Harder Beating the Best or Beating the Rest
Woods now has won 15 times against the best players in the world.
Darren Clarke is next with two WGC victories, the 2000 Accenture Match Play Championship and the 2003 NEC Invitational at Firestone, both times beating the worlds No. 1 player.
Ernie Els, a three-time major champion, has one world title (Ireland in 2004).
Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh have combined for none.
Never mind the world ranking. Maybe his world titles are the true reflection of the gap between Woods and his alleged competition.
I dont know how to answer that one, Woods said Sunday. All I know is that I just love playing against the best players in the world. Thats the fun part because we dont get to do it that often.
But there is a case to be made that beating the best isnt necessarily harder than beating the rest in a full-field event.
Clearly, the Match Play Championship is the toughest of the WGCs to win, and its a testament to his ability (physical and mental) that Woods has won three times and reached the final another. Only three other players have been to the finals twice.
But in the first three WGCs he won at Firestone, Woods never had to beat more than 40 players in 72 holes of stroke play. He had to beat only 60 players in his first American Express title at Valderrama.
In his TOUR career, Woods has won 20 times against limited fields with guaranteed money.
Playing a full field, whether thats 120 players at invitationals like Bay Hill or 156 players in the summer, means more chances that someone will have a career week.
Bob May was one of those guys at Valhalla in 2000 when he lost to Woods in a three-hole playoff at the PGA Championship. Bob Burns was one of those guys at Disney in 2002 when he shot 65 to win. Steve Flesch went birdie-for-birdie with Woods in the final round of Disney two years earlier, and both were beaten by a 62 from Duffy Waldorf.
Theres a lot of truth to the PGA TOUR's slogan, These guys are good.
If youve got 60 guys at Bridgestone, get by 10 or 12 of them and the scores tend to look different, Fred Couples said Tuesday. Thats sugarcoating it a little bit.
In most tournaments, only half the field is going to play well, leading to the 70 or so players who make the cut. Apply that math to the WGCs, and there are only 30 or 40 guys to worry about. The average margin between first and worst in the WGC events (stroke play) is 32.4 strokes. The average margin at regular TOUR events last year was 24.6.
The WGCs are not the only tournaments where the number of players who can win is less than what it seems.
The U.S. Open last year had 29 players who had to go through two stages of qualifying. Those are called dreamers. The 97-man field at the Masters last year had 10 players on the Champions Tour and five amateurs. The PGA Championship has 20 club pros.
The pressure, the history and the golf course are what makes them tough.
But there is no getting around the fact that WGCs use the world ranking (top 50) as the core criteria, and while there forever will be debate on whether Shingo Katayama or Soren Hansen belong in the top 50, there can be no argument that Mickelson, Els, Singh, Padraig Harrington, Steve Stricker and Sergio Garcia are pushovers.
When its only 64 guys, it certainly seems easier to win the event, Couples said. But when its the top 64 guys, its harder. Tiger wins them, and its no surprise.
Firestone has always been a course that appeals to Woods, and his record supports that. He has won six times in 10 appearances and has never finished worse than fifth.
But consider the CA Championship, previously the American Express. Before it moved to Doral, where Woods had won the previous two years as a full PGA TOUR event, he won that world title on courses in Atlanta, San Francisco, Spain, Ireland and London. No other PGA TOUR player has won a tournament six times on six courses.
Its hard to find a tournament Woods plays that doesnt have the best fields on the strongest courses.
It was only three years ago when he played 21 times on the PGA TOUR. Since then, he has dropped the Byron Nelson Championship, where the winning score has been under 270 in 12 of the last 13 tournaments; Disney, where he once shot 263 and tied for third; and Pebble Beach, which along with bumpy greens and six-hour rounds also has a 180-man field, including just about everyone from Q-school.
The weakest field he has beaten over the last two years'based on points awarded in the world ranking'was the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston in 2006, the year before it became a playoff event.
His schedule now is more predictable than ever. Of the PGA TOUR events he played last year, he has won all of them at least once except the AT&T National, which was held for the first time.
Its not surprising then that Woods has won 24 tournaments on the PGA TOUR (multiple times at 15 of them). Singh has won 23 different PGA TOUR events and Mickelson has won at 19 tournaments.
But for Woods, everywhere he plays, everything he does, is geared toward the majors.
Ultimately, thats where the greatest players are measured.
CareerBuilder purse payouts: Rahm wins $1.06 million
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry on the fourth hole of sudden death to win the CareerBuilder Challenger. Here's a look at how the purse was paid out in La Quinta, Calif.:
|T20||Charles Howell III||-14||$57,754|
|T36||Tyrone Van Aswegen||-12||$27,189|
|T69||Billy Hurley III||-6||$11,623|
After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...
Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).
Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.
It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard
On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...
There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.
He sure looks like the real deal, though.
His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.
Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner
Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2
With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.
He picked up one more No. 2, too.
The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.
In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.
Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.
“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”
Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.
Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.
He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.
Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title
Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.
Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.
His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.
“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."
Tom Brady, postgame, on wearing the wrap on his hand: “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) January 22, 2018
Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.
Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.