The rule I once wrote in my documents from the internet:
The article is omitted when comparison is between different levels of performance/execution by the same person or thing:
He runs fastest when he has had a good breakfast.
She works best in the mornings.
In other cases we use "the":
Of all the boys, Jim runs the fastest.
She works the best in our team.
Now I have two sentences:
1. The south of the country is the worst hit by the recession.
2. Rural areas have been worst hit by the strike.
In accordance with my rule, both 1. and 2. must be written with "the".
What is the difference between 1. and 2.?
Why is there not "the" in 2.?
Is my rule not correct?