Lydia Ko didn't win the inaugural Coates Golf Championship on Saturday, but she still made a golf first. Ko finished joint runner-up to Na Yeon Choi in the LPGA opener in Ocala, Fla., but the finish was good enough to assure Ko the top spot in the new Rolex Rankings.
The 17-year-old Kiwi will become the youngest player in the history of the game to ascend to the spot of either the Official World Golf Ranking or Rolex Rankings.
Early in the final round, Ko had a four-shot edge through two holes, but Ha Na Jang and Choi caught up over the course of the round. Nevertheless, Ko was tied for the lead with four holes to play. She then drained a 60-foot birdie putt at the 15th to take the lead when Choi bogeyed the same par 3. However, on the 17th hole, Ko made a double bogey, dropping from one ahead to one behind with a par 5 to play.
On the final hole, Ko's second shot wound up short and left of the intended target and left her with a semi-buried lie for her third shot. She expected a chunk shot but caught all ball, eventually getting up and down from the bunker beyond the hole for par and history. Choi tapped in for par and her first win since the 2012 CME Group Titleholders.
Tiger Woods is the youngest man to be ranked No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking, which started in 1986. Woods was 21 years, 167 days old when he became No. 1 for the first time on June 15, 1997.
The Rolex Rankings have only been in existence since 2006. Jiyai Shin was previously the youngest women's world No. 1, earning the top spot at 22 years, 5 days old. A year later, Yani Tseng became No. 1 at 22 years, 22 days old.
January 30, 2015
Tiger Woods has never scored worse as a pro than he did on Friday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Woods shot and 11-over 82 at TPC Scottsdale for his worst-ever round as a professional, worse than the 81 he shot in the third round of the 2002 Open Championship. It was raining on that day, too, at Muirfield, but gale-force winds didn't whip up at TPC Scottsdale.
His second round was like the first but with more lighter fluid. The same things plagued Woods on Friday: cluenessless with the driver and a complete mental block in his short game.
The first four holes weren't good, but a good-enough 1-over-par start. Then he took an unplayable lie after his drive at his fifth hole, the 14th after starting on the back nine, leading to a double-bogey 6. Woods followed with a duck hook into the water at the par-5 15th, the total opposite of where his drive went on Thursday. Triple bogey.
When Woods made a 20-foot putt to save par – par! – at the par-3 16th, the roar from the crowd made it seem like a birdie. It was almost as if they were trying to will him to something better.
Then Woods couldn't get up-and-down in three from 40 yards away at the drivable par-4 17th. Deflated, Woods came up short from the fairway with his approach at the 18th. Bogey, why not. The outgoing 8-over 44 tied his worst-ever score for nine holes as a professional, equaled in the third round of the 2013 Memorial Tournament.
At that point, what was Woods to do? He wasn't going to shoot a back-nine 26 to miraculously make the cut.
"Just keep fighting," Woods said after the round. "Just keep grinding over each and every shot."
He deserves credit for that, taking the turn and not walking directly toward his jet and flying home. He played the back nine, and it was equally ugly, even if the score was six shots better. At the par-3 fourth, Woods skulled a chip shot from back of the green into a bunker in front of it, leading to a double-bogey. Woods birdied the fifth, the hardest hole on the course for the second day in a row, then dropped shots with a bad bunker shot at the sixth and a three-jack at the seventh. Another birdie at No. 8 gave a glimmer of hope that he'd have a chance to avoid a historic low, but a limp effort at the ninth locked up history.
Tiger Woods has played over 1,000 rounds as a professional. He now has two rounds in the 80s.
"We all have days like this," Woods said. "Unfortunately, mine was in a public forum. We take the good with the bad."
Woods again blamed changes in his technique and his lack of trust in them for the debacle. This was mental. This was mentally jarring. Woods isn't sticking around for the Super Bowl on Sunday, instead flying home and practicing before he flies cross-country on Monday for the Farmers Insurance Open.
Woods' peers have repeatedly said on Twitter that the 14-time major winner looks great on the range. It's taking it to the course that's the problem. Perhaps that means Woods needs to play more to work through the mental flubs that are worse than the physical skulls, blades and chunks.
The classic advice from wise investors is to buy low, at rock bottom if you can. But you'd be hard pressed to find someone right now that would buy stock in Woods – that is, except Woods.
"I was player of the year only a year ago," Woods said. "Got to keep things in perspective."
Related video from the Waste Management Phoenix Open
January 29, 2015
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The first 12 holes of Tiger Woods' season-debut round at the Waste Management Phoenix Open were a certifiable car wreck.
The last six holes, however messy, salvaged a 2-over 73 at TPC Scottsdale. It could have been a lot worse.
Woods' opening tee shot set a foreboding mood, a blast skied so far right it almost went out of bounds. He recovered, but Woods made a bizarre decision to bump-and-run a mid-iron for his third shot. It came up well short, leading to a bogey. Repeat on the second hole, but this time from the fairway.
On the third, Woods got pin-high in two at the par 5, but misjudged his distance to a tight landing area on the green with his third, leading to a disappointing par. A hole later, he repeated the messy bump-and-run after missing the par-3 green with an 8-iron. Three putts -- two that were official -- later, Woods was 4 over through four holes.
The world No. 47 rallied for a birdie at the fifth that raised hopes Woods just had to shake off rust. But when Woods came up short again with his approach from the fairway at the sixth and pulled out putter rather than wedge from off the green, it was clear the chipping yips were in his head. It was clear why on the ninth, when Woods, after hitting an excellent recovery from a poor drive off an awkward lie, skulled his chip behind the green.
Then on the par-4 11th, Woods drive found its way into desert plantlife; he did well to make bogey. After a par at 12, Woods was two-thirds through his round and looking at an outside shot at 80.
Perhaps sensing he needed to make a turn toward par or risk standing no chance of making the Friday cut, Woods found something on the par-5 13th. He creamed a drive 329 yards down the middle of the fairway and stuck his approach to 7 inches for a tap-in eagle. All of a sudden, Woods had a pulse. It was short-lived. Errant drives to the right -- his miss on the day -- lead to disappointing pars, including on the par-5 15th.
At the infamous par-3 16th, Woods had to back off twice because of loud spectators among the huge throng of fans. Thankfully he escaped with par, but he had the worst score in his threesome with Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth.
Woods showed off his newfound power on 17, too, blasting a drive at the short-ish, 332-yard par 4 to 20 feet. The eagle bid came up just short. A routine par at the last brought the final tally to 73.
The thousands of chips Woods said pre-tournament that he hit in the off-season did him no good on Thursday. Woods complained of a lack of trust with a new wedge grind to fit his new-but-old short-game technique, but that wasn't the problem. It was mental.
The driver was a big liability, too, although Woods' miss is way right under Chris Como. It's better than the snap hook he had with Sean Foley, but Woods is clearly stuck as he gets toward impact and struggles to square the face. When he does, however, as he did on Nos. 13 and 17, the power is back.
Who knows which Woods will show up on Friday. The only thing that's clear is this is clearly a work in progress, one that Woods said earlier in the week was ahead of schedule. Perhaps so, but it's a long way from contending and even a leap from making a cut.
January 28, 2015
The largest and rowdiest crowd in golf convenes upon TPC Scottsdale on Thursday for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. In addition to a lot of fans, almost every major American golf star is in the Phoenix area this week, including Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
TPC Scottsdale has been renovated by original architect Tom Weiskopf, playing a little tougher with new challenges and changes. However, winning in Phoenix means going deep, so we're recommending players this week who know how to shoot low numbers.
Here are our top five picks:
January 27, 2015
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Tiger Woods' missing tooth is back and so, he says, is his distance. The combination had the former world No. 1 and current No. 47 in a good mood on Tuesday ahead of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Woods talked about the dental surgery he had to repair a pair of teeth he said were damaged by a cameraman when he traveled to Italy a week ago to surprise girlfriend Lindsey Vonn as she celebrated her record 63rd women's World Cup downhill skiing win.
"The dude with video camera on shoulder kneeling right in front of me stood up and turned and caught me square in the mouth," Woods said. "He chipped that one, cracked the other one. ... Luckily, he hit the one I had a root canal on. That's the one that chipped. But the other one had to be fixed as well because it had cracks all through it."
The flight home from Italy, Woods said, was painful.
"Even breathing hurt," he said. "I had to fly home and get it done first thing in the morning, which was nice."
Woods also looked more svelte than the last time we saw him at the Hero World Challenge back in December. That's thanks to the flu, which Woods said he dealt with for three weeks after the tournament, where he was visibly sick. He lost 15 lbs in that span and hasn't put much of it back on his frame.
While Woods had a little work done to have a complete set of pearly whites, he was doing a little work to his short game, which was astonishingly bad back in December. Woods mishit some nine chip or bunker shots during the limited-field event. In that time, Woods said he's hit "thousands of chips" shots, trying to settle on his new technique rather than falling back into the method he used when working with Sean Foley.
Woods also said he's been gaining significant distance since we saw him last, employing the old-but-new swing he's developed with new swing consultant Chris Como.
"My driving has come around a lot faster (than I expected)," he said. "I'm a lot longer than I ever thought I could be again. I'm touching numbers that I did 15 years ago."
If you can remember how good Tiger Woods was in 2000, then you'll understand that's a big statement. If he's even a good portion as precise as he was that year, then 2015 could be a big comeback year for Woods.
January 25, 2015
Since 2010, there are two guys who have more PGA Tour wins than Bill Haas: Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods.
Haas notched his sixth tour title on Sunday, pulling out a one-shot win at the Humana Challenge over a slew of challengers, including Matt Kuchar, at 22 under par. The 32-year-old fired a final round of 5-under 67 to pull out his second win in this tournament.
The victory didn't come stress-free for Haas, whose tee shot at the par-5 finishing hole stopped on the very edge of a fairway bunker. After weighing whether to swing backwards outside the bunker or sideways in it, Haas took a baseball-style cut to set up a third shot and a two-putt par for the win.
Justin Thomas appeared on the verge of a win in his rookie season -- or at least a chance in a playoff -- but his approach shot to the par-4 16th at the Palmer Private Course at PGA West found the water. The resulting double bogey ended his chances.
A number of players who finished a shot back, including Charley Hoffman (64), Brendan Steele (64) and Sung Joon Park (65) came from well behind at the start of the day to earn big paydays. Colt Knost, who shot 63 early in the day, jumped 30 spots into a tie for 10th place.
But back to Haas, who told Golf Channel after the win that, earlier in the week, he didn't think he had the game to score in a tournament that commands taking it deep under par. Not only did Haas have that game, but it coupled well with his ability to close out tight tournaments. Of his now six wins, four were by a shot, either in regulation or a sudden-death playoff.
The question for Haas now is if he can start to produce in majors. Until 2014, Haas had never even made the cut in all four in a single season. His best major finish is a T-12 effort in 2011 at Atlanta Athletic Club. If Haas will ever figure seriously on any of the game's four biggest stages, it's likely now since he's in the sweet spot where most players get theirs. However, given his father's longevity both on the PGA and Champions Tours, Haas could prove a late bloomer.
Colin Montgomerie has a bright idea: Phil Mickelson should be the 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup captain.
Monty, speaking with Kicca.com, a new sports-geared social media site in the U.K., laid the gauntlet to the left-hander.
"Phil Mickelson's comments were heard and read around the world," Montgomerie said. "A lot of people were thinking 'Stand up to the plate. OK, if you feel that strongly about the situation become captain yourself.'"
After the U.S. loss the Ryder Cup for the third-straight time to the Europeans at Gleneages in Scotland in September, Mickelson torched captain Tom Watson, saying Watson did not listen to player input on any decision. Mickelson also wondered aloud why the PGA of America had abandoned the system 2008 captain Paul Azinger employed to win the matches at Valhalla, suggesting Azingers' "pod" system of grouping similar players together in terms of social functions and in match pairings was a great fit for the American side.
Mickelson's comments, in part, spurred the PGA of America to form an 11-man task force, whose mission it is to audit how the U.S. approaches the biennial matches and make changes. The task force, on which Mickelson is a participant, is also likely to identify a 2016 captain for Hazeltine, the next U.S. home match. That captain is expected to be named sometime in the first half of 2015. Three-time winning Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples has said he has been contacted by the task force, leading many to believe he's the target for captain.
John Daly has also lobbied for Mickelson, or Tiger Woods, to take the reins.
Montgomerie also realized putting Mickelson at the helm might attract even more scrutiny on a U.S. team that has only won two matches in the last 10 tries.
"The trouble there, of course, is Phil would have to win the Ryder Cup," Montgomerie said, "having said what he said, so it does put pressure on the whole system."
January 19, 2015
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Tiger Woods showed up in Italy on Monday to surprise his girlfriend Lindsey Vonn on the occasion of her record-setting World Cup performance. And while Woods sported a skull facemask for a fair portion of his time on the slopes, closeups revealed that Woods is apparently missing a tooth.
What the heck? Did Woods take a golf ball to the face? Is this an elaborate disguise? Or is this Tiger's country cousin Possum Woods?
None of the above, as it turns out. No, Woods was a victim of an overly aggressive media corps, at least according to his agent. Here, we'll let his agent Mark Steinberg explain:
"During a crush of photographers as the awards podium at the World Cup event in Italy, a media member with a shoulder-mounted video camera pushed and surged toward the stage, turned and hit Tiger Woods in the mouth," Steinberg said in a statement to the AP. "Woods' tooth was knocked out by the incident."
Ow. OW. Man, that sounds like it hurt. As if Woods didn't have enough reason to hate the media before, now this. We would assume that if there were other photographers around when this tooth-knocking happened, there might be video of said event, but we'll take Steinberg at his word for now.
Toothed or not, Woods is scheduled to tee it up at next week's Waste Management Open in Phoenix.
And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.
January 15, 2015
Phil Mickelson is skipping a pair of West Coast Swing staples to spend time with his family.
Mickelson announced on his website that he won't play in either the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am or the Northern Trust Open. Mickelson had played the old Clambake each year since 1995 and is a four-time winner of the event, including in a 2012 showdown with Tiger Woods. Lefty also has posted an excellent record in the last decade at NTO host Riviera Country Club, where he has a win and a pair of runner-up finishes in that span.
“Those are two of my favorite events, two of my favorite courses,” he said on his website, “but with the kids in two schools with different spring breaks, I’ll take that time off. They’ve accommodated my schedule enough over the years. It’s time for me to accommodate theirs.”
These tournaments moved on the schedule this year, sliding into the spot held for a decade by the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship, which is shifting for at least one year to May so TPC Harding Park in San Francisco can host the 64-man event. Mickelson has skipped that tournament four of the last five years to be with his kids during their spring break.
Mickelson begins his 2015 next week at the Humana Challenge, followed by the Waste Management Phoenix Open and Farmers Insurance Open.
January 14, 2015
Jack Nicklaus never was much for playing easier golf courses. Tiger Woods isn't either. So the Golden Bear has a theory as to why the Big Cat is starting his 2015 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, held at a venue in TPC Scottsdale that yields a lot of birdies and low numbers.
"I think that sometimes I would go play tournaments early in the year that actually you did shoot some low scores because I didn’t feel like I was quite ready to challenge a difficult golf course," said Nicklaus during a conference call to promote a USGA documentary, "Nicklaus: The Making of a Champion," which will air on Fox this weekend.
"So sometimes I would go where I could build confidence in my own game. So my guess is Tiger is going to Phoenix so he can build confidence in his own game and get some self‑confidence because he hasn’t played for a long time, to now build himself back up to the more difficult courses."
Woods is making his first start at Phoenix in 14 years, with his last coming at the '01 Phoenix Open. The 14-time major winner has a good, albeit limited and dated track record at TPC Scottsdale, which is probably why Woods chose it over the Northern Trust Open at Riviera, a course on which he's never fared well, and the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, where six-hour rounds are commonplace.
Of course, Woods hasn't won since the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August 2013. More important than chasing an 80th PGA Tour win, however, is developing confidence in his new-but-old swing that he's developed since ending his 2014 after the PGA Championship. As Woods gets more tournament reps and his scoring improves (assuming it does), he'll feel more confident heading into the big-name events that typically dominate his schedule.