seve Ballasteros and Sandy Lyle ranked second and third. Fast forward to March 2022, and Scottie Scheffler became the 25th man to hold the position as World No.1. Only four men have held the World No.1 position for more than 100 weeks - Rory McIlroy (106), Dustin Johnson (135), Greg Norman (331) and of course Tiger Woods, who has spent 683 weeks, more than 13 years, as the top ranked golfer in the world. At the other end of the scale, Tom Lehman is the only player who could only boast the number 1 ranking for one week only.

In order of when they first reached World No.1, the 25 men who have topped the rankings are:

Timeline of the World No.1

  • April 6th, 1986 Bernhard Langer
  • April 27th, 1986 Seve Ballesteros
  • September 14, 1986 Greg Norman
  • November 22, 1987 Seve Ballesteros
  • November 29, 1987 Greg Norman
  • October 30, 1988 Seve Ballesteros
  • November 6, 1988 Greg Norman
  • November 13, 1988 Seve Ballesteros
  • March 26, 1989 Greg Norman
  • April 2, 1989 Seve Ballesteros
  • August 20, 1989 Greg Norman
  • September 2, 1990 Nick Faldo
  • October 14, 1990 Greg Norman
  • February 3, 1991 Nick Faldo
  • April 7, 1991 Ian Woosnam
  • March 22, 1992 Fred Couples
  • March 29, 1992 Nick Faldo
  • April 5, 1992 Fred Couples
  • July 19, 1992 Nick Faldo
  • February 6, 1994 Greg Norman
  • August 14, 1994 Nick Price
  • June 18, 1995 Greg Norman
  • April 20, 1997 Tom Lehman
  • April 27, 1997 Greg Norman
  • June 15, 1997 Tiger Woods
  • June 22, 1997 Ernie Els
  • June 29, 1997 Greg Norman
  • July 6, 1997 Tiger Woods
  • September 7, 1997 Greg Norman
  • January 11, 1998 Tiger Woods
  • April 12, 1998 Ernie Els
  • May 10, 1998 Tiger Woods
  • May 17, 1998 Ernie Els
  • June 14, 1998 Tiger Woods
  • March 28, 1999 David Duval
  • July 4, 1999 Tiger Woods
  • August 8, 1999 David Duval
  • August 15, 1999 Tiger Woods
  • September 5, 2004 Vijay Singh
  • March 6, 2005 Tiger Woods
  • March 20, 2005 Vijay Singh
  • April 10, 2005 Tiger Woods
  • May 22, 2005 Vijay Singh
  • June 12, 2005 Tiger Woods
  • October 31, 2010 Lee Westwood
  • February 27, 2011 Martin Kaymer
  • April 24, 2011 Lee Westwood
  • May 29, 2011 Luke Donald
  • March 4, 2012 Rory McIlroy
  • March 18, 2012 Luke Donald
  • April 15, 2012 Rory McIlroy
  • April 29, 2012 Luke Donald
  • May 6, 2012 Rory McIlroy
  • May 27, 2012 Luke Donald
  • August 12, 2012 Rory McIlroy
  • March 25, 2013 Tiger Woods
  • May 18, 2014 Adam Scott
  • August 3, 2014 Rory McIlroy
  • August 16, 2015 Jordan Spieth
  • August 30, 2015 Rory McIlroy
  • September 6, 2015 Jordan Spieth
  • September 13, 2015 Rory McIlroy
  • September 20, 2015 Jason Day
  • September 27, 2015 Jordan Spieth
  • October 18, 2015 Jason Day
  • November 8, 2015 Jordan Spieth
  • March 27, 2016 Jason Day
  • February 19, 2017 Dustin Johnson
  • May 13, 2018 Justin Thomas
  • June 10, 2018 Dustin Johnson
  • September 10, 2018 Justin Rose
  • September 23, 2018 Dustin Johnson
  • October 21, 2018 Brooks Koepka
  • November 4, 2018 Justin Rose
  • November 11, 2018 Brooks Koepka
  • November 18, 2018 Justin Rose
  • November 25, 2018 Brooks Koepka
  • January 6, 2019 Justin Rose
  • March 3, 2019 Dustin Johnson
  • April 7, 2019 Justin Rose
  • April 14, 2019 Dustin Johnson
  • May 19, 2019 Brooks Koepka
  • February 9, 2020 Rory McIlroy
  • July 19, 2020 Jon Rahm
  • August 2, 2020 Justin Thomas
  • August 9, 2020 Jon Rahm
  • August 23, 2020 Dustin Johnson
  • June 20, 2021 Jon Rahm
  • July 11, 2021 Dustin Johnson
  • July 18, 2021 Jon Rahm
  • March 27, 2022 Scottie Scheffler
Jeff Kimber
Jeff Kimber

Jeff graduated from Leeds University in Business Studies and Media in 1996 and did a post grad in journalism at Sheffield College in 1997. His first jobs were on Slam Dunk (basketball) and Football Monthly magazines, and he's worked for the Sunday Times, Press Association and ESPN. He has faced golfing greats Sam Torrance and Sergio Garcia, but on the poker felt rather than the golf course. Jeff's favourite course played is Sandy Lane in Barbados, which went far better than when he played Matfen Hall in Northumberland, where he crashed the buggy on the way to the 1st tee!