No One for No 1

By Rex HoggardAugust 9, 2010, 3:15 am

WGC-Bridgestone - 125wAKRON, Ohio – Tiger Woods could have maintained his tenuous spot atop the sometimes contrived yet universally accepted Official World Golf Ranking by finishing 44th or better at Firestone. Phil Mickelson could have finally wrested the No. 1 ranking from Woods with a fourth-place finish or better. Both played like No. 2.

Neither player looked the part of alpha male on Sunday, what with Lefty struggling to a final-round 78 and a tie for 46th and Woods going one shot better on the day (77) but finishing in a career-worst tie for 78th. But world ranking math and a curious public demand a king, be it by default or otherwise.

For the first time since the summer of 2005 the normally structured world of men’s golf is defined by questions, if not chaos.

Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson will have another chance to reach No. 1 at the PGA Championship. (Getty Images)
Mickelson seems destined to overtake Woods and claim the top spot for the first time in a Hall of Fame career. He said so himself on Sunday at Firestone.

“If I keep finishing ahead of him every week eventually it'll happen,” Mickelson said. “But the problem is there's guys behind me that will pass me because I'm not playing well enough right now. I've got some work to do to get my own game sharp.”

But then the guy who three-putted from 3 feet (No. 9) and hit the same number of fairways and greens (six) on Sunday and played the weekend in 9 over par doesn’t exactly scream No. 1.

On Saturday, Woods was asked about Mickelson’s chances to claim the top spot. His answer suggested he knew more than the rest of us, “If Phil plays the way he’s supposed to this weekend, then he’ll be No. 1.”

Mickelson has had more than a half dozen chances to dethrone Woods this season, but Firestone was his best and most realistic chance to date. On Friday, Lefty was a stroke behind front-runner Retief Goosen. By Sunday he was looking for answers, just like the rest of us.

It was a measure of the strange days that have gripped golf that on the eve of the year’s final major, Lee Westwood, No. 3 in the world, appeared to some as the best current option for the top spot as he watched the proceedings from his couch at home while nursing a calf injury.

The current void left by Woods’ competitive vortex is not so much about who is the best player right now, but more about how the world No. 1 should be measured?

World Ranking math aside, few if any consider Woods the current No. 1. At least not the current version. Mickelson has three top-10s since his emotional Masters victory but has not exactly been dominant; while Westwood has earned the most world ranking points (273) this season and has been the most consistent but he has just a single victory at the St. Jude Classic.

 “To me it’s about people who win,” Paul Casey said. “I had three (worldwide) wins last year, great year. None this year, it has not been a great year. It’s like (the movie) ‘Talladega Nights.’ What did (Ricky Bobby) say, ‘If you’re not first, you’re last.’”

Prior to 1986, when the world ranking debuted, the debate over who was the best at any particular time was decided almost exclusively on the number of victories a player had.

“We didn’t care about being No. 1, only winning,” said Charlie Epps, a long-time Tour swing coach.

Sean O’Hair took a slightly different approach, suggesting that it is consistency, not the number of championships on the mantel, that should decide who is atop the heap.

“To be hot you’ve got to be in contention on a regular basis. Just because you win a golf tournament doesn’t mean you’re hot. Even if you win two golf tournaments, you can win two tournaments and not be in contention the rest of the year,” O’Hair said before conceding that Ernie Els (a two-time Tour winner this year) would probably get his vote for Player of the Year.

All of which has created a golf landscape that is as murky as it has been in a half decade and a PGA Championship with more uncertainty than a BP cleanup plan.

In the spring and early summer of 2005, Woods and Vijay Singh traded the top ranking six times, with Woods finally taking over for good when Singh tied for 29th at the now-defunct Booz Allen Classic. And for the better part of a record 269 weeks Woods has been an undisputed pacesetter, as evidenced by his dogged hold on the top spot this year despite the worst slump of his career.

But that clarity, that structure, has been eroded by the inconsistencies of Woods and Mickelson and a two-year rolling system that resists the urges of a sporting public that often suffers from a collective form of attention deficit disorder.

It is a debate that seems certain to dominate the conversation at Whistling Straits and as the sun settled over Firestone on Sunday Padraig Harrington, one of the game’s most direct and well-spoken players, offered the best, if not somewhat couched, assessment of the great world ranking debate of 2010.

“(Westwood) is the most consistent player, (Mickelson) is the best when he’s playing well and (Woods) is the best player in the world,” Harrington smiled.

If only it was as simple, and clear, as all of that.

 

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”

Getty Images

PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

PGA Tour:

The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.

LPGA:

We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.

Getty Images

Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open

By Associated PressDecember 11, 2017, 12:43 pm

JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.

The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.


Full-field scores from the Joburg Open


Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.

''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''

Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 pm