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.
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Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME
Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.
Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)
What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.
Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.
Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.
Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.
Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.
Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.
Watch: Pros try to hit 2-yard wide fairway in Dubai
While in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship, the European Tour prestented a little challenge to Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay, Nicolas Colsaerts and Soren Kjeldsen. On a stretch of road outside of town, the four players had to try and hit a 2-yard wide fairway. Check out the results.
Rose (65) leads Rahm, Frittelli in Dubai
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Justin Rose will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the season-ending Tour Championship as he attempts to win a third straight title on the European Tour and a second career Race to Dubai crown.
The 37-year-old Rose made a gutsy par save on the final hole after a bogey-free round for a 7-under 65 Saturday and overall 15-under 201.
The Englishman leads South African Dylan Frittelli, who produced the day's best score of 63, and Spain's Jon Rahm, who played in the same group as Rose and matched his 65.
Rose is looking to be Europe's season-ending No. 1 for the second time. His leading rival for the Race to Dubai title, Tommy Fleetwood, is only two shots behind here after a second straight 65 on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estates.
Fleetwood did his chances no harm by overcoming a stuttering start before making eight birdies in his final 11 holes to also post a 65. The 26-year-old Englishman was tied for fourth place at 13 under, alongside South African Dean Burmester (65) and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67), who closed with five birdies in a row.
''So, last day of the season and I've got a chance to win the Race to Dubai,'' Fleetwood said. ''It's cool.''
Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Race to Dubai title, is tied for 13th on 10 under after a 67.
Fleetwood had a lead of 256,737 points going into the final tournament and needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.
Rose is hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey.
Rose, who made some long putts for birdies apart from chipping in on the 13th hole, looked to be throwing away his advantage on the par-5 18th, when his second shot fell agonizingly short of the green and into the water hazard. But with his short game in superb condition, the reigning Olympic champion made a difficult up-and-down shot to stay ahead.
''That putt at the last is a big confidence-builder. That broke about 18 inches right-to-left downhill. That's the kind of putt I've been hoping to make. That was a really committed stroke. Hopefully I can build on that tomorrow,'' said Rose. ''I know what I need to do to stay at the top of the leaderboard. If I slip up tomorrow, he's (Fleetwood) right there. He's done everything he needs to do on his end, so it's a lot of fun.''
The last player to win three tournaments in a row on the European Tour was Rory McIlroy, when he won the Open Championship, the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship in 2014.
Fleetwood was 1 over after seven holes but turned it on with a hat trick of birdies from the eighth, and then four in a row from No. 13.
''I wanted to keep going. Let's bring the tee times forward for tomorrow,'' quipped Fleetwood after closing with a birdie on the 18th. ''Just one of them strange days where nothing was going at all. A couple sloppy pars on the par 5s, and a bad tee shot on fifth and I was 1-over through seven on a day where scoring has been really good ... Ninth and 10th, felt like we had something going ... it was a really good last 11 holes.''
If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it
NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.
She says she always gets nervous starting a round.
You don’t believe it, though.
She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .
Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .
Or disarming ticking bombs . . .
“In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.
Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.
Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.
Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.
At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.
She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.
She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.
And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.
There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.
Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.
It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.
Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.
Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.
“I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”
About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.
Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.
“She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”
David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.
“She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”
Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.
Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . .
“Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.
Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.
“It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”
Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.
“No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.
Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.