Westwood No 1 but for how long

By Doug FergusonNovember 2, 2010, 4:48 pm

SHANGHAI – The first encounter between Lee Westwood and Tiger Woods since they switched spots at the top of the world ranking was not exactly the momentous occasion some thought it might be.

A pair of photographers crouched into position on the far end of the range at Sheshan International, where Westwood was quietly hitting wedges and Woods was quickly approaching from the putting green.

“Westy … Billy,” Woods called out to the new No. 1 and his caddie, Billy Foster.

He never stopped walking.

“Tiger,” Westwood responded, turning his head briefly before settling over his next shot.

They have been friends for as long as they have been on their respective tours, and the exchange was similar to countless others. The only difference was the pecking order in the world ranking, and even that comes with a dose of perspective.

Being No. 1 in the world is a big deal to Westwood, as it should be. On the home page of his website is a photo of him standing before a map of the world, cradling a globe and holding up the No. 1 sign.

“Whenever you can sit down and say, ‘I’m the best in the world right now,’ it’s a dream that everybody holds,” he said.

Losing the No. 1 ranking is not a big deal to Woods, nor should it be.

He had been at the top for a record 281 consecutive weeks. A year ago, it looked like he might be there for the rest of his career until his personal life and his golf game imploded. The only surprise for Woods is that it took this long for someone to replace him.

“To be No. 1 in the world, you have to win regularly,” Woods said. “And I haven’t done that lately.”

All of that can change this week at the HSBC Champions, and not just between them.

The top of golf is so crowded at the moment that four players– Westwood, Woods, PGA champion Martin Kaymer and Masters champion Phil Mickelson– could get to No. 1 this week without even winning. If Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk had come over to China for this World Golf Championship, they also would have had a shot at No. 1.

It’s possible that the highest finisher among Westwood, Woods and Kaymer will go to No. 1 in the world, provided they’re in the top 20.

Golf is no longer about birdies and bogeys these days. It requires a calculator.

To kick off the festivities this week, the latest version of the “Big Four” gathered on Shanghai’s riverfront and touched swords in a photo opportunity to depict what organizers hope will be an epic battle for No. 1.

But that’s just this week.

All four players realize that this battle will continue after Shanghai and stretch into Singapore, Australia, Dubai, South Africa and California at tournaments they play the rest of the year.

This business of No. 1 isn’t likely to be settled anytime soon.

“It could – to really, definitively know – take a year,” Hunter Mahan said. “We’re all waiting for Tiger to get back to where he has been. This year, he had some stuff to go through. But when he gets that straightened out, we expect him to be as good as ever.”

That remains to be seen.

This is the 10th time in his career that Woods was replaced atop the world ranking. Historically, he doesn’t lose the No. 1 spot as much as he loans it out. But he has never been as unpredictable as he is now.

And while interest in America tends to peak when Woods is demolishing his competition, it becomes fascinating worldwide with four players whose ranking average is separated by less than a half-point.

“This could be very exciting for the game,” Westwood said.

The top spot changed hands 10 times between Seve Ballesteros and Greg Norman over a three-year period in the late 1980s. This is more reminiscent of 1997, when four players – Woods, Norman, Ernie Els and Colin Montgomerie – were all in the hunt for No. 1 around the U.S. Open at Congressional.

The first time Woods was No. 1, it lasted a week before he was replaced by Els, who was supplanted by Norman a week later, and then it went back to Woods. It rotated among those three over the next year before Woods took over.

Woods, though, has been No. 1 for so long – all but 32 weeks since the 1999 PGA Championship – that to suddenly see so many other players in the mix has given many more belief that it can be done.

Consider the case of Westwood. Woods had a lead that was nearly triple in the world ranking a year ago, yet Westwood still managed to overtake him despite winning only twice, neither of them a major. He was consistently better than anyone else, with two runner-up finishes in the majors, a tie for fourth in The Players Championship, nine top 10s and only one missed cut.

“It gives everyone hope,” Mahan said. “It’s been a long time since someone other than Tiger Woods has been ranked No. 1. Obviously, we all know it’s possible in a sense. It just takes good play, and some good luck.”

The good luck in this case was Woods’ misfortunes, all of it his own doing.

The question now is how quickly he can put his game back together, and whether he can get back to the level he once was when Woods was winning nearly half of the tournaments he entered.

Even at No. 2 – and he could slip to No. 4 by the end of the week – Woods still seems to be the one dictating the action.

Westwood was asked Sunday evening if he still considered Woods’ his main rival, or if he thought the challenge more likely would come the growing pack of youngsters, either someone like Kaymer, Dustin Johnson or Rory McIlroy.

“I wouldn’t write Tiger off as quickly as that,” Westwood said. “I certainly wouldn’t. He’s proved that time and time again when he’s gone away and comes back.”

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

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Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."