England owns three of top six spots in world rankings

By Doug FergusonFebruary 23, 2010, 12:34 am
MARANA, Ariz. – Ten years ago this week, England had only two golfers among the top 100 in the world.

It doesn’t take long to find them now.

Lee Westwood, who won the European Tour money title a year ago, remained at No. 4 in the world. Ian Poulter moved up to No. 5 in the ranking published Monday because of his Match Play Championship victory over Paul Casey, who is No. 6.

And they have plenty of company right behind them.

“I just think that there’s been a lot of great talent in England for such a long time,” Poulter said. “And it’s so nice to see guys actually deliver on the golf course. We’ve been waiting for a long time.”

Consider the inaugural Match Play Championship at La Costa Resort a dozen years ago. The only Englishmen in the 64-man field were Westwood and Nick Faldo, and neither lasted more than a day – Westwood because he never got beyond the second round, Faldo because he was the No. 64 seed and played Tiger Woods.

England started with nine players at Dove Mountain and kept the flag flying all week.

The next step is to win a major, which no Englishman has done since Nick Faldo beat Greg Norman in the 1996 Masters.

“It’s about time the guys that have put themselves in position – 4, 5 and 6 in the world, I guess – should step up to the play and hopefully deliver on that,” Poulter said.

Westwood has come close each of the last two years, missing putts on the 72nd hole in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines and the British Open at Turnberry that would have put him in a playoff. Casey started the final round of the 2004 Masters only two shots behind, but couldn’t keep pace with Phil Mickelson or Ernie Els on the last day.

Poulter was the runner-up at Royal Birkdale two years ago, and while he was four shots behind, he stood over a 15-foot par putt on the final hole believing it might decide the tournament because of the windy conditions. And he made it.

That was the year Poulter was so determined to improve his putting that he stayed in one spot for hours on the practice green. He left behind two yellow footprints, because he was there so long that the grass beneath his feet had died.

Poulter may not have the raw skills of Westwood and Casey, and he certainly doesn’t have the junior pedigree. The others weren’t working in a pro shop as teens, nor did it take them four years to get tour cards.

Even so, Poulter is not lacking confidence.

It takes moxie to dress the way he does, for one thing. Poulter was known for his wardrobe well before anything he achieved on the golf course. He now designs his clothes, and it sounds as though he can’t survive on the road without an ironing board.

The 34-year-old also drew attention two years ago in a magazine piece when he suggested he was the only real challenger to Woods.

“Don’t get me wrong, I really respect every professional golfer,” Poulter was quoted as saying in Britain’s version of Golf World magazine. “But I know I haven’t played to my full potential, and when that happens, it will be just me and Tiger.”

Poulter was No. 22 in the world when the article came out in spring 2008. At the Match Play Championship, Woods passed him in the locker room and said playfully, “Hey, No. 2.”

It no longer looks so far out of reach.

“I just felt that if I could deliver what I believed I could, then I could put myself in a good situation,” Poulter said. “I’ve certainly done that over the last 18 months. And I’ve certainly been able to deliver on that today. It’s so nice to see myself at No. 5 and get higher and higher up the world rankings, and hopefully I can keep going in that direction.”

England is not the new world power. That distinction still belongs to the United States, which offers 1-2-3 in Woods, Steve Stricker and Phil Mickelson, and which still has 12 players among the top 30. England is next with five.

Casey won his first PGA Tour event last year in the Houston Open and was poised to made a run at the European Tour money title until a rib injury cost him the second half of the season.

He was not able to finish 72 holes until December, and the best indication of his recovery was playing 114 holes at Dove Mountain over five days.

Pride has returned to English golf, with six players among the top 100 who have competed in the Ryder Cup. In the last Ryder Cup, Faldo was criticized for using his captain’s picks on Casey and Poulter. That might be one of the few things Faldo got right at Valhalla.
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TT postscript: This 65 better than Aronimink 62

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 20, 2018, 9:21 pm

ATLANTA – The start wasn’t much to look at, but that finish was something else. Tiger Woods eagled the final hole on Thursday and shares the 18-hole lead at the Tour Championship. Here are the things you know you want to know:

• First of all, let’s give a pat on the back to the man who most deserves it today: Me. Early this morning, I sent this tweet:

Never doubt my good feelings. Ben Crenshaw doesn’t have my good feelings. We may have 54 holes to play, but I gotta good feeling we’re going to be changing that Tiger Tracker avatar Sunday night.

• Now onto Tiger. After all, he did hit 10 of 14 fairways, 14 of 18 greens in regulation and took 28 putts. It wasn’t looking good early when he had nine putts through four holes and was 1 over par. But he birdied Nos. 5 and 6, turned in 1 under, and really turned it on down the stretch with two birdies and an eagle over his final seven holes. And if you take a good look at the scorecard below you’ll notice he didn’t make a bogey after the first hole.

• How good is a 65 at East Lake? Better than his opening 62 at Aronimink, according to Woods: “This was by far better than the 62 at Aronimink. Conditions were soft there. This is – it's hard to get the ball closer. There's so much chase in it. If you drive the ball in the rough, you know you can't get the ball close.”

Woods added that you had to play “conservatively” and be patient – take what the course allowed. Tiger missed five putts – four of them for birdie – inside 15 feet. But in the 93-degree heat, he kept his composure and made putts of 26 and 28 feet for birdie, and 28 feet for eagle.

• This week feels different. It feels like Tiger is really ready to win again. He seems very serious, very focused. He talked about “getting the W” on Wednesday and said on Thursday, “[T]he objective is to always win.”

After shooting 65, Woods signed a few autographs and eventually made his way to the putting green. If he gets those 15-footer to fall, we’re going to be two wins away from tying Sammy.

• So, what about that eagle on 18, you ask? Tiger said he “hammered” a driver – which was listed at 320 yards – and then hit a 5-wood from 256 yards to 28 feet. As for the putt: “It took forever for that putt to start breaking, grain coming down off the left. But once it snagged it, it was going straight right.”

Right into the cup. Right into the lead. Our man is making history this week.

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Watch: Highlights from Tiger's first round at East Lake

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 20, 2018, 8:30 pm

Tiger Woods is back at the season-ending Tour Championship for the first time since 2013, and he provided the fans in Atlanta with some highlights on the first day of competition.

Still looking for his first win of the year after coming close on numerous occasions, Woods started the day off by splitting the fairway on the first hole with the driver, not even bothering to watch his ball land.

Despite the picture-perfect opening tee shot, Woods would go on to bogey the first hole, but he rebounded with back-to-back birdies on 5 and 6, making putts from 26 and 15 feet.

Tiger's best shot on the front nine came on the par-4 seventh hole after he found the pine straw behind a tree with his drive. The 14-time major champ punched one under the tree limbs and onto the green, then calmly two-putted for par from about 40 feet en route to a front-side 1-under 34.

Woods added two more birdies on the par-4 12th and 14th holes, rolling in putts of 3 feet and 7 feet after a couple of great looking approach shots.

Woods finished his round with a vintage eagle on the par-5 18th hole, finding the green with a 5-wood from 256 yards out and then sinking the 28-foot putt.

The eagle at the last gave Woods a share of the early first-round lead with Rickie Fowler at 5-under 65.

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Tiger Tracker: Tour Championship

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 20, 2018, 8:20 pm

Tiger Woods is looking to close his season with a win at the Tour Championship. We're tracking him this week at East Lake Golf Club.

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Garcia (66) peaking for Ryder Cup?

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 20, 2018, 6:17 pm

Sergio Garcia might be finding his form just in time to terrorize the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Garcia made seven birdies during an opening round of 5-under 66 to sit just two shots off the early lead at the European Tour’s Portugal Masters.

It was Garcia’s fifth consecutive round of par or better, a stretch that includes rounds of 66-65-67-70-66. That solid play at the Wyndham Championship wasn’t enough to extend his PGA Tour season – he didn’t qualify for the FedExCup playoffs – but the Spaniard is starting to round into form with the Ryder Cup on deck.

Full-field scores from the Portugal Masters

A few weeks ago he was a controversial selection by European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn. After missing the cut in all four majors, Garcia could have been left at home in favor of such players as Rafa Cabrera Bello, Matt Wallace (a three-time winner this season who, once again, is at the top of the leaderboard in Portugal), Matt Fitzpatrick or Thomas Pieters. But Bjorn tabbed Garcia, noting his Ryder Cup experience, his sterling foursomes record and his influence in the team room. If Phil Mickelson is the U.S. player under the most pressure to perform in Paris, all eyes will be on Garcia next week – especially since it could be one of his final opportunities to wear a European uniform, as he’ll be 40 for the 2020 matches.

Garcia’s 66 matched his lowest opening round of the year and puts him in position to secure just his second top-10 since March.