McIlroy, Donald continue fight for No. 1 at Players

By Doug FergusonMay 9, 2012, 6:22 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Golf's world ranking has been more like a game of musical chairs with the most turnover at the top in the 26-year history of the ranking. Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald would like the music to stop playing for good sometime this year, the sooner the better. And both want the same outcome.

''Hopefully it will be me,'' Donald said Wednesday, raising his hand.

McIlroy said the same last week at Quail Hollow, where his playoff loss at the Wells Fargo Championship was enough for him to return to No. 1 for the third time this year.

Donald has a chance to take it back from him this week at The Players Championship, which offers the most world ranking points of any tournament besides the majors. They already have taken turns at the top six times in the last 10 weeks. The last time the No. 1 ranking was even remotely this volatile was in 1997, when it changed seven times in 13 weeks among Greg Norman, Tiger Woods, Tom Lehman and Ernie Els.

The Players Championship is a rare occasion for them to get together. Already four months into the season, McIlroy and Donald have only competed in the same tournament four times: the Abu Dhabi Championship, two World Golf Championships and the Masters.

''I think the last couple of months have not been as exciting because Rory and I really haven't been playing in the same events,'' Donald said. ''I think that will change a little bit, and hopefully there will be some situations coming up in the next few months where we'll be playing in the same tournament and both having a chance to win the tournament.''

As for a clear No. 1, Donald said that can only happen by winning a major or multiple tournaments - along with the other players not playing well.

The ranking shuffle speaks to a broader issue in golf. No one ever talked about the world ranking because there was no debate about No. 1.

There was no parity in golf. There was Tiger Woods.

In the 18 months since Woods abandoned his post atop the world ranking, four players have been No. 1: McIlroy, Donald, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer. In the 30 months since injuries and the scandal in his personal life reduced Woods to an ordinary player, no one has won more than three times in a season on the PGA Tour. That used to be considered a slump for Woods.

''Do I think it's good for the game?'' Woods said of the current state of golf. ''I liked it when I was up there. That's just me.''

The edge going into The Players Championship belongs to McIlroy, the U.S. Open champion, based on consistency. Not only did he win the Honda Classic in early March to reach No. 1 for the first time, he has finished out of the top five only once this year. That was at the Masters, where he was one shot behind going into the weekend, closed with 77-76 and tied for 40th.

Donald, who got off to a slow start this year, has finished out of top 30 in five of his eight tournaments. He showed how determined he is to stay in the picture, though, by winning the Transitions Championship and rallying on the weekend to finish third in New Orleans.

Golf now heads into a time of the year where there will be ample opportunity for someone to establish himself as the clear No. 1, with The Players Championship, Memorial, Europe's flagship event at Wentworth, followed by three majors and a World Golf Championship. If that's not enough, Donald, McIlroy and Westwood – who at No. 3 also has a slim chance to get to No. 1 again this week at Sawgrass – are PGA Tour members and eligible for the FedEx Cup playoffs, which feature four strong fields at the end of the summer.

It all starts to unfold Thursday on a course that fittingly favors no one. The past winners on the Stadium Course at the TPC Sawgrass range from power (Woods, Norman, Phil Mickelson, David Duval) to precision (Tim Clark, Fred Funk, Hal Sutton).

McIlroy and Westwood skipped last year when they belonged to the same management company and were not PGA Tour members.

''It wasn't one of my brightest moments,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm glad to be back.''

The Players Championship typically boasts the deepest and strongest field in golf, though it gets just as much notoriety from the course on which it's played, particularly that island green on the par-3 17th that makes for great TV and becomes a smaller target depending on what's at stake.

Missing from the field is Masters champion Bubba Watson, who has pulled out of the last two tournaments so he can bond with the baby boy he and his wife in late March; Dustin Johnson, still recovering from a back injury; and 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel.

Mickelson, a past champion at Sawgrass, is fresh off his induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Woods is coming off only the eighth missed cut of his career at Quail Hollow. Even in the best of times, Woods struggled on this golf course. He won in 2001, was the runner-up in 2000, but never seriously contended any of the other 12 times at The Players Championship.

''I've done really well or I haven't,'' Woods said. ''Either I've been right there in contention with a chance or I haven't.''

He was speaking of The Players Championship, though he just as easily could have been talking about his season. His win at Bay Hill in March at least got him back into the top 10 in the world, though even if he were to win his next two tournaments, he could not get to No. 1.

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LaCava: Woods wouldn't talk after H.O.R.S.E. match

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 2:27 pm

The competitive streak within Tiger Woods knows no bounds - even on the basketball court, according to caddie Joe LaCava.

LaCava has been on Woods' bag since 2011, and he recently shared a story on "Inside the Ropes" on Sirius/XM PGA Tour Radio about a clash between the two men over a seemingly friendly game of H.O.R.S.E. Actually, it turned into nine straight games (and nine straight wins) for LaCava, who exploited a weakness in Woods' on-court strategy while leaning on a mid-length jumper of his own:

"The thing with him was if I missed a shot, which I missed plenty of shots, but if I missed the shot he'd go back down to the 3 (point line) because he liked to make the 3," LaCava said. "But it's harder obviously to make a 3, and I'd go right back to the baseline 12-footer, and he couldn't make it."

It's a short list of people who have beaten Woods nine times in any athletic pursuit, let alone in a row. But for LaCava, the fallout from his afternoon of on-court dominance was less than subtle.

"He did not talk to me the rest of the day," LaCava explained. "I didn't even get the old text, 'Dinner is ready,' because I stay across at the beach house. I didn't even get that text that night. I had to get take-out. He didn't announce he wasn't (talking), he just did it. I'm telling you, nine games in a row. Like I said, he's so competitive, even at something like that."

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 3, Tiger Woods

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:45 pm

After returning to competition at the Hero World Challenge in December 2016, Woods started the new year with an ambitious slate of tournament starts as he eyed his first full season since 2013. But he made it only three rounds, looking rusty en route to a missed cut at Torrey Pines before withdrawing abruptly in Dubai.

The “spasms” that led to that withdrawal turned out to be something far more serious, as Woods underwent his fourth and most invasive back surgery in April, a lumbar fusion. It brought with it an extensive rehabilitation, and at the Presidents Cup in September Woods humored the prospect that he might never again play competitive golf.

At Liberty National he also faced some scrutiny for an off-course incident from months prior. In May he was arrested for suspicion of DUI, an incident that produced a startling roadside video of an intoxicated Woods struggling to follow instructions from the arresting officer after driving erratically.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


While he was not drinking at the time, Woods was found to have a mix of several prescription medications in his system, including multiple painkillers. He checked himself into a private drug treatment program in July to address his dependency issues, and in October he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving.

But the incident was barely a memory when Woods again made a return to competition in the Bahamas at the tournament he hosts. This time around he exceeded nearly every expectation, twice shooting 4-under 68 while tying for ninth among the 18-man field. Having re-tooled his swing following fusion surgery, Woods appeared relaxed, happy and healthy while briefly taking the lead during the tournament’s second round.

What lies ahead for Woods in 2018 remains uncertain, as the stop-and-start nature of this past season serves as a cautionary tale. But after a harrowing arrest and another serious surgery, he seems once again focused on his game, intent on chasing down a new crop of elite talent, some of whom are barely more than half his age.

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Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

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Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:30 pm
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NBC Sports' Coverage of LPGA Tour in 2017 Most-Viewed Season Ever for NBC Sports

By Golf Channel Public RelationsDecember 13, 2017, 8:45 pm

NBC Sports’ LPGA Tour Coverage Ties 2013 for Most-Watched Year Since 2011

NBC and Golf Channel Boast Top-6 Most-Watched Women’s Golf Telecasts in 2017

Beginning with the dramatic playoff finish at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic in January and concluding with Lexi Thompson winning the $1 million Race to the CME Globe, nearly 22 million viewers tuned in to LPGA Tour coverage across Golf Channel and NBC in 2017. This makes 2017 the most-viewed LPGA Tour season across NBC Sports since Golf Channel joined the NBC Sports Group in 2011. Additionally, 2017 tied 2013 as the LPGA Tour’s most-watched year across NBC Sports since 2011. Coverage drew an average of 221,000 viewers per telecast in 2017 (+24% vs. 2016), according to data released by The Nielsen Company.

NBC SPORTS GROUP CLAIMS TOP-6 MOST-WATCHED WOMEN’S GOLF TELECASTS IN ‘17

For the first time ever in televised women’s golf, Sunday’s final round of the RICOH Women’s British Open (Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017, 1.1 million viewers) delivered the most-watched and highest-rated women’s golf telecast of the year. NBC’s Saturday (Day 2) coverage of the Solheim Cup in August placed second with 968,000 viewers, followed by Sunday’s Solheim Cup coverage on NBC with 946,000 viewers. Golf Channel’s live coverage of Sunday’s final day of the Solheim Cup drew 795,000 viewers, the most-watched women’s golf event on cable in eight years.

Rank

Network

Event

Day

Avg. Viewers P2+

1

NBC

RICOH WOMEN'S BRITISH OPEN

Sunday

1,100,526

2

NBC

SOLHEIM CUP

Saturday

968,202

3

NBC

SOLHEIM CUP

Sunday

946,387

4

NBC

KPMG WOMEN'S PGA CHAMPIONSHIP

Sunday

839,983

5

NBC

RICOH WOMEN'S BRITISH OPEN

Saturday

808,578

6

GOLF

SOLHEIM CUP

Sunday

795,000

ADDITIONAL VIEWERSHIP MILESTONES FOR WOMEN’S GOLF IN 2017

  • ANA Inspiration - The LPGA’s first major championship delivered thefifth most-watched LPGA final round in Golf Channel history with 551,000 viewers when So Yeon Ryu defeated Lexi Thompson in a playoff following Thompson being assessed a four-stroke penalty earlier in the final round.
  • KPMG Women’s PGA Championship – The LPGA’s second major was seen by 6.6 million viewers across Golf Channel and NBC, the largest audience for the event on record (2006-17). Sunday’s final round on NBC, which saw Danielle Kang win her first LPGA Tour event over defending champion Brooke Henderson, also was the most-watched telecast in the event’s history with 840,000 average viewers.
  • RICOH Women’s British Open – NBC’s Sunday coverage of the RICOH Women’s British Open delivered the most-watched and highest-rated women’s golf telecast in 2017 (.78 U.S. HH rating, 1.1 million viewers). In total, 7 million unique viewers tuned in to coverage across Golf Channel and NBC, the most-watched RICOH Women’s British Open in the past 10 years and the most-watched among the five women’s major championships in 2017.
  • Solheim Cup – Seen by a total audience of 7.3 million viewers across Golf Channel and NBC, the Solheim Cup posted the largest total audience for women’s golf since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open on ESPN/NBC. Golf Channel’s live coverage of the final day drew 795,000 average viewers, becoming the most-watched women’s golf telecast on cable in the last eight years, since the final day of the 2009 Solheim Cup.

GOLF CHANNEL DIGITAL POSTS RECORD STREAMING CONSUMPTION

Golf Channel Digital posted record numbers of LPGA streaming consumption with 11.9 million live minutes streamed across LPGA Tour telecasts in 2017 (+563% vs. 2016).

  • Solheim Cup – Three-day coverage of the Solheim Cup saw 6.3 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports’ Digital platforms, trailing only the 2016 Rio Olympics (9 million) as the most-ever for a women’s golf event airing on Golf Channel / NBC.
  • RICOH Women’s British Open – Four-day coverage of the RICOH Women’s British Open saw 2 million minutes streamed, +773% vs. 2016.

NBC Sports Group combined to air 31 LPGA Tour events in 2017 and a total of 420 hours of coverage, the most in LPGA history. The exclusive cable home to the LPGA Tour, Golf Channel aired coverage of four of five women’s major championships in 2017, with three majors also airing on NBC: the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, RICOH Women’s British Open and The Evian Championship. The biennial Solheim Cup also returned to network television for the first time in 15 years with weekend coverage on NBC.

Source: Nielsen 2017 Live+Same Day DVR vs. prior available data. Persons 2+ avg 000’s and/or Persons 2+ reach w/six-minute qualifier. Digital Metrics from Adobe Reports & Analytics. Details available.