End of the Tiger Woods era

By Randall MellOctober 27, 2010, 11:31 pm

This relatively quiet week in the world of golf could be remembered as one of the most monumental in the annals of the game.

Though Tiger Woods has been off his form for months, history might well mark this week as the official end of his reign as a dominant player.

It’s his last week atop the Official World Golf Ranking after a run of 281 consecutive weeks at No. 1. It’s the longest run at No. 1 of his remarkable career.

On Monday, Nov. 1, 2010, a new name will ride atop the world rankings.

In a worst-case scenario for Woods, history remembers it as an event, the end of an era. In a best-case scenario, nobody remembers it at all with Woods going on to regain the top ranking and rewrite the rest of golf’s record book.

If Germany’s Martin Kaymer wins the Andalucia Valderrama Masters Sunday or finishes in a tie for second with no more than one other player, he’s the world’s new No. 1. If Kaymer doesn’t, England’s Lee Westwood moves up.

Tiger Woods PGA Championship
Woods spent 281 consecutive weeks at No. 1. (Getty Images)

Here’s a compelling reality to the surreal season Woods is enduring.

If Woods wins the WGC-HSBC Champions next week, he’ll immediately seize back the No. 1 ranking.

This is supposed to be the down time in golf’s calendar, but next week’s World Golf Championship event in Shanghai is one of the most compelling events of the year. Woods, Westwood, Kaymer and Phil Mickelson all have a chance to gain the No. 1 ranking at the HSBC Champions. They’re all scheduled to play with Westwood entered despite some lingering issues with his ankle. It marks the first time more than two players have entered an event with a chance to win the No. 1 ranking since The Players Championship in 2005, according to Ian Barker, who coordinates the Official World Golf Ranking. Woods, Vijay Singh and Ernie Els teed it up with No. 1 up for grabs at TPC Sawgrass that year.

The top four players in this week’s rankings are separated by .33 points. That’s the closest bunching at the top since June of 1997, when Woods, Greg Norman and Els each spent time at No. 1.

There would be something fitting should Westwood succeed Woods on Monday.

It would be fitting because this change at the top in no way feels like the rise of a new No. 1. It feels solely about the fall of Woods, his steady competitive decline in the wake of the scandal that followed his crash into his neighbor’s fire hydrant and tree almost a year ago. It feels like it’s all about what Woods has lost, not what anyone else has won.

If Kaymer wins Sunday and ascends, it will be his fourth consecutive victory, and yet even that winning run wouldn’t trump the feeling this is all about Woods.

The giant question is whether Monday’s “event” signifies the official start of a new era in the game.

Is this week really a final chapter for Woods? Or just another transitional phase in his remarkable career?

The No. 1 ranking doesn’t mean nearly as much as Woods’ 14 major championship victories and 71 PGA Tour titles. It’s more what the loss of the No. 1 ranking will symbolize if Woods never wins another major or PGA Tour title. It will symbolize the end of the Woods’ era.

Mark down three-time PGA Tour winner Chris DiMarco among those who believes Woods will come back strong.

“That’s trivial,” DiMarco says of Woods losing his No. 1 ranking. “Because he hasn’t even cared about that, to tell you the truth.”

DiMarco waged that memorable playoff battle with Woods at the ’05 Masters, back when Woods had fallen to No. 2 in the world rankings. Woods’ playoff victory at Augusta National that Sunday helped him regain the No. 1 spot from Vijay Singh when the world rankings were released later that night.

“For years and years, if he doesn’t win after eight weeks, it’s `Tiger’s in a slump,’ and then he comes back and wins five in a row,” DiMarco said Tuesday during media day for the Children’s Miracle Network Classic in Orlando, Fla. “Until he doesn’t win for two or three years in a row, you’ll never see me writing him off.

“All he’s doing is, probably, hoping this year gets over. I’m sure he went through a lot of humility this year. It’s a hard thing. I’m sure he can take people rooting against him, and telling him he’s not good at golf, but to hear personal things, I’m sure it’s tough to focus out there. I’ve always said the strongest thing about Tiger is how focused he is. I’ve never seen anybody be able to focus on the first tee like it’s the 72nd hole to win a tournament. He could do that week in and week out. You can see the lack of focus out there this year.

“I fully see him back, and I fully see him winning a lot of tournaments and contending in majors and probably winning majors.”

Of course, not everyone sees it that way.

“His golf peers are not afraid of him anymore, and there seems to be a new crop of players coming up and the Tiger era is already finished,” five-time British Open champion Peter Thomson told Australian Golf Digest in its November issue. “I think his lustre is gone . . . he won’t be the dominating figure, and he won’t win.”

Fellow Aussie Greg Norman wasn’t as harsh at the Shark Shootout media day last week, but he sees a hard road ahead for Woods.

“He’ll come back and win tournaments, but he won’t be as dominant as he used to be,” Norman said. “I think he still has a chance to catch Jack [Nicklaus]. I think the chances are getting slimmer and slimmer, though.”

When Woods last lost the No. 1 ranking to Singh late in 2004, he needed 27 weeks to get it back. The two battled back and forth before Woods took command again.

The way Woods thoroughly thrashed Francesco Molinari in Ryder Cup singles in his last public appearance on a golf course, the way he flashed his dominant form of old with seven birdies and an eagle over 15 holes, we shouldn’t be surprised if Woods starts another long run at No. 1 at the HSBC Champions. Then again, after he failed to follow up his terrific 66 with the thrilling closing eagle on Saturday of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in June, we shouldn’t be surprised if he needs more than 27 weeks this time.

We know this is Woods’ last week at No. 1 in his latest run. We’ll have to wait for history to tell us whether that makes this a monumental week or not.

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Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:19 am

IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.

Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.

Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.

Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.

Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.

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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."