Woods Has Chance to be No 1 Again

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2005 Nissan OpenPACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Knocked off his perch for the last 24 weeks, Tiger Woods can return to No. 1 in the world this week at the Nissan Open, and it would appear the odds are in his favor.
 
After all, he only has to finish fourth against a field that is missing Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh, and Woods has won three times and tied for third in his last four stroke-play tournaments.
 
It all seems simple enough -- except for where the Nissan Open is played.
 
Riviera Country Club, a classic design off Sunset Boulevard, is a course Woods knows as well as any on the PGA Tour. It's the closest one to his hometown, and he first played here as a 16-year-old amateur in 1992.
 
But it also is the one place he can't seem to win.
 
``No doubt about it, I'd like to win,'' Woods said Wednesday. ``Hopefully, this will be the year.''
 
Riviera is the only PGA Tour course Woods has played at least four times as a pro without winning, and he has only come close one year. That was in 1999, when he finished two shots behind Ernie Els
 
His record will show top-10 finishes the last two years, but only because he closed with rounds of 64 and 65 after he was no longer a factor in the Nissan Open.
 
Sam Snead never won the U.S. Open. Arnold Palmer never won a PGA Championship. Jack Nicklaus never won the Canadian Open despite seven runner-up finishes.
 
And then there's Woods and his hometown tournament.
 
``I have some great memories, some nervous memories,'' Woods said. ``It's just been great over the years to see the same people out here. It's basically my hometown. So to see my friends out here, it's a very special event.''
 
Maybe this will be the year he gives them something to cheer about.
 
Woods is coming off a three-week break in which he went skiing and worked on his game, and managed to inch closer to No. 1 in the world with Singh missing the cut last week at Pebble Beach.
 
But that's not what drives him at Riviera.
 
``The No. 1 ranking is really not that important to me. It's winning,'' Woods said. ``Winning is how I get to No. 1 in the world, (how) Vijay got to be No. 1 in the world ... and the guys before us. You have to win. I have started to put together some wins here. It's been really cool, and hopefully I can continue that
trend.
 
Maybe he should seek out Mike Weir for advice.
 
The Canadian has a chance to make history this week as he tries to become the first player in the 79-year history of the Nissan Open to win three straight times.
 
Ben Hogan won three straight at Riviera, the last one of those at the 1948 U.S. Open. The other back-to-back winners at the Nissan Open were MacDonald Smith, Paul Harney, Palmer and Corey Pavin.
 
``Usually in the big scheme of things, I don't look at records too much,'' Weir said. ``But I thought about this one. This would be a pretty cool one. This course has a lot of history. I'd like to add a little piece of it if I could.''
 
The former Masters champion doesn't have a method for winning at Riviera.
 
Weir made up a seven-shot deficit in the final round two years ago by closing with a 5-under 66 to get into a playoff against Charles Howell, then beat him on the second extra hole.
 
Last year, Weir took a five-shot lead into the final round and threw it all away on the back thanks to a tremendous charge by Shigeki Maruyama. But just when the Canadian was headed for a collapse, he nearly chipped in from the side of the hill on the 18th green and won by a shot.
 
There's hope for Woods yet -- Weir missed the cut his four times at Riviera, and now can't seem to lose.
 
``Even from the first time I played Riviera, I loved the golf course,'' Weir said. ``The first couple of years, I never played well there, but I thought it was the type of course that set up well for my game. Just the way the course is shaped, you have to use your imagination out there.
 
``It took me a couple of years to get a handle on it, but I like the place.''
 
Woods and Weir are the only players among the top 10 in the world ranking. U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen was supposed to play, but he didn't get a wake-up call Wednesday morning and missed his pro-am time. Under the PGA Tour's policy, players cannot be in the tournament if they don't take part in the pro-am.
 
Singh is taking the week off for only the second time this year, while Mickelson is taking off this tournament during a stretch of playing six out of seven.
 
Even if Woods were to return to No. 1 this week, it might not last long. The two-year points system favors Singh over the next few months, and the only way for Woods to get to the top and stay there is to win.
 
Doing that at Riviera would make it that much sweeter.
 
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