At Last Vijay All Alone at the Top
Vijay Singh ascended to the throne ' officially ' by easing past Woods Monday in the Duetsche Bank Championship. Since sometime around the end of the West Coast swing, it was glaringly apparent that there was something wrong with Woods swing. That was way back in February, and by the time the Masters rolled around in early April, two, possibly three, golfers had steamed past Tiger in peoples opinions.
Vijay, Phil Mickelson and maybe Ernie Els have all played better, even considering Tigers victory in the Accenture World Match Play in February. The Match Play was pure intestinal fortitude prevailing over a faltering golf game, Woods just refusing to lose in all six matches.
But this was Singhs sixth win. Hes won a major ' the PGA Championship. He won five times last year, too. Eleven wins in two years should be enough to get you the No. 1 ranking ' unless you are Tiger Woods and you have a couple of years like 1999-2000.
By the time Singh won his third tournament of the year, Houston in May, he was convinced. He was No. 1 in his own mind.
Yeah, I feel I'm the best player in the world, I feel that all the time, I've got to feel that, he said.
But you cannot really go out and emphasize that because it's not true; the ranking shows. But I've been playing good enough golf to be No. 1 player in the world.
Woods played his best tournament of the year, finally managing to hit fairways with some consistency. His short game was, as usual, brilliant. That aspect of his play is unquestionably the best in the world ' if it werent, he never would have showed his head above water this year. But if he can continue to drive the ball as well as he did last week, it looks like the No. 1 position is going to be a dogfight between him, Singh, Mickelson and Els.
Yeah, there's two ways to look at it, said Tiger. This is the best ball-striking week I've had all year, and unfortunately I didn't win because I didn't play the par 5s well at all today.
Singh realizes, though, that its a very tenuous hold he has on the top spot. He knows that there are three guys that can logically lay claim to the best in the world on any given week ' and there are four if Tiger is really back.
Golf is such an incredible game that any one time, anybody can be No. 1 player in the word, said Singh.
You've got Ernie. You've got Phil right now; he could say he's the best player in the world; and Ernie, it's the same thing. It's hard to really go out there and say, hey - you have got to follow some criteria, and the ranking is the only way that we can do that.
He's played incredible golf for last five years, six years, said Vijay. Who knows, he could go out there next time and regain that. And taking nothing away from anybody, but Tiger has proven that he has been No. 1 player in the world for a long, long time, and even today.
Youve heard the phrase used so much its been a clich for a long time now, but its still true ' the current system to designate a world No. 1 may be bad, but no one has come up with a better one. Now that Woods has abdicated the throne, there isnt a clear No. 1. The best in the world changes every day. Sometimes its shared by two or three players. Sometimes its shared by two or three tours.
We're not out trying to be No. 1 player in the world; we are out there every week to try to win golf tournaments, and that is our real goal, said Singh. I'm going to tee it up next week and I'm going to have the same thing I did this week - trying to win the golf tournament.
You know, in the meantime, there's the World Ranking and like Tiger said it very well, you play good enough and win golf tournaments, everything is going to take care of itself.
Woods agreed. Hes been No. 1 for five years, it was an unbelievable run, but now there may not be a clearcut No. 1 who will continue undisputed week after week after week. And that isnt a major setback to his psyche.
No, I'm not disappointed about the ranking, he said. I'm disappointed in not winning. As I said, the ranking takes care of - winning takes care of the ranking.
And golf may be the better for it, he concedes.
Yeah, we are both 1 and 2 in the world and it's both to go out there and play at a level - we both played well, said Tiger.
You know, Vijay and I have gone head-to-head many times, and hopefully we can do it again.
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Rahm (62) fires career low round
The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:
Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)
What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.
Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.
Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.
Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.
Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.
Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta
Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.
The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.
It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.
"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."
Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.
Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.
"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."