2004: Woods still No. 1 . . . barely
Thanks to a routine birdie on the 72nd hole of the WGC-NEC Invitational Aug. 22 and a rare lapse by his primary pursuer, Tiger Woods maintained his perch atop the Official World Golf Ranking. His hold on that top spot, however, has become tenuous.
Woods’ 4-footer for birdie at Firestone’s 18th hole put the finishing touches on a final-round 69 and moved him into a tie for second place with Rory Sabbatini at 7 under. The putt also extended Woods’ streak to 263 consecutive weeks at No. 1 in the World Ranking.
Woods’ 11th top 10 on the season moved him to 12.64 points in the Aug. 23 ranking, while Vijay Singh is at 11.82. Without Woods’ birdie, Singh – who finished 32nd at Firestone – would have taken over at No. 1 Aug. 30, even though neither of them is playing.
Woods and Singh are skipping this week’s Buick Championship at Hartford, so the projected ranking for next week puts Woods at 12.09 points, and Singh at 11.91.
“The No. 1 ranking always takes care of itself with wins, and that’s one thing I’ve always believed in,” said Woods, who began his run atop the ranking with his victory in the 1999 PGA Championship.
Woods has been No. 1 a record 333 weeks since turning pro eight years ago, breaking the record Aug. 16 that Greg Norman (331 weeks) had established over a 12-year span. Woods likely will play only four official events the rest of the year while Singh may play as many as six tournaments in his quest to unseat Woods.
Singh’s victory at the PGA Championship moved him to within .10 points of Woods and he needed to finish ahead of Woods at Firestone to take over the No. 1 ranking.
“That will be the ultimate goal for me – to win a major, win the money list and player of the year, and at the same time be No. 1 in the world,” said Singh.
Ernie Els - who held the No. 1 ranking for four weeks in June 1998 – is another potential candidate for the No. 1 ranking. To overtake Woods at Firestone the South African needed to win and have Woods finish no better than a tie for second; finish second, and have Woods finish no higher than a tie for fourth and Singh finish no higher than a two-way tie for third; or finish third with Woods finishing below 15th and Singh below 19th.
Like Woods, Els will play a limited schedule the rest of the year. His next PGA Tour event is expected to be the WGC-American Express Championship in late September.
– Staff and wire reports