One year later, Tiger easily No. 1
But so far, Tiger Woods is the host with the least at the Deutsche Bank Championship; he's 0-for-3 in the first three editions of his tournament.
It's not all bad news for Woods, however. In fact, failing to win in Boston is only one of very few things to go wrong for him in the past year. The Weekly 18 begins with a look at Tiger's last 12 months.
What a difference a year makes.
Exactly 365 days ago, Vijay Singh broke one of golf's greatest streaks in modern history. He defeated Woods in the final pairing at the Deutsche Bank -- one of nine wins last season -- and in the process ripped the No. 1 ranking from the man who had held it for 264 consecutive weeks, dating back to 1999.
As you may recall, in a Labor Day battle of epic proportions, Singh mirrored Woods' final-round 69 to win by three strokes. Then, as if to simply tighten his grasp on the top spot, he won three more times before the season ended.
As a result, Vijay held the No. 1 ranking through the end of the year and for the first nine weeks of this season before Tiger regained that status following his victory at Doral in March. They traded places in the rankings over the next few months -- Woods owned top billing for all of April; Singh grabbed it for three weeks in May -- and through 30 weeks this year, each was No. 1 on 15 different occasions.
And now? Woods has put so much distance between himself and Singh that at No. 2, Vijay is closer to sixth-ranked Sergio Garcia than Tiger.
Surely, it seems unreasonable to praise Woods' recent accomplishments after a week in which he held the first-round lead, only to finish T-40 -- his worst career result after owning the 18-hole lead. But with five wins -- including two majors -- and a stranglehold on this year's Player of the Year title, this is as good a time as any to celebrate Woods' 12-month run.
Tiger has now held the No. 1 ranking for 12 straight weeks. For those who like circling dates on the calendar early, Woods needs 253 more consecutive weeks on top to break his own record. That would bring him to just after the 2010 British Open at one of his favorite venues, St. Andrews. It could be quite a celebration.
Like Jerry Maguire (or, if you prefer, Ari Gold in a recent episode of Entourage), perhaps Woods was giving the "Who's coming with me?" speech to his fellow elite players entering the Deutsche Bank. It didn't work. Unlike the previous two seasons, when plenty of the tour's best brought their games to Boston, Tiger was the only top-10 player to make the start (Singh withdrew early in the week due to a back injury). Only in its third year, the Deutsche Bank surely won't meet the same fate as its New England predecessor, the CVS Charity Classic as long as Woods' name is associated with the event, but it needs to draw bigger names if it is to be considered among the top-tier non-major tournaments on tour. For an event that seemingly had everyone at "Hello!" two years ago, it took a pretty big step backwards this time around.
One top player conspicuous in his absence this week was Adam Scott. The seventh-ranked player in the world, Scott recorded a victory in the inaugural Deutsche Bank event two years ago and placed second last season, but eschewed this year's version in favor of some R & R. "My head hasn't been in the game ... and there's really no point playing when you're in that frame of mind," Scott reported on his Web site (www.adamscott.com) this week. "I need to get away." So what did he do? The young Aussie spent the first of three weeks watching his hometown soccer club, the Adelaide Crows, as an honorary member. Scott plans to interrupt the vacation by competing in this week's Singapore Open before taking two more weeks off entering the Presidents Cup.
Not only does the International side contain some of the most underrated players in the world, but many will be well-prepared entering the Presidents Cup later this month. Six of the 12 team members -- Retief Goosen, Trevor Immelman, Mark Hensby, Tim Clark, Michael Campbell and Angel Cabrera -- will compete in the HSBC World Match Play Championship in Wentworth, England, the week before the team event. In a format which most professionals see only once or twice a year, this should serve as solid practice for the match-play format they'll see against the U.S. For the record, no Americans will compete in the HSBC; at least five (Woods, Phil Mickelson, Chris DiMarco; Fred Couples and Davis Love III) received invitations.
Gary Player's choice to name Immelman as a captain's pick for the Presidents Cup has apparently been met with overwhelming criticism from players both on and off the International squad. According to sources, many team members were fine with the selection of Peter Lonard as one captain's pick (he was the next player on the points list), but lobbied for Chrysler Classic champion Geoff Ogilvy to be named to the roster over Immelman. Even non-team members like Nick Price, Robert Allenby, Craig Parry and Steve Elkington -- all of whom reportedly turned down offers to be assistant captain -- were upset with the pick. There is speculation that Player named his fellow South African just so Immelman could receive the two-year PGA Tour exemption that comes with being part of the squad -- a claim the captain vehemently denies. This isn't to say that Immelman is not an accomplished player. He owns four career European Tour wins, has back-to-back victories at the two-man World Cup (with countryman Rory Sabbatini) and finished T-5 at Augusta National earlier this year.
Entering the Deutsche Bank Championship, Olin Browne's year-to-date results page was as generic as possible. Browne had made the cut in 13 of 20 events, finishing in the top 25 seven times, but never higher than T-15. Steady, consistent play like Browne's doesn't do much for a wallet, either; with $475,350, he ranked 119th on the money list entering the week -- on the verge of losing his full-time status once again. Instead, he'll be living comfortably on tour through the 2007 season after his third career win. The victory was a surprise for another reason, too. At 7,415 yards, the TPC of Boston is supposed to be a bomber's paradise -- certainly wins in the first two seasons by Scott and Singh have done nothing to diminish this claim -- but Browne ranks 177th in driving distance on tour. The difference then? Browne hit a lot of greens (T-4 in greens in regulation) and made a lot of putts (T-4 in putts per round) during the week.
Lost amid the final-pairing travails of Retief Goosen and Jason Gore at the U.S. Open (Goosen shot 81; Gore shot 84) was Browne's equally abhorrent round in the penultimate pairing. Down three to Goosen and tied with Gore entering Sunday, Browne shot a 10-over 80 to finish in a share of 23rd place. Interestingly enough, less than three months later, each has made amends -- Goosen won The International, Gore won three times on the Nationwide Tour to earn a promotion to the PGA Tour and Browne completed the trifecta with his win in Boston.
It would have been sweet irony had third-round co-leader Billy Andrade been able to pull out the victory on Monday. One week after his buddy and fellow Rhode Island native Brad Faxon won the Buick Championship -- the first event of the two-tournament New England swing on the PGA Tour -- Andrade was undone by going 5 over in his final six holes on the front side, finishing with a 75 that left him in a share of 15th place. To understand the would-be irony, you need to know the story of the CVS Charity Classic. Once a staple of the PGA Tour, the event was pulled from the schedule a few years back. So Andrade and Faxon took it upon themselves to continue the event, making it an unofficial two-day team tournament that benefits the New England region and raises a boatload of money for charity. Faxon earned his reward for such selfless work last week in Hartford; perhaps Andrade will be the next New England native to win a New England-based event on tour.
Things may finally be starting to turn around for David Duval ... or he just happens to like the TPC of Boston set up at the Deutsche Bank. One year after earning a T-13 at the event -- his best finish of the '04 season -- Duval carded rounds of 72-74 to miss the cut by five strokes. That might not sound like a big deal for most players, but considering Duval is 0-for-the-season in reaching the weekend, it's a major step forward. Just the fact that the 13-time tour winner made seven birdies is a minor miracle, considering his two-day statistics. Duval was simply dreadful off the tee, reaching the fairway only 21.4 percent of the time, resulting in a 50 percent greens in regulation rate.
Lee Westwood's plan to emigrate to the PGA Tour in search of greater recognition and riches this year, has been littered by mediocrity. The Englishman has made the cut in 11 of 13 starts, but has no finish better than 17th and was mired in 124th place on the money list entering the Deutsche Bank. Unlike many on the top-125 bubble, however, Westwood needn't worry about keeping his card; his inclusion on last year's European Ryder Cup team came with a two-year exemption on tour.
If you haven't watched the Solheim Cup before, well, get ready to hop on the bandwagon. The ladies' version of the Ryder Cup has all the excitement and competitiveness as its mens' counterpart and possibly more storylines. In 2000, Annika Sorenstam holed a crucial chip, only to have American Pat Bradley cite her for hitting out of turn. Two years ago, the Europeans won on their own turf, prompting a Brookline-like celebration from thousands of fans, who stormed the course with five matches still to be decided. As for this year, check the rosters and you'll see why the Americans are favored; they'll combine a nice blend of veterans (Beth Daniel, Rosie Jones, Juli Inkster) and rookies (Paula Creamer, Christina Kim, Natalie Gulbis) at Crooked Stick this week. The Europeans, meanwhile, are led by the world's top-ranked player in Sorenstam and plenty of no-names (Ludivine Kreutz, Gwladys Nocera, Iben Tinning). That doesn't mean it won't be a close match. Expect the Solheim Cup to come down to the wire on Sunday, with emotions running high and one of those U.S. vets -- let's go with Inkster -- making a crucial putt for the win.
Need one more reason to follow the Solheim Cup this week? How about this: According to the Associated Press, the U.S. team members left the State Farm Classic together after Sunday's final round and boarded a bus for Indiana. A bus?! Maybe it's just us, but we can't imagine Tiger, Phil and the boys taking to the highway in a bus.
What's happened to Craig Stadler? Last year's Champions Tour money leader is currently 10th on that list. And the wins aren't coming as easy anymore, either. After a three-win rookie campaign in '03 -- during which he was playing on the PGA Tour as well -- and his five-win season a year ago, Stadler has failed to claim a victory in '05. His best chances have come recently, with second-place finishes at this past week's First Tee Open and last month's 3M Championship, but it's still a disappointing season for a man who had made winning a regularity over the past two seasons.
Peter Tomasulo was born and raised in Long Beach, Calif., but we have a feeling he's pretty fond of Canada, too. After winning the Montreal Open on the Canadian Tour earlier this year -- part of a five-event run in which he finished in the top five each time -- Tomasulo claimed this week's Alberta Classic on the Nationwide Tour. Still a month shy of his 24th birthday, Tomasulo was one of the nation's best players during his college years as a California Golden Bear. Perhaps overshadowed by stars like Ryan Moore and Bill Haas during that time, he's now achieved greater early professional success than either.
Speaking of Haas, one of the bigger stories on the Nationwide Tour entering this season was whether he would earn his PGA Tour card and join dad Jay in the big leagues next season. With eight events left on the schedule, it remains a story worth watching. Haas entered this past week 19th on the Nationwide money list -- the top 20 earn automatic promotions for next year -- but ended the week in 21st place after skipping the Alberta Classic. How close is Haas to claiming his card. Right now he stands a mere $53 behind Charley Hoffman for the 20th spot on the list. If Haas falls short, he can point to the first half of the season -- when he skipped six Nationwide events in favor of playing as a sponsor's exemption on the PGA Tour, hoping to earn his card by making enough money in those tournaments -- as to where he lost plenty of cash.
Woods may be the biggest winner to come out of the tony Isleworth community in Windermere, Fla., this year, but he's hardly the most surprising. That honor goes to Nationwide player Andrew Johnson, who earned his first career victory at last week's inaugural Cleveland Open. How shocking was Johnson's breakthrough? Entering the week, he had made the cut in just six events this season and ranked 150th on the money list. Here's how much the win helped Johnson's bank account: He earned $81,000 in Cleveland; in 15 previous starts, he cashed only $14,089.
How unpredictable is the Nationwide Tour? Of the 23 victories so far this season, seven have come from players who have full biographies in the tour's official 2005 media guide, while 12 have been won by those in the "Other Prominent Players" section and four from players not even listed (Steven Bowditch, Eric Axley, Greg Kraft and Peter Tomasulo). By comparison, only four PGA Tour winners have come from that tour's "Others" section (Sean O'Hair, Jason Bohn, Campbell and Browne) and not one hasn't been listed at all.
"I think he did most of the work, but it's nice to be mentioned in that company."
-- Matt Kuchar, talking about the four combined U.S. Amateur titles between him and Sunday playing partner Woods, who won the Amateur three times.
Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com
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