The Best Depends on Your Timeframe

By George WhiteMay 6, 2004, 4:00 pm
A day hardly goes by without someone asking me if Tiger Woods really is the best professional golfer in the world.
Well ' not really. Its been a month or two since anyone even mentioned Tiger. Seems like everyone is busy recently talking about Vijay Singh. Vijay Singh is the best golfer on the planet, they say smugly, believing for all the world that they have discovered a golfer no one knows about. The world rankings say Tiger, they note with a certain air of confidence, but the best golfer is Vijay.
You wont get much argument here. The last time we had any statistics to support an argument ' which was Monday at New Orleans ' Singh was the best golfer in the world.
Well, that is, if you discount the European Tour, where Graeme McDowell outlasted Thomas Levet in a playoff. But I think its safe to assume Vijay was the best golfer in the world on Monday of this week.
Vijay was probably the best golfer in the world last week, too. Remember, he won the Shell Houston Open? That makes two weeks in a row is that enough to make him the best golfer in the world?
Forgotten now is Phil Mickelson, who just as recently as the Masters three weeks ago was considered the best. He has a pretty good resume this year, folks ' 10 tournaments, nine top-10s, two victories a win and a tie for second his last two tournaments. Youre sure he isnt the best?
Lets see, though Singh has won three times this year, including the last two. Yeah, hes the best player in all of golf.
Whoops! Where does that leave Ernie Els? Remember him? He was the best around the first of the year, remember? Hes played in the States only six times, but he won the Sony, finished one stroke back to Mickelsons stirring comeback in the Masters, then put a T3 on the boards the very next week at the MCI. Hes taking the week off, but really ' how do you leave him out?
Uh ' remember not so long ago when it was Adam Scott? It seems like decades ago that he was rolling over the greatest field of the year at the Players Championship. He had finished in the top 10 in four of his first five starts. The golf world swooned over the youngster, proclaiming it had discovered the new No. 1. But, he missed two cuts in a row and has since gone back to Europe ' out of the newspapers, out of mind, they say.
And where does that leave Tiger? EVERYONE has forgotten him. But heres a little secret ' over the last two years, even more so over the last three, four or five years, hes the greatest player in golf. Yes ' the best.
You might get a little argument from the Vijay fans, and they could be right. But Woods won five times last year ' no one else did that. Hes won this year at the Accenture Match Play. You can say he hasnt been the best player this year ' of course it isnt even half over ' and no one can argue that. But when it comes to two years or longer, no one can argue that, either.
Tiger says he it's very likely someone will surpass him in the rankings, and he accepts that..
'It's a fact I won't be No. 1 in the world forever,' he said. 'Either someone flat out outplays me, or I might not play at the same level or old age takes over. Whatever the circumstances are, I don't know, but whatever they are, it's going to happen.
'Every street comes to an end. That's just a fact of life. Just like we're going to have, I'm sure, in the future, some new young kid come out here that's going to be a world beater and it's going to surpass Nicklaus's records, my records, whatever they were at a younger age. That's just the way it is, the evolution of sports.'
So, what does it mean when say so-and-so is the best player in golf? Are you talking about right now ' this minute? Come Thursday somebody will birdie three holes in a row and he will be the best player in golf ' for the moment. Do you mean this week? Its Singh. Do you mean the past month? Its either Singh or Mickelson. Do you mean the last two years? Woods. Or do you mean a career? Its still Jack Nicklaus.
The point is, its getting very difficult to make a definitive choice. The best player in golf can be debated all day and all night. Who do you want it to be? Woods? Singh? Mickleson? Els? Or Nicklaus? Yep. Yep. Yep. Yep. And yep.
OK, lets stop debating and just enjoy the golf.
Email your thoughts to George White
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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up right where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.