Possible for Tiger to Lose No 1 Spot

By Associated PressJune 16, 2004, 4:00 pm
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- Tiger Woods, the second-best player in the world? The whole notion is rather farfetched. After all, Woods has held the No. 1 spot in the world rankings for an astonishing 253 consecutive weeks, seemingly transforming the honor into a birthright rather than some numbers-crunching exercise.
But going into the U.S. Open, Tiger has Ernie Els right on his tail. The Big Easy moved up to No. 2 with a win at the Memorial, and Vijay Singh isn't far behind, either.
There's a plausible scenario that would bump Woods from his leading role, which dates to the 1999 PGA Championship. If Els can win at Shinnecock Hills - he's already a two-time Open champion - and Woods finishes lower than sixth, there will be a new name atop the standings.
'The No. 1 position will hopefully take care of itself,' Els said. 'I don't want to think about that. That's not my total motivation. My motivation is to win golf tournaments.'
Singh, the only three-time winner on the PGA Tour this year, might be playing better than anyone. The Fijian can move to No. 1 by winning the Open, but only if Woods misses the cut. That isn't likely to happen, considering he's made it to the weekend in a record 124 straight events.
'I'm up to No. 2 now,' Els said. 'But we're all so close.'
The dominant position Woods held while winning seven of 11 majors has certainly faded. No longer does most in the field assume they're playing for second when Woods is on hand. With every wayward tee shot and non-winning finish, the gap narrows.
'The way Vijay has played the last 2 1/2 years speaks for itself,' Els said. 'And I've played pretty well the last three years myself. Everything is right there, and it's kind of exciting.'
Woods is going on two years since his last major win, the 2002 U.S. Open, held down the road at Bethpage Black. But rankings or no rankings, he's still The Man.
Just listen to Phil Mickelson, who's feeling pretty good about his game after winning his first major at the Masters.
'I don't know if we've caught him, if the gap has narrowed or not, but I think we all expect him to come out and light it up like he usually does,' Lefty said. 'I think it's going to happen very, very soon. I just hope we can put it off as long as possible.'
Woods is getting testy about the whole thing. Everywhere he goes, the state of his game comes under scrutiny. This week is no exception.
'Am I tired of it? Yeah,' Woods said.
His swing has gotten more analysis than most issues in the presidential campaign. Commentators have urged Woods and former instructor Butch Harmon to make peace.
'We laugh on tour about how these guys think they know everything, but they don't,' Woods said.
Since winning at Bethpage, Woods has gone seven major championships without a victory. He hasn't won a stroke play title since October, and he's blown two 36-hole leads this year.
'I know that I haven't played up to my absolute peak, but who does week in and week out?' Woods said. 'It certainly is not from a lack of effort, and I know that I'm going to be making some great progress this year.'
Just what is wrong with Woods is easy to see.
His short game remains immaculate, and his irons are usually the right distance.
But on the tee? Watch out.
Woods is 147th on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy, hitting barely more than half the fairways. And it's not just the driver. In his last tournament, while trying to make a late comeback at the Memorial, he hit a 4-iron off the tee into the water. He's even struggled at times with the 2-iron stinger he likes to use to stay in play.
Then again, some perspective is in order.
Woods still has one win and seven top-10 finishes in 10 tournaments this year, results that anyone who isn't named Tiger Woods would take without a second thought.
'I don't think it's something to worry about,' Mickelson said. 'I think Tiger will be back like he always is, and he'll win his majors.'
So, golf fans, relish this while you can. It's a wide-open Open instead of Woods versus the Rest of the Field.
Sergio Garcia, possibly the successor to Mickelson as the best player without a major title, is coming off a victory at Westchester last week. Chad Campbell and Padraig Harrington also seemed poised for a major breakthrough. And there are all the familiar names: Davis Love III, David Toms, Mike Weir.
Even David Duval, the last player not named Woods to be ranked No. 1, plans to end his self-imposed exile from the tour this week.
As if sensing Woods' vulnerability, the challengers are coming from all directions.
'There are a lot of guys,' Mickelson said, 'that are going to try to make this a special year.'
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    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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    Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

    PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

    She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

    “I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

    Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

    “Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

    She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

    “I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

    Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    “Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

    She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

    “They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

    Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

    While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

    “Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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    Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

    PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

    In fact, she named her “Mona.”

    For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

    While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

    And that has her excited about this year.

    Well, that and having a healthy back again.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    “I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

    Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    “Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

    Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

    She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

    Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

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    Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

    By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

    PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

    Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

    Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.

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    Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:26 am

    PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.

    With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.

    After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.

    “I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”

    It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.

    Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.

    “It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”

    Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.

    “Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”

    Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).

    Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.

    “It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”

    Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.

    “This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”

    Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.