The hardest step to climb is the last one
Tiger Woods knows that getting back to No. 1 in the world will take some time
Published on Friday, Nov. 02, 2012 10:24AM EDT Last updated on Friday, Nov. 02, 2012 12:18PM EDT
On the two-year anniversary of losing his No. 1 ranking, Tiger Woods said on Thursday that winning was the best way for him to get back to the top.
And that could take some time.
Four players have been No. 1 over the last two years. The current top ranking belongs to Rory McIlroy, who has widened his lead by winning the PGA Championship and consecutive tournaments during the FedEx Cup playoffs.
“Rory is playing a lot of events, and so am I, toward the beginning of the year,” Woods said during a stop in Singapore, where he staged a youth clinic on putting. “It's about winning golf tournaments. That's how I got to No. 1, that's how Rory got to No. 1. You've got to win golf tournaments, and when you don't, you've got to be consistent and finish high. I'm looking forward to that.”
Woods won three times this year on the PGA tour, though it took time for his trademark consistency to develop. He did not have back-to-back finishes in the top 10 until the British Open (tie for third) and the Bridgestone Invitational (tie for eighth). He hasn't finished out of the top 10 since The Barclays in August, a streak of four tournaments. Woods ends his 2012 season at his World Challenge in California in the last week of November.
“Last year I was 127th on the money list, this year I was second. So I think that's a pretty good improvement in a year. And given that I'm healthy, I'm really looking forward to next year.”
Of all the legitimate rivals for Woods over the years, McIlroy is the first player who is younger — by more than 13 years. Woods said it would take time to determine whether the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland is the best he has ever faced.
“Trust me, I've played against a lot of guys over the years that have been really good,” he said, mentioning Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Padraig Harrington. “All these guys have won two to four major championships during the time that I've been on tour. And Rory has, too, but he's still young. He's only 23 years old. Let him grow, let him develop over the next decade. He's still learning how to play the game. He's only going to get better with age.”
DRESS FOR SUCCESS: Chinese phenom Guan Tian-lang turned 14 just last week but already plays like a tour pro. With his balanced swing and short game wizardry, he's leading the prestigious Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Thailand by five shots after two rounds. If he wins, he gets an invitation to the 2013 Masters and would be the youngest to play in the major championship.
Guan also looks like a tour pro, thanks to a Canadian company. His bold and co-ordinated outfits are made by Mississauga-based Sligo Wear Inc.
In the second round at Amata Spring Country Club on Friday, Guan sported Sligo's Adesso polo shirt in "sunburst" yellow, and indigo plaid pants. Both are from Sligo's 2012 fall collection.
Guan's game was just as bright -- nine birdies en route to an eight-under-par 64 and a five-shot cushion over Prin Sirisommai of Thailand and Oliver Goss of Australia.
Sligo co-founder Shawn Aucoin says the company's distributor in China has outfitted Guan for the past couple of years. Over that time, Guan has won a world junior championship and became the youngest to compete (at 13) in a European Tour event (the Volvo China Open last April).
"We also have on staff the two top-ranked Chinese professional golfers, Wu Ashun and Liang Wen-chong, who are competing in the WGC [HSBC Champions, a World Golf Championships event] this week," Aucoin said by e-mail Friday morning. "Not bad for a little company out of Mississauga."
The eight-year-old company, founded by four friends who were frustrated by golf's traditionally boring and boxy fashions, also sponsors Canadian Graham DeLaet, American Brian Gay and Russell Knox of Scotland on the PGA Tour. DeLaet, Canada's highest-ranked male golfer, signed on this year.
The Asia-Pacific Amateur was created in 2009 and is backed by the Masters, as well as the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation and the R&A. Its purpose is to build the game in Asia and area.
An invitation to the Masters is extended to the winner. Both the winner and runners-up also get a direct pass into the final stage of qualifying for the Open Championship.
This year's edition wraps up Sunday.
"Everyone here wants to win and go to Augusta," Guan, who lives in Guangzhou and spends his summer training in California, told reporters at Amata, near Bangkok. "That would be amazing, but for now I need to focus on my game this weekend."
Spoken like a pro. (Brooke)
TALE OF CAUTION: There’s been a lot of talk regarding Rory McIlroy’s impending move to Nike since the world number one confirmed he would not be renewing his equipment and endorsement deal with Titleist and Footjoy.
Nick Faldo was quick to caution the Irishman may be headed down a dangerous path. Speaking on Golf Channel’s Morning Drive show, Faldo said McIlroy should think long and hard before making an equipment change, especially at this point in his career.
“I’ve changed clubs and changed equipment, and every manufacturer will say, ‘We can copy your clubs; we can tweak the golf ball so it fits you.’ But there’s feel and sound as well, and there’s confidence. You can’t put a real value on that. It’s priceless.”
Tiger Woods made a similar switch from Titleist to Nike but Woods spent five years switching out his equipment and needed an additional five years before leaving his old Scotty Cameron putter for a Nike one.
When Nike signed former No. 1 world ranked David Duval to an $8-million endorsement deal in 2001, the company proudly predicted he would go on to “win a lot of tournaments”. He won exactly one tournament before two parted ways in 2010.
Much more recently, McIlroy need only look at what happened to Jim Furyk and fellow Irishman Graeme McDowell.
Two years ago, Furyk won three times and captured the FedExCup trophy. A little more than a year later, he flirted with falling out of the top 50 in the world.
Part of Furyk’s struggles? Tinkering too much with his TaylorMade equipment.
“You have to be very, very careful,” Furyk said. “You easily could go off and do this and it messes you up because it just doesn’t quite feel the same. When you’re striping it, it’s fine. But as soon as doubt comes in¿
“It was a product of maybe trying to get a little bit longer, maybe trying to find new ways to improve and maybe then hurting my strengths. Trying to make my weaknesses better but in doing so, hurting your strengths, which is rule No. 1. You don’t do that.”
McDowell went from Callaway to Srixon after a career year which included winning the U.S. Open and sinking the winning putt at the 2010 Ryder Cup. While he did get to keep his Cleveland irons in the bag, the switch didn’t immediately pan out for McDowell who did not win in 2011 but did manage to post one more top-10 result than the previous year while playing six more PGA events.
Francesco Molinari, a Nike Tour professional, thinks it would be a good match if the move happens.
“I think Nike has got the equipment and the potential to make the switch as easy as possible for Rory, and I think Rory’s brand and Nike’s brand match well together,” he said while playing at the WGC event in China. ”He obviously will need a little bit of time to get everything right but I think the Nike products at the moment are really good so I don’t think he will have any issue with that. They’ve been investing a lot in research and development of the clubs and the balls. They have a good driver, the irons are good, wedges are good, it’s a good ball, the putters have improved a lot over the years.”
Faldo added that if McIlroy and his handlers are keen to cash in on his rising star, they should consider another branding option that won’t affect the equipment he currently plays.
“I’d love someone like him, in his position, to sell the bag. That bag is worth a fortune; it’d be on TV all the time. Stick with the clubs that you know best, that you believe the best. It’s really important. It’s the feel and confidence of knowing that your equipment will perform how you want it to perform on Sunday afternoon. You can’t mess with that at such a young age.”
BACK TO SCHOOL: Canada’s newest PGA Tour member, Brad Fritsch, is considering playing in the final stage of PGA Q-School later this month. The Ottawa-area golfer earned one of 25 PGA Tour cards following last week’s Web.com Tour Championship and while he doesn’t need Q-School this time around, Fritsch told the Team 1200 in Ottawa he may take part to try and improve upon his priority ranking which determines how many events he will get into during the early part of the schedule.
Fritsch finished 18th on the Tour’s money list and no matter what he does at Q-School, he can’t downgrade his standing - he can only improve it. Fritsch added that he has to be in California for rookie orientation following the event so why not take an extra week and play in the final qualifier, which would also be his only tournament action between now and when he makes his PGA Tour debut in January.
Fritsch, who will be honoured by members of his home course Rideau View Country Club in Ottawa this weekend, also spoke about what it was like to see himself on the front page of the newspaper following his graduation to the PGA Tour last wekeend.
“I didn't expect there to be this much attention. I think some of it has to do with the lack of hockey being played. The first player from Ottawa to get on the PGA Tour, obviously that's a pretty big deal. I'm proud of that and I'm proud of all the work I put in before this moment.”
ADDICTED TO GOLF: The first step on the road to any recovery is admitting your have a problem. For Darren Clarke, the issue is a bit more complicated because the problem is also his livlihood.
In his recently released autobiography titled “An Open Book”, Clarke says he detests the game of golf at times but finds it hard to give up because "it’s like a drug to me”.
"I've seriously thought about packing it in on several occasions but those feelings have not lasted because I love the game so much. I absolutely detest it at times too. I really do, and I sometimes wonder about the futility of it all, but I just can't give it up. It's like a drug to me. The challenge keeps me going."
In the prologue, Clarke talks about the morning after winning the Open Championship and the panic that ensued after realizing he could not find the Claret Jug.
“By now I could accurately claim to be tipsy - but I have never sobered up so quickly in all my life. I went into a blind panic. I couldn’t see the trophy. Where’s the Claret Jug? What on earth have I done with it? For heaven’s sake, where is it? Oh hell, I’ve lost it. I’m supposed to have it for a year, not just a few hours.”
He then goes on to explain that after conferring with his wife, Alison, they concluded that it must be somewhere in the garden where it was “trying to enjoy a bit of peace and quiet after being passed through a thousand hands and as many photographs”.
He also speaks of the many congratulatory messages he received upon winning his first ever major. “Many major championship winners had sent ‘Welcome to the club’. It was at that point that I fully appreciated that there’s winning tournaments, there’s winning big tournaments...and then there’s winning majors. That’s a bit different.”
Clarke also talks about the loss of his first wife, Heather, to cancer and the task of telling his two sons that their mother was no longer going to be around.
"(The doctors) stressed the importance of me telling them that they were never going to see her again. There was no softly-softly approach, they said. I basically had to get the two of them beside me and tell them exactly what was going to happen.“
"I would not wish that on my worst enemy. It was as horrible and difficult as it gets . . . I sat Tyrone, who was eight, to my right and Conor, who was five, to my left. I told them exactly what I had been advised. They both broke down screaming. It was the worst thing I have ever had to do, but I had to do it. This time they grasped that she was not coming home."
The book includes a forward by fellow player Lee Westwood, who says Clarke is a cross between Ben Hogan and Hulk Hogan, “You never know which one is going to turn up on any given day”.
“I’m going to tell you something: If (McIlroy) doesn’t come and play Bay Hill, he might have a broken arm and he won’t have to worry about where he’s going to play next." -- Arnold Palmer on whether Rory McIlroy plays his tournament for the first time ever now that the Masters have moved a week later in 2013.
Files from the Associated Press and AFP were used in this report. Jeff Brooke also contributed to this report.