Woods Back to No 1 but for How Long
It took him eight tournaments over six months to nudge past Vijay Singh in the world ranking. And it required a Herculean effort against Phil Mickelson to win the Ford Championship at Doral, including some clutch shots that will be talked about the rest of the year.
Woods drove the 347-yard 16th green on Saturday. He twice reached the 603-yard 12th hole in two shots and made a 25-foot eagle putt in the final round to take the lead for the first time. He made a 30-foot putt on the 17th hole that turned out to be the difference. And his 63-66 was the lowest weekend by a winner in the 44-year history at Doral.
'That was special,' Woods said of his duel with Mickelson.
The last time Woods took over No. 1 in the world ranking, he won a memorable duel by making a clutch putt on the 17th hole at Medinah to beat 19-year-old Sergio Garcia in the final major of the millennium.
Woods then stayed on top for the next 264 weeks.
This time, it might not be that easy.
His reign could be over at the end of this week, or perhaps the end of the month.
'He's certainly going to have increased competition that he hasn't had in past years,' Jack Nicklaus said Monday. 'You heard me a couple of years ago. What will happen to Tiger? I said a lot of his competition had not shown up yet, or guys playing against him will raise the level of their golf game.'
Nicklaus quickly ticked off the names of Mickelson, Singh and Retief Goosen, all of whom won majors last year, and all of whom were in the top eight at Doral. Halfway around the world, Ernie Els produced a dramatic finish of his own by making an 18-foot eagle on the last hole to win the Dubai Desert Classic.
Call it golf's version of March Madness.
'It's a great week for golf,' said Zach Johnson, who tied for third with Singh at Doral. 'This is what the spectators want. They want these kind of duels. They will have a lot more of them. Tiger raised the bar. And now everybody is starting to come toward him.'
After Woods won the '99 PGA Championship, he ended the season with four straight victories, then reeled off one of the greatest seasons in golf. Not only did he win nine times and three straight majors in 2000, he won by record margins and left everyone so far behind that it appeared he would be No. 1 until retirement.
Now the list of challengers is longer than ever.
Singh might be able to return to No. 1 this week if he wins the Honda Classic.
Els' victory in Dubai was his first of the year and puts him in a good frame of mind on the road to the Masters. The Big Easy is close enough that he could be No. 1 by the end of the month.
Mickelson lost another final-round showdown with Woods, although he still might be the hottest player in golf. Coming off a five-shot victory in Phoenix and a wire-to-wire win at Pebble Beach, Lefty spent 10 consecutive rounds atop the leaderboard in stroke play and was shocked the streak didn't stretch to 11.
His back-to-back birdies after Woods pulled ahead for the first time was evidence that Mickelson is not one to wilt. He had a 30-foot birdie chip on the final hole that lipped out of the cup.
'I felt like I was playing better than anybody,' Mickelson said. 'I just knew I was going to win, and when I didn't, it was a great slap in the face. Because I'm going to work my tail off to salvage a couple more shots. When I come back to The Players Championship and the Masters, I'm going to be ready.'
On the surface, Woods looks as dynamic as ever.
After going four years without a comeback victory, Woods now has two in a row. He came from two shots down at Torrey Pines against Tom Lehman, then made up a two-shot deficit against Mickelson in the final round at Doral.
Woods beat Mickelson, but not without a tremendous effort.
'That shows you what kind of competitor Phil is,' Woods said. 'Don't forget what he did on that back nine. That was impressive to watch.'
Equally impressive are the first two months of the PGA Tour season.
Singh won the Sony Open with a birdie on the final hole, after Els had closed with a 62. Woods and Mickelson each have won twice. And while Els squandered two chances in Hawaii, the victory in Dubai was important.
The only question mark right now is Singh.
He missed the cut at Pebble Beach and was eliminated in the second round of the Match Play Championship. Singh hit the ball beautifully at Doral, but simply couldn't make enough putts. Still, it was his first top 10 finish since Hawaii.
Singh slipped out a side door without talking about his final round Sunday. He is the only player among the top five who is playing this week at the Honda Classic.
Mickelson is taking two weeks off, one of those a skiing trip with his family in Colorado.
Woods will take off next week before resuming his road to the Masters - Bay Hill, The Players Championship, a week to practice and then on to Augusta, where he could find a large crowd of players capable of stopping him.
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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut
If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.
Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.
But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.
Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.
Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:
Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180
Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70
Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5
Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450
Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200
Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000
Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements
SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.
Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.
“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.
Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.
“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”
Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.
“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”
Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back
SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.
Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.
Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim.
Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.
Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026
SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.
“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.
“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.
In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010.