No One for No 1

By Rex HoggardAugust 9, 2010, 3:15 am

WGC-Bridgestone - 125wAKRON, Ohio – Tiger Woods could have maintained his tenuous spot atop the sometimes contrived yet universally accepted Official World Golf Ranking by finishing 44th or better at Firestone. Phil Mickelson could have finally wrested the No. 1 ranking from Woods with a fourth-place finish or better. Both played like No. 2.

Neither player looked the part of alpha male on Sunday, what with Lefty struggling to a final-round 78 and a tie for 46th and Woods going one shot better on the day (77) but finishing in a career-worst tie for 78th. But world ranking math and a curious public demand a king, be it by default or otherwise.

For the first time since the summer of 2005 the normally structured world of men’s golf is defined by questions, if not chaos.

Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson will have another chance to reach No. 1 at the PGA Championship. (Getty Images)
Mickelson seems destined to overtake Woods and claim the top spot for the first time in a Hall of Fame career. He said so himself on Sunday at Firestone.

“If I keep finishing ahead of him every week eventually it'll happen,” Mickelson said. “But the problem is there's guys behind me that will pass me because I'm not playing well enough right now. I've got some work to do to get my own game sharp.”

But then the guy who three-putted from 3 feet (No. 9) and hit the same number of fairways and greens (six) on Sunday and played the weekend in 9 over par doesn’t exactly scream No. 1.

On Saturday, Woods was asked about Mickelson’s chances to claim the top spot. His answer suggested he knew more than the rest of us, “If Phil plays the way he’s supposed to this weekend, then he’ll be No. 1.”

Mickelson has had more than a half dozen chances to dethrone Woods this season, but Firestone was his best and most realistic chance to date. On Friday, Lefty was a stroke behind front-runner Retief Goosen. By Sunday he was looking for answers, just like the rest of us.

It was a measure of the strange days that have gripped golf that on the eve of the year’s final major, Lee Westwood, No. 3 in the world, appeared to some as the best current option for the top spot as he watched the proceedings from his couch at home while nursing a calf injury.

The current void left by Woods’ competitive vortex is not so much about who is the best player right now, but more about how the world No. 1 should be measured?

World Ranking math aside, few if any consider Woods the current No. 1. At least not the current version. Mickelson has three top-10s since his emotional Masters victory but has not exactly been dominant; while Westwood has earned the most world ranking points (273) this season and has been the most consistent but he has just a single victory at the St. Jude Classic.

 “To me it’s about people who win,” Paul Casey said. “I had three (worldwide) wins last year, great year. None this year, it has not been a great year. It’s like (the movie) ‘Talladega Nights.’ What did (Ricky Bobby) say, ‘If you’re not first, you’re last.’”

Prior to 1986, when the world ranking debuted, the debate over who was the best at any particular time was decided almost exclusively on the number of victories a player had.

“We didn’t care about being No. 1, only winning,” said Charlie Epps, a long-time Tour swing coach.

Sean O’Hair took a slightly different approach, suggesting that it is consistency, not the number of championships on the mantel, that should decide who is atop the heap.

“To be hot you’ve got to be in contention on a regular basis. Just because you win a golf tournament doesn’t mean you’re hot. Even if you win two golf tournaments, you can win two tournaments and not be in contention the rest of the year,” O’Hair said before conceding that Ernie Els (a two-time Tour winner this year) would probably get his vote for Player of the Year.

All of which has created a golf landscape that is as murky as it has been in a half decade and a PGA Championship with more uncertainty than a BP cleanup plan.

In the spring and early summer of 2005, Woods and Vijay Singh traded the top ranking six times, with Woods finally taking over for good when Singh tied for 29th at the now-defunct Booz Allen Classic. And for the better part of a record 269 weeks Woods has been an undisputed pacesetter, as evidenced by his dogged hold on the top spot this year despite the worst slump of his career.

But that clarity, that structure, has been eroded by the inconsistencies of Woods and Mickelson and a two-year rolling system that resists the urges of a sporting public that often suffers from a collective form of attention deficit disorder.

It is a debate that seems certain to dominate the conversation at Whistling Straits and as the sun settled over Firestone on Sunday Padraig Harrington, one of the game’s most direct and well-spoken players, offered the best, if not somewhat couched, assessment of the great world ranking debate of 2010.

“(Westwood) is the most consistent player, (Mickelson) is the best when he’s playing well and (Woods) is the best player in the world,” Harrington smiled.

If only it was as simple, and clear, as all of that.


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Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 23, 2018, 10:25 pm

Tony Romo is not the only ex-QB teeing it up against the pros.

Denver Broncos general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week, according to the Denver Post.

And why not? The qualifier and the senior major will be held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. Elway is scheduled to tee off May 28 at 12:10 p.m. ET. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open, June 27 to July 1.

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Jutanugarn sisters: Different styles, similar results

By Associated PressMay 23, 2018, 10:20 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn play golf and live life differently.

The sisters from Thailand do have the same goal in the LPGA, hoping their shot-to-shot focus leads to titles.

The Jutanugarns are two of six women with a shot at the Volvik Championship to become the circuit's first two-time winner this year. The first round begins Thursday at Travis Pointe Country Club, a course six winners are skipping to prepare elsewhere for next week's U.S. Women's Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama.

''Everybody has a chance to win every weekend,'' Moriya said. ''That's how hard it is on tour right now.''

Ariya competes with a grip-it-and-rip-it approach, usually hammering a 3-wood off the tee.

Moriya takes a more calculated approach, analyzing each shot patiently.

That's perhaps fitting because she's 16 months older than her sister.

''It's funny because when we think about something, it's always the different,'' she said. ''But we pretty much end up with the same idea.''

Off the course, they're also different.

The 22-year-old Ariya appears careful and guarded when having conversations with people she doesn't know well. The 23-year-old Moriya, meanwhile, enjoys engaging in interesting discussions with those who cross her path.

Their mother, Narumon, was with her daughters Wednesday and the three of them always stay together as a family. They don't cook during tournament weeks and opt to eat out, searching for good places like the sushi restaurant they've discovered near Travis Pointe.

Their father, Somboon, does not watch them play in person. They sisters say he has retired from owning a golf shop in Thailand.

''He doesn't travel anymore,'' Moriya Jutanugarn said.

Even if he is relegating to watching from the other side of the world, Somboon Jutanugarn must be proud of the way his daughters are playing.

Ariya became the first Thai winner in LPGA history in 2016, the same year she went on to win the inaugural Volvik Championship. She earned her eighth career victory last week in Virginia and is one of two players, along with Brooke Henderson, to have LPGA victories this year and the previous two years.

Moriya won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles, joining Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as the two pairs of sisters to have LPGA victories.

On the money list, Ariya is No. 1 and her sister is third.

In terms of playing regularly, no one is ahead of them.

Ariya is the only LPGA player to start and make the cut in all 12 events this year. Moriya Jutanugarn has also appeared in each tournament this year and failed to make the cut only once.

Instead of working in breaks to practice without competing or simply relax, they have entered every tournament so far and shrug their shoulders at the feat.

''It's not that bad, like 10 week in a row,'' Moriya said.

The LPGA is hosting an event about five miles from Michigan Stadium for a third straight year and hopes to keep coming back even though it doesn't have a title sponsor secured for 2019. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan told reporters he's confident Ann Arbor will be a long-term home for the circuit.

''I can't tell you the specifics about how we're going to do that,'' Whan acknowledged.

LPGA and tournament officials are hosting some prospective sponsors this week, trying to persuade them to put their name on the tournament.

Volvik, which makes golf balls, is preparing to scale back its support of the tournament.

''We're coming back,'' said Don Shin, president of Volvik USA. ''We just don't know in what capacity.''

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Wise: 'No hard feelings' over Nelson missed kiss

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 10:18 pm

Aaron Wise left the AT&T Byron Nelson with his first PGA Tour trophy and a seven-figure paycheck. But lost in the shuffle of closing out his breakthrough victory in near-darkness was his failed attempt for a celebratory kiss with his girlfriend on the 18th green.

Wise appeared to go in for a peck after his family joined him on the putting surface, but instead he and his girlfriend simply laughed and hugged. After the moment gained a bit of online notoriety, Wise told reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the young couple simply laughed it off.

"Yeah, I have been giving her some s--- about that," Wise said. "A lot has been made about it. It's really nothing. Like I was saying, she was just so excited to surprise me. I was kind of ruining the surprise a little bit that she was shocked, and she didn't even see me going in for the kiss."

At age 21, Wise is now one of the youngest winners on Tour. He explained that while both his girlfriend and mother flew in to watch the final round at Trinity Forest Golf Club, where he shared the 54-hole lead and eventually won by three shots, he took some of the surprise out of their arrival in true millennial fashion - by looking up his girlfriend's location earlier in the day.

Still getting used to his newfound status on Tour, Wise downplayed any controversy surrounding the kiss that wasn't.

"No hard feelings at all," Wise said. "We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was."

Mmm Visuals / Lancaster Country Club

Giving back: Chun creates education fund at site of Open win

By Randall MellMay 23, 2018, 8:04 pm

South Korea’s In Gee Chun is investing in American youth.

Chun broke through on the largest stage in women’s golf, winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago, and she’s making sure Lancaster, Pa., continues to share in what that brought her.

Chun is preparing for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek outside Birmingham, Ala., but she made a special stop this week. She returned to the site of her breakthrough in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday, launching the In Gee Chun Lancaster Country Club Education Fund. She announced Tuesday that she’s donating $10,000 to seed the fund. She’s expected to raise more than $20,000 for the cause in a fundraising dinner at the club Wednesday evening. The fund will annually award scholarships to Lancaster youth applicants, including Lancaster Country Club caddies and children of club employees.

“I’m excited to be back here,” said Chun, who put on a junior clinic during her stay and also played an outing with club members. “Winning the U.S. Women’s Open here in Lancaster gave me the opportunity to play on the LPGA and make one of my dreams come true.”

Chun also supports a fund in her name at Korea University, where she graduated, a fund for various “social responsibility” projects and for the educational needs of the youth who create them.

“Education is very important to me,” Chun said. “I would like to help others reach their goals.”

Chun made donations to the Lancaster General Health Foundation in 2015 and ’16 and to Pennsylvania’s J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust last year. Lancaster Country Club officials estimate she has now made donations in excess of $40,000 to the community.

“We are grateful In Gee’s made such a wonderful connection to our community and club,” said Rory Connaughton, a member of Lancaster Country Club’s board of governors. “She’s a special person.”