Singh Finding No 1 Novelty Wearing Off
Returning to the top the second time around wasn't nearly as meaningful.
As he walked off the 18th green at the Bay Hill Invitational, where the wrong club at the wrong time cost him a chance to win for the second straight week, Singh didn't even realize he had replaced Tiger Woods at No. 1.
Nor did he care.
'I didn't think I got it back, did I?' he said. 'Well, big deal. I lost the tournament.'
Even during his first reign that lasted 26 weeks, it didn't take Singh long to realize that No. 1 is just a number. More important are the trophies, especially green jackets and claret jugs.
He earned it the first time around by going head-to-head with Woods in the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship. Tied for the lead with five holes to play, Singh held him off and won by three, ending Woods' five-year run at the top.
'I've worked pretty hard for this,' Singh said that day outside Boston. 'I finally achieved what I wanted to do at the beginning of the year.'
Singh returned to No. 1 in the world on Sunday under entirely different circumstances - he hit a 7-iron into the water on the final hole at Bay Hill to make double bogey and finish two shots behind Kenny Perry.
No wonder Singh cared so little about a title that once meant so much.
'It's all about winning,' Woods said. 'I'm sure he (Singh) feels the same way. If you win a bunch of tournaments each and every year, the rankings will follow.'
The battle for No. 1 probably will continue the rest of the year, certainly for the next month.
Woods has been No. 1 longer than anyone - 336 weeks - since the world rankings began in 1986, and he can get it back this week at The Players Championship.
So can Ernie Els, who hasn't been No. 1 since 1998.
By the end of the year, Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen might have a chance to reach the pinnacle. Chances are, it will be more meaningful at that point to them than to Singh or Woods.
Mickelson is the best player to have never been No. 1 in the world, with 25 victories and a major last year at the Masters. The ranking is measured over two years, and he hasn't allowed himself much thought on what kind of achievement that would be, other than to say, 'It would be cool.'
Els has been No. 1 on three occasions - for one week after winning the 1997 U.S. Open, then for eight out of nine weeks the following year when Woods started to fall off while changing his swing.
'That's one of the goals - obviously to win major championships, but I'd love to be No. 1,' Els said. 'I'm as close as I've been for a year now. I've been kind of hovering around there for the last year or so.'
Some players have financial incentives built into endorsement contracts that focus around No. 1, and it certainly didn't hurt Singh, particularly when he was referred to as the No. 1 player in a Foot-Joy commercial.
Otherwise, No. 1 is simply a novelty. And it can wear off quickly.
Woods has been dismissing the importance of No. 1 for the last year, perhaps because he was there for so long. He reached the top quicker than anyone, becoming No. 1 for the first time on June 15, 1997, after playing in just 22 professional tournaments, six of them victories. Even then, he was philosophical about the points-based formula that measured three years at the time. Woods had only been playing 10 months.
'Being No. 1 is great,' he said in 1997. 'Right now, I'm No. 1 because I don't have many minuses.'
That there is so much focus on No. 1 shows how strong golf is at the top. Woods, Els and Mickelson have each won two times this year, while Singh finished third at Doral and was tied for second his last two weeks.
The only significance about the world ranking is at No. 50, which qualifies players for the major championships. Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland was thrilled with his final-round 66 at Bay Hill because it got him into The Players Championship and most likely the Masters.
For now, the great debate is over who's No. 1. Depending on Mickelson, and perhaps Goosen if he shows more consistency, this could be the first year that as many as five players take turns at the top.
The record for most players being ranked No. 1 in a single year is 1997, when Woods (10 weeks), Els (one week), Tom Lehman (one week) and Greg Norman (41 weeks) each were No. 1.
Right now, the biggest battle is between Singh and Woods.
'Vijay has played better the last two years,' Perry said after his victory at Bay Hill. 'It's a toss-up. And they're both fun to watch. It's all about winning with those guys.'
Ultimately, that's all that matters to any of them.
Current World Rankings
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.
Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:
Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)
What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.
Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.
Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.
Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.
Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.
Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:
Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry