Possible for Tiger to Lose No 1 Spot

By Associated PressJune 16, 2004, 4:00 pm
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- Tiger Woods, the second-best player in the world? The whole notion is rather farfetched. After all, Woods has held the No. 1 spot in the world rankings for an astonishing 253 consecutive weeks, seemingly transforming the honor into a birthright rather than some numbers-crunching exercise.
But going into the U.S. Open, Tiger has Ernie Els right on his tail. The Big Easy moved up to No. 2 with a win at the Memorial, and Vijay Singh isn't far behind, either.
There's a plausible scenario that would bump Woods from his leading role, which dates to the 1999 PGA Championship. If Els can win at Shinnecock Hills - he's already a two-time Open champion - and Woods finishes lower than sixth, there will be a new name atop the standings.
'The No. 1 position will hopefully take care of itself,' Els said. 'I don't want to think about that. That's not my total motivation. My motivation is to win golf tournaments.'
Singh, the only three-time winner on the PGA Tour this year, might be playing better than anyone. The Fijian can move to No. 1 by winning the Open, but only if Woods misses the cut. That isn't likely to happen, considering he's made it to the weekend in a record 124 straight events.
'I'm up to No. 2 now,' Els said. 'But we're all so close.'
The dominant position Woods held while winning seven of 11 majors has certainly faded. No longer does most in the field assume they're playing for second when Woods is on hand. With every wayward tee shot and non-winning finish, the gap narrows.
'The way Vijay has played the last 2 1/2 years speaks for itself,' Els said. 'And I've played pretty well the last three years myself. Everything is right there, and it's kind of exciting.'
Woods is going on two years since his last major win, the 2002 U.S. Open, held down the road at Bethpage Black. But rankings or no rankings, he's still The Man.
Just listen to Phil Mickelson, who's feeling pretty good about his game after winning his first major at the Masters.
'I don't know if we've caught him, if the gap has narrowed or not, but I think we all expect him to come out and light it up like he usually does,' Lefty said. 'I think it's going to happen very, very soon. I just hope we can put it off as long as possible.'
Woods is getting testy about the whole thing. Everywhere he goes, the state of his game comes under scrutiny. This week is no exception.
'Am I tired of it? Yeah,' Woods said.
His swing has gotten more analysis than most issues in the presidential campaign. Commentators have urged Woods and former instructor Butch Harmon to make peace.
'We laugh on tour about how these guys think they know everything, but they don't,' Woods said.
Since winning at Bethpage, Woods has gone seven major championships without a victory. He hasn't won a stroke play title since October, and he's blown two 36-hole leads this year.
'I know that I haven't played up to my absolute peak, but who does week in and week out?' Woods said. 'It certainly is not from a lack of effort, and I know that I'm going to be making some great progress this year.'
Just what is wrong with Woods is easy to see.
His short game remains immaculate, and his irons are usually the right distance.
But on the tee? Watch out.
Woods is 147th on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy, hitting barely more than half the fairways. And it's not just the driver. In his last tournament, while trying to make a late comeback at the Memorial, he hit a 4-iron off the tee into the water. He's even struggled at times with the 2-iron stinger he likes to use to stay in play.
Then again, some perspective is in order.
Woods still has one win and seven top-10 finishes in 10 tournaments this year, results that anyone who isn't named Tiger Woods would take without a second thought.
'I don't think it's something to worry about,' Mickelson said. 'I think Tiger will be back like he always is, and he'll win his majors.'
So, golf fans, relish this while you can. It's a wide-open Open instead of Woods versus the Rest of the Field.
Sergio Garcia, possibly the successor to Mickelson as the best player without a major title, is coming off a victory at Westchester last week. Chad Campbell and Padraig Harrington also seemed poised for a major breakthrough. And there are all the familiar names: Davis Love III, David Toms, Mike Weir.
Even David Duval, the last player not named Woods to be ranked No. 1, plans to end his self-imposed exile from the tour this week.
As if sensing Woods' vulnerability, the challengers are coming from all directions.
'There are a lot of guys,' Mickelson said, 'that are going to try to make this a special year.'
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    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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    Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

    By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

    Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

    She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

    Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

    After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

    “The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

    Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

    It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

    “I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

    Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

    Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

    “The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

    Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

    It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

    “I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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    Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

    By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

    CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

    The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

    ''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

    She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

    ''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

    Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

    ''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

    Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

    Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

    Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

    Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

    Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

    ''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

    She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

    ''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

    Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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    DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

    By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

    AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

    Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

    “He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

    The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

    It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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    Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

    By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

    BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

    Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

    ''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

    He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

    Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

    ''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

    Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

    ''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

    Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

    ''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

    Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

    Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

    Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.