Woods Back to No 1 but for How Long
It took him eight tournaments over six months to nudge past Vijay Singh in the world ranking. And it required a Herculean effort against Phil Mickelson to win the Ford Championship at Doral, including some clutch shots that will be talked about the rest of the year.
Woods drove the 347-yard 16th green on Saturday. He twice reached the 603-yard 12th hole in two shots and made a 25-foot eagle putt in the final round to take the lead for the first time. He made a 30-foot putt on the 17th hole that turned out to be the difference. And his 63-66 was the lowest weekend by a winner in the 44-year history at Doral.
'That was special,' Woods said of his duel with Mickelson.
The last time Woods took over No. 1 in the world ranking, he won a memorable duel by making a clutch putt on the 17th hole at Medinah to beat 19-year-old Sergio Garcia in the final major of the millennium.
Woods then stayed on top for the next 264 weeks.
This time, it might not be that easy.
His reign could be over at the end of this week, or perhaps the end of the month.
'He's certainly going to have increased competition that he hasn't had in past years,' Jack Nicklaus said Monday. 'You heard me a couple of years ago. What will happen to Tiger? I said a lot of his competition had not shown up yet, or guys playing against him will raise the level of their golf game.'
Nicklaus quickly ticked off the names of Mickelson, Singh and Retief Goosen, all of whom won majors last year, and all of whom were in the top eight at Doral. Halfway around the world, Ernie Els produced a dramatic finish of his own by making an 18-foot eagle on the last hole to win the Dubai Desert Classic.
Call it golf's version of March Madness.
'It's a great week for golf,' said Zach Johnson, who tied for third with Singh at Doral. 'This is what the spectators want. They want these kind of duels. They will have a lot more of them. Tiger raised the bar. And now everybody is starting to come toward him.'
After Woods won the '99 PGA Championship, he ended the season with four straight victories, then reeled off one of the greatest seasons in golf. Not only did he win nine times and three straight majors in 2000, he won by record margins and left everyone so far behind that it appeared he would be No. 1 until retirement.
Now the list of challengers is longer than ever.
Singh might be able to return to No. 1 this week if he wins the Honda Classic.
Els' victory in Dubai was his first of the year and puts him in a good frame of mind on the road to the Masters. The Big Easy is close enough that he could be No. 1 by the end of the month.
Mickelson lost another final-round showdown with Woods, although he still might be the hottest player in golf. Coming off a five-shot victory in Phoenix and a wire-to-wire win at Pebble Beach, Lefty spent 10 consecutive rounds atop the leaderboard in stroke play and was shocked the streak didn't stretch to 11.
His back-to-back birdies after Woods pulled ahead for the first time was evidence that Mickelson is not one to wilt. He had a 30-foot birdie chip on the final hole that lipped out of the cup.
'I felt like I was playing better than anybody,' Mickelson said. 'I just knew I was going to win, and when I didn't, it was a great slap in the face. Because I'm going to work my tail off to salvage a couple more shots. When I come back to The Players Championship and the Masters, I'm going to be ready.'
On the surface, Woods looks as dynamic as ever.
After going four years without a comeback victory, Woods now has two in a row. He came from two shots down at Torrey Pines against Tom Lehman, then made up a two-shot deficit against Mickelson in the final round at Doral.
Woods beat Mickelson, but not without a tremendous effort.
'That shows you what kind of competitor Phil is,' Woods said. 'Don't forget what he did on that back nine. That was impressive to watch.'
Equally impressive are the first two months of the PGA Tour season.
Singh won the Sony Open with a birdie on the final hole, after Els had closed with a 62. Woods and Mickelson each have won twice. And while Els squandered two chances in Hawaii, the victory in Dubai was important.
The only question mark right now is Singh.
He missed the cut at Pebble Beach and was eliminated in the second round of the Match Play Championship. Singh hit the ball beautifully at Doral, but simply couldn't make enough putts. Still, it was his first top 10 finish since Hawaii.
Singh slipped out a side door without talking about his final round Sunday. He is the only player among the top five who is playing this week at the Honda Classic.
Mickelson is taking two weeks off, one of those a skiing trip with his family in Colorado.
Woods will take off next week before resuming his road to the Masters - Bay Hill, The Players Championship, a week to practice and then on to Augusta, where he could find a large crowd of players capable of stopping him.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba
Conor Moore is known for his impressions of golfers, and he is back with a new video just in time for The Open.
Moore even got the thumbs up from Ian Poulter.
This is hilarious..— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) July 16, 2018
Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite
Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.
Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.
Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.
Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:
12/1: Dustin Johnson
16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose
20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm
25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods
30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed
40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton
50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick
60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson
80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele
100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen
Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC
If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.
Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.
Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.
There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.
There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.
Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.
John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.
Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.
Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.
Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.
“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”
Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.
“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”
But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.
“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”