Singh Challenging Tigers No 1 Ranking
Five years later, it seems as if nothing has changed.
Woods was still at No. 1 for the 247th consecutive week when he arrived Tuesday for the Wachovia Championship and his first look at Quail Hollow Club. But take an exit poll among players, and most consider Vijay Singh to be the best player in golf now.
And for good reason.
In a performance that would have put Singh on front pages across the country if his name were 'Woods,' the 41-year-old Fijian overcame a six-shot deficit over the final eight holes by playing them in 7 under par. He closed with a 63 to win in New Orleans, his second straight victory and third of the year.
Some could even make an argument for Phil Mickelson at No. 1.
In his first tournament since winning the Masters, Mickelson birdied three of his last four holes to finish one shot behind in New Orleans. It was his ninth top-10 finish of the year, to go along with two victories, one of them a major. Mickelson moved up to No. 5, making him only the highest-ranked Lefty.
So, what's wrong with the ranking system?
The leaderboard Sunday afternoon - or Monday, in Singh's case the last two weeks - is the best barometer of who is No. 1 that week. The PGA Tour money list (Singh) and the scoring average (Mickelson) are leading indicators of who is playing the best golf that year.
The world ranking measures who is the best overall.
That remains Woods, albeit by a margin that is getting slimmer every week.
Remember, the world ranking is a snapshot of the last two years, not the last two weeks, or even the first four months of the PGA Tour season.
In the last two years, Singh has played 58 tournaments that count toward the world ranking (56 on the PGA Tour, two on the European tour). He has won eight times, has 32 finishes in the top 10 and has missed five cuts.
During the same stretch, Woods has played 39 tournaments (35 on the PGA Tour, three in Europe, one in Japan). He has won 10 times, had 27 finishes in the top 10 and has not missed a cut.
There is no question that Woods is searching for a swing he can trust. He is coming off three poor performances, starting with a tie for 46th at the Bay Hill Invitational - a tournament he had won the previous four years - and ending with a tie for 22nd at the Masters, his worst finish at Augusta National as a pro.
While Woods gets more attention than players equally deserving, that also comes with more scrutiny. He is 0-for-7 in the majors since winning the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black two years ago; Singh is 0-for-16 since winning the 2000 Masters, and Mickelson was 0-for-42 for his career until three weeks ago.
Woods could always point to his record, which is second-to-none over the last two years.
But even that could be about to change.
Woods has never faced a challenge to his No. 1 ranking as strong as Singh's performance the last 15 months. By winning back-to-back, the Fijian closed within 2.14 points in the complex system.
How close is 2.14 points?
Because points are gradually weighted toward the most recent performance, Woods stands to lose more points than Singh over the next month, mostly because he won the Deutsche Bank in Germany and the U.S. Open two years ago.
Here's a simple translation that doesn't require knowledge of the Pythagorean Theorem: At this rate, Woods and Singh will be neck-and-neck going into the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, and Singh could overtake him a week later.
Of course, that depends on what happens between now and then.
Woods and Singh are playing in the Wachovia Championship. Both are expected to play next week in the Byron Nelson Classic, then the Memorial the first week of June.
Singh did not realize he was this close after winning New Orleans, but he realizes what it takes to get over the hump - play well, continue to play well, and don't let up.
'You are not going to lose any spots winning golf tournaments,' he said. 'But it's very hard to catch Tiger. His points are so high up there. When he comes out, he always performs well. So, I've got to keep winning five or six events a year just to get close to him.'
Singh might never get a better chance than this.
Woods never has been under more pressure to get his game pointed toward the fairway instead of the trees.
His last tournament in North Carolina was the 1999 U.S. Open down the road at Pinehurst No. 2, back when David Duval - remember him? - was No. 1 in the world.
Woods tied for third at Pinehurst, ran his drought in the majors to 10 at the British Open, then reclaimed the No. 1 spot by winning the PGA Championship at Medinah.
That was 247 weeks ago.
Woods went on to win his final four PGA Tour events of the '99 season, ran off perhaps the greatest season in golf in 2000 with nine victories, three majors and over $9 million, and hasn't been seriously threatened since then.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain
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.
“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.”
Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead
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.
“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.
Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders
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.
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.
Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC
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.
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.