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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Woods admits fatigue played factor in Ryder Cup

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 12:35 pm

There was plenty of speculation about Tiger Woods’ health in the wake of the U.S. team’s loss to Europe at last month’s Ryder Cup, and the 14-time major champ broke his silence on the matter during a driving range Q&A at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach on Tuesday.

Woods, who went 0-4 in Paris, admitted he was tired because he wasn’t ready to play so much golf this season after coming back from a fourth back surgery.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

The topic of conversation then shifted to what's next, with Woods saying he's just starting to plan out his future schedule, outside of "The Match" with Phil Mickelson over Thanksgiving weekend and his Hero World Challenge in December.

“I’m still figuring that out,” Woods said. “Flying out here yesterday trying to look at the schedule, it’s the first time I’ve taken a look at it. I’ve been so focused on getting through the playoffs and the Ryder Cup that I just took a look at the schedule and saw how packed it is.”

While his exact schedule remains a bit of a mystery, one little event in April at Augusta National seemed to be on his mind already.

When asked which major he was most looking forward to next year, Woods didn't hesitate with his response, “Oh, that first one.”

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Podcast: Fujikawa aims to offer 'hope' by coming out

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 17, 2018, 12:03 pm

Tadd Fujikawa first made golf history with his age. Now he's doing it with his recent decision to openly discuss his sexuality.

Last month Fujikawa announced via Instagram that he is gay, becoming the first male professional to come out publicly. Now 27, he has a different perspective on life than he did when he became the youngest U.S. Open participant in 2006 at Winged Foot at age 15, or when he made the cut at the Sony Open a few months later.

Joining as the guest on the latest Golf Channel podcast, Fujikawa discussed with host Will Gray the reception to his recent announcement - as well as some of the motivating factors that led the former teen phenom to become somewhat of a pioneer in the world of men's professional golf.

"I just want to let people know that they're enough, and that they're good exactly as they are," Fujikawa said. "That they don't need to change who they are to fit society's mold. Especially in the golf world where it's so, it's not something that's very common."

The wide-ranging interview also touched on Fujikawa's adjustment to life on golf-centric St. Simons Island, Ga., as well as some of his hobbies outside the game. But he was also candid about the role that anxiety and depression surrounding his sexuality had on his early playing career, admitting that he considered walking away from the game "many, many times" and would have done so had it not been for the support of friends and family.

While professional golf remains a priority, Fujikawa is also embracing the newfound opportunity to help others in a similar position.

"Hearing other stories, other athletes, other celebrities, my friends. Just seeing other people come out gave me a lot of hope in times when I didn't feel like there was a lot of hope," he said. "For me personally, it was something that I've wanted to do for a long time, and something I'm very passionate about. I really want to help other people who are struggling with that similar issue. And if I can change lives, that's really my goal."

For more from Fujikawa, click below or click here to download the podcast and subscribe to future episodes:

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Davies takes 2-shot lead into final round of Senior LPGA

By Associated PressOctober 17, 2018, 2:00 am

FRENCH LICK, Ind. - Laura Davies recovered from a pair of early bogeys Tuesday for a 2-under 70 that gave her a two-shot lead going into the final round of the Senior LPGA Championship as she goes for a second senior major.

In slightly warmer weather on The Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort, the 55-year-old Davies played bogey-free over the last 11 holes and was at 6-under 138. Brandi Burton had a 66, the best score of the tournament, and was two shots behind.

Silvia Cavalleri (69) and Jane Crafter (71) were three shots behind at 141.

Juli Inkster, who was one shot behind Davies starting the second round, shot 80 to fall 11 shots behind.

''I had a couple of bogeys early on, but I didn't panic,'' Davies said. ''I'm playing with a bit of confidence now and that's good to have going into the final round.''

Davies already won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open this summer at Chicago Golf Club.

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Miller's biggest on-air regret: Leonard at Ryder Cup

By Jason CrookOctober 17, 2018, 12:00 am

Johnny Miller made a broadcasting career out of being brutally honest, calling golf tournaments exactly like he saw them.

His unfiltered style is what kept him on the air for nearly 30 years, but it wasn't always the most popular with players.

After announcing his upcoming retirement, Miller was asked Tuesday if there were any on-air comments he regretted over the last three decades. One immediately came to mind.

"I think that I didn't say the right words about Justin Leonard at Miracle at Brookline about he should be home watching it on TV. I meant really - I did say he should be home, but I meant the motel room. Even then I probably shouldn't have said that," Miller recalled. "I want so much for the outcome that I'm hoping for that I actually get overwhelmed with what I want to see. Almost the kind of things you would say to your buddies if you were watching it on TV, you know? He just couldn't win a match."

After struggling on Friday and Saturday in team play, Leonard ended up the U.S. hero after halving his Sunday singles match with José María Olazábal by holing a 40-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole - one of the most famous shots in Ryder Cup history.

"Of course he ended up - after the crappy comment I made that motivated maybe the team supposedly in the locker room, and he ends up making that 45-, 50- foot putt to seal the deal," Miller said. "Almost like a Hollywood movie or something."

Not only did the putt seal the comeback for the U.S., but it also earned Leonard an apology from Miller. 

"I apologized to him literally the next day; I happened to see him. I tried to make a policy when I go over the line that I get ahold of the guy within 24 hours and tell him I made a double bogey, you know. That's just the way I have done it through the years."