Tag:no. 1
Posted on: February 22, 2012 8:07 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 12:16 pm

With win, McIlroy at one with the world

By Steve Elling

MARANA, Ariz. -- All of a sudden, as he looked at the scoreboard, his future flashed before him.

OK, so he might not get there this week, but the possibility certainly exists, thanks to the first-round results at the Accenture Match Play Championship.

World No. 2 Rory McIlroy was on the course Wednesday afternoon when he saw a leaderboard which noted that world No. 1 Luke Donald had been upset in the opening round. That creates the very real possibility that, with a victory tis week, the 22-year-old U.S. Open champ could ascend to the rankings top spot with a victory Sunday.

God bless McIlroy, who freely admitted that he will use the ranking as a motivational carrot the rest of the way -- and there are another five matches he must win -- to climb to the highest rung in the game.  Many players would not allow themselves to think about it, much less discuss it, openly.

Donald was drilled by Ernie Els, 5 and 4, while McIlroy won his match, 2 up, against a surprisingly resilient George Coetzee.

You gotta love anybody who begins a sentence in this overly-protective, mind-games era with the words, "to be honest." Which is exactly what McIlroy did when I asked him about becoming numero uno.

"To be honest, I came in here yesterday and talked about if I play well and just win matches, that will take care of itself," he said. "But obviously, it's another incentive waking up each morning and knowing that if you win your match at the end of that day, at the end of the week you could be world No. 1.

"I saw the result on one of the scoreboards on No. 17, I think. So, yeah, we'll see what happens. I have to get through a lot of matches before that, but it definitely gives me an added incentive this week."

McIlroy, who rejoined the PGA Tour for 2012, could become the fourth player in a year to climb to the top spot, joining Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Donald.

We'll see how McIlroy feels if the media asks him about the No. 1 ranking for the next four days in succession, but for now, he doesn't believe it will be a distration. Quite the opposite, in fact.

"I think, if anything, it gives you just a little bit of extra motivation, especially if you find yourself maybe a couple down through five or six holes that you say to yourself, come on, you've got to win this thing or you've got to win this match to give yourself a chance [at No. 1], at least.

"So in that way you can use it to your advantage, as well."

Posted on: March 2, 2011 4:07 pm

Westy not about to diss Tiger, now or ever

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- One of Lee Westwood's stable mates might be willing to crawl out on a cracking limb regarding the suddenly shaky status of Tiger Woods, but the savvy veteran and former world No. 1 most definitely isn't.

Rising star Rory McIlroy, who shares the same manager as Westwood, was quoted in a Sports Illustrated story this week in which he pointed out that Woods has hardly been a global force since the likeable Northern Irishman came truly arrived on the scene two years ago. McIlroy's statements were assuredly true, but in a world where criticism of Woods was non-existent until a few months ago, they sounded borderline heretical, especially from a player with two global wins. 

Westwood, on the other hand, is far too cagey to go there.

"That's the answer a 21-year-old would give, isn't it?" Westwood laughed this week before the Honda Classic. "Thirty-seven-year-olds are a little wiser."

Westwood stopped cracking wise long enough to make it clear that Woods, in his opinion, will eventually resurface. Woods is in the midst of a swing change and career-worst victory drought on the PGA Tour that has stretched into its 17th month. Whether he ascends to his previous heights is anybody's guess.

He might not need to. Woods has dropped to No. 5, his lowest world ranking since before he won the 1997 Masters, his first of 14 majors. 
"I think having played with Tiger since 1997, or something like that, there's an old saying that class is permanent and form is fickle," Westwood said. "He's the classiest player I've ever played with and I'd be wise enough to know not to write him off. 

"I've seen him play poorly and win tournaments. He doesn't necessarily have to get back to where he was."

After a brief pause, Westwood, now world No. 2, smirked.

"I'll have a word with Rory later," he said.

Westwood bumped Woods from the No. 1 spot 18 weeks ago, then was dethroned himself on Monday by Germany's Martin Kaymer.

Category: Golf
Posted on: September 6, 2010 4:31 pm

Woods grip on No. 1 holds tight

NORTON, Mass. -- For Strick and Mick, the outcome on Monday was the same.

The same could also be said for Tiger Woods.

Thanks to the final-round sputtering of Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker at TPC Boston, not to mention more improved play from Woods himself, the man sitting at world No. 1 will again remain unchanged.

Both No. 2 Mickelson and No. 4 Stricker could have overtaken Woods in the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship, but Woods' current reign will extend to its 274th straight week heading later this week into Chicago.

Woods finished with a 68 to post three straight rounds in the 60s for the first time all year and was T13 as the leaders were finishing Monday afternoon. Because Woods finished inside the top 24, it meant that Mickelson and Stricker had to win to unseat him from his perch.

Neither came remotely close.

As Mickelson played the par-5 seventh, he was 50 feet short of the flag in two, pitched to 6 feet and missed a putt that would have moved him within three shots of the leaders and into a tie for fifth. From then on, he went straight backward, making a double bogey on the 10th and three-jacking for bogey from seven feet on the 11th. 

Just like that, he fell nine shots off the lead with a half-dozen holes left in his final round. This marked the 11th straight start in which Mickelson, who has never been ranked first, had a chance to unseat Woods and didn't deliver.  

Stricker, who started the day T4, bogeyed two of his first three holes to fall seven off the early pace.

Woods, who continued his gradual improvement of the past few weeks, is the defending champion at the BMW Championship, which begins Thursday. He won by eight shots at Cog Hill last year and lives to play another week at the top dog in the game

“Well, I've just got to keep playing well,” he said. “Winning takes care of everything -- the world rankings, player of the year awards, all the trophies and things that come with it. That only happens when you win.  Most of my career I've been able to do that, and I just haven't done it this year.”

As it relates to the ability of others to catch him in the rankings while at his career nadir, that hasn’t mattered.

Category: Golf
Posted on: August 6, 2010 6:49 pm
Edited on: August 6, 2010 7:19 pm

Lefty shoots for won-and-one at WGC

AKRON, Ohio – Phil Mickelson was at his careening, wise-cracking, self-deprecating best on Friday at Firestone Country Club.

In other words, look out, Tiger Woods.

Presented with what he deemed to be his best chance to unseat Woods as the world No. 1, Mickelson bobbed and weaved his way through a 2-under 68 to move within a shot of the lead at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational.

This weeks marks the eighth straight start in which Mickelson, who has never climbed to the top of the ratings mountain in his inevitable Hall-of-Fame career, has had a chance to supplant Woods with a victory. More than ever, the planets seem to be completely aligned at the moment for the big breakthrough.

First, Woods is well out of the running this week, foundering in a tie for 72nd place, and world No. 2 Lee Westwood withdrew Friday with a nagging calf injury that also will keep him from playing the PGA Championship next week, the season’s final major. Westwood also had a shot at unseating Woods this week.

At 6 under, Mickelson is tied for second heading into the weekend, one shot behind Retief Goosen. According to the world-ranking numbers crunchers, if Lefty finishes in solo fourth place and Woods is outside the top 44 on Sunday, Mickelson becomes numero uno.

Mickelson has been peppered with questions over the past few weeks about dethroning Woods, but he seems more engaged in the possibility this time around. Perhaps because Woods has turned up all but dead this week.

“Obviously, it would be cool,” he said. “I'm not going to say it wouldn't.  It would be something I would love to do and ultimately be regarded as No. 1, according to the rankings and so forth.  I know that I've got a great opportunity this week.  I know that I'm playing well, and this is my best opportunity.  I try not to think about it.”

Everybody keeps reminding him, obviously, and Lefty has his hands full on the golf course as it is. The last 90 minutes of his round Friday was vintage Mickelson, with a sloppy double bogey made after he drove into a bunker on an adjoining hole, two clutch birdies, and a wild tee ball on the 17th that hit a male fan in his right collarbone area, leaving a nasty bruise.

Mickelson found the fan and gave him a signed golf glove – he admitted to keeping extras in his bag for such eventualities – and drew huge laughs from the gallery when he apologized to the middle-aged guy, who tried to leave the scene but was convinced by other fans to stay on the chance that Lefty might slip him a signed ball or glove.

“It’s kind of the hazard of following me,” Mickelson cracked.

The fan was walking straight toward the tee when Mickelson hooked his drive over the trees and whacked the guy on the fly. Recall that a series of hilarious television commercials were made a couple of years ago about his unwitting victims.

“I think that gentleman learned the hazards of following me and walking down in the landing area,” Mickelson smirked after the round. “I think that he might want to stay more by the tee next time.”

Mickelson won an event at Firestone in 1986 but hasn’t played consistently well here recently, though he did have a legitimate chance in 2008, when he bungled the last few holes and finished T4 behind Vijay Singh.

Mickelson, who finished sixth at the PGA in 2004, the last time it was held at next week’s venue, Whistling Straits, senses that if he doesn’t claim No. 1 this week, he will have plenty of chances if he establishes some momentum during the busiest part of the PGA Tour season. He hasn’t had much of a chance to get into a flow or winning frame of mind with his hit-and-miss summer schedule.

“We have a lot of tournaments,” he said. “I've got five or six events, Ryder Cup, so I've got a lot of golf here coming up, whereas over the summer, after the U.S. Open, you know, a couple weeks off, Scottish and British, a couple weeks off. So I feel like I'm playing two tournaments in a six-week stretch and I ended up not playing well in those two events.

“So I haven't been in the thick of it for a while and that's why I'm excited to be in contention here heading into this weekend.”

Category: Golf
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