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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Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son
ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.
Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.
''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''
They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.
''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''
Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.
''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''
Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.
Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.
Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.
Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?
Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.
Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”
Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.
Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.
The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.
Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.
Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational
Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.
The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.