The world’s number one golfer hasn’t hit a ball in competition since he won the U.S. Open in June last year. Now Tiger Woods faces a challenge to hold on to his place at the top of the rankings.

Woods literally limped to victory last year at Torrey Pines in southern California, after an absorbing play-off with fellow American Rocco Mediate. The winner of 14 “major” titles then announced he would miss the rest of the season — including the Open Championship and the Ryder Cup — to have surgery on an injured knee.

With the American yet to compete this season, Spain’s Sergio Garcia has narrowed Woods’ lead at the top of the world rankings from 11 points in June last year, to less than three points.

Garcia has not finished outside the top eight in his last seven tournaments this season, a run of form which could allow him to topple Woods from top spot within the next two months.

“Of course I have a chance (to relegate the injured Woods to second place), but it’s not something that’s do-or-die for me,” he told

“Winning a major has always been a goal for me, so I guess that’s probably the only place where I’ll set any kind of a goal,” he added. “Other than that, I’ll try to play as well as I can at any tournament. If I became the No. 1, nothing is going to change for me.”

So what of Woods?

Shortly after winning his third U.S. Open title last summer, Woods revealed he would be undergoing reconstructive surgery on his left knee after playing for “at least” 10 months with a torn ligament.

The second most successful golfer in history — after the great Jack Nicklaus with 18 major titles — had fought through the pain to record a remarkable victory over 91 holes.