Can Scott hold onto top spot?
Adam Scott and Inbee Park are the world’s best golfers and each of them hopes to remain top dog come Monday. To do so, the men’s newly crowned No. 1 will have to hold off Henrik Stenson and Matt Kuchar, while Stacy Lewis on the women’s side eagerly seeks to reclaim the first seed from the queen Inbee.
All five golfers are playing across the world this week, as is formerly top-ranked Rory McIlroy, who will take the field in England with a heavy heart after splitting up with fiancee Caroline Wozniacki, while recently deposed king of the rankings ladder, Tiger Woods, remains idle but, as always, an integral part of this week in golf.
First, Scott, who celebrated his ascension over Woods on Monday with a champagne toast among friends but quickly got back to the business at hand: playing well enough to ensure he’s not a one-week wonder.
"It really is an incredible achievement," Scott told reporters on Wednesday from Colonial, a day before he was to tee it up for the first time as the top golfer in the world. "You've just got to enjoy the moment ... It's something that you throw around when you're a kid and 12 years old that you'll be the best player in the world, and it's really quite incredible to have it happen."
Scott did not play last week as he officially overtook the injured Woods in the world golf rankings on Monday, but the way he knocked Tiger off the perch he had held for 60 consecutive weeks and 683 weeks throughout his career in no way doused his joy at attaining his childhood dream. Nor did the achievement tempt him to rest on his laurels even for a week.
"I'm going to have to work pretty hard to stay on top," the first Australian since Greg Norman in 1997 to claim such bragging rights said ahead of this week’s Crowne Plaza Invitational. "But part of coming here this week was to play as the No. 1 golfer in the world and enjoy it for at least a week, hopefully, and from there we'll see what happens."
Scott’s view from on high could be short-lived, with Kuchar and Stenson each poised to grab the brass ring for the first time. Third-ranked Stenson would surpass Scott if he were to finish better at the BMW PGA Championship in England than Scott does in Texas. Similarly, Kuchar, at No. 4, would rule supreme with a win at Colonial if Scott and Henson finish outside the top three in their respective events.
While a win for Stenson would nearly guarantee his ascension to the top ranking, the time change between England and Texas would require him to wait for the results from Ft. Worth.
The potential revolving door at the pinnacle gave all three opportunities to reflect on Woods’ dominion over the world of golf. As Ron Sirak noted, Scott would have to remain in his position until October 2019 to break Woods’ mark of most consecutive weeks as No. 1; should he stay on top for 13 years -- or until the 2027 British Open or thereabouts -- Scott would better Tiger’s incredible reign as king of the mountain.
Those who deride Woods for his inability to cadge that elusive 15th major may want to ruminate about the sheer awesomeness of such achievements. His would-be challengers certainly have.
"Honestly, from when I turned professional [in 2000], it seemed quite unrealistic to think about the No. 1 spot for a while," Scott said. "It's hard to look 10 or 12 years in the future from when you turn pro; you have no idea. But it certainly felt that way that it was somewhat unattainable throughout the early 2000s, that's for sure."
"I know it wasn't long ago that number one ranking was not attainable, and Tiger had such a long down on it just everybody else was so far behind," he said on Wednesday. "The second was the only place you could really try to get to. Now there are a number of us that are within distance and it's at least attainable by year end to be the best in the world, so it's pretty exciting."
Park’s not looking over her shoulder
A couple more weeks looking down at her colleagues would put Inbee Park into Tiger Woods territory. The women’s No. 1 has held her spot atop the rankings for 58 straight weeks, with second-ranked Lewis and Lydia Ko, No. 3, seeking to overthrow her.
"I don’t really think about that No. 1 spot," Park told reporters on Wednesday ahead of this week’s Airbus LPGA Classic in Mobile, Ala. "Everybody talks about being No. 1 and if you have a big lead, small lead or how many weeks are you going to hold, you could be No. 2 next week. I don’t think about that."
- Win. Period.
- Finish solo second, with Park finishing T4 with at least two other players
- Tie for second with one other player, with Park finishing no better than ninth
- Tie for second with two others, with Park finishing no higher than 17th
- Finish solo third, with Park at 26th or lower
One is the loneliest number for Rory
While sabermetricians mull the permutations for those racing for the No. 1 crown, one former top guy just hopes that getting out on the course can help him forget the ruins of his private life for a few hours.
A downcast McIlroy, who broke off his engagement before this week’s tilt at Wentworth, spoke briefly with reporters after his team issued a statement about the split and tried to get the talk back on his game.
"Look, I'm no different than anyone else," the Northern Irishman said. "Everyone has been through breakups, and it's obviously very, very difficult. But look, I'm here to try and concentrate on this week and answer questions about golf, and that's what I'm going to do."
Pardon the Interruption
The guys on ESPN’s PTI sent their condolences to McIlroy, noting that they were baffled by the public way in which the social-media generation led their private lives.
"This is the life now that people lead who are lot younger than us, who think that everything they do have to be on some form of social media, from Facebook, to Twitter, to whatever it is," Michael Wilbon told his co-host Tony Kornheiser on Wednsday, referring to McIlroy and Wozniacki’s regular tweets about their romance. "You have to put yourself out there and when you put yourself out there it can boomerang and hit you square in the face."
Kornheiser noted that McIlroy averred he would address his personal situation once and never talk about it again.
"Until it’s on Twitter later today," cracked Wilbon.
And, as if on cue, @carowozniacki took to Twitter a day after McIlroy’s announcement to thanks fans for their support and to tweak her ex about his rooting interests in Manchester United.
It's a hard time for me right now.Thanks for all the sweet messages!Happy I support Liverpool right now because I know I'll never walk alone— Caroline Wozniacki (@CaroWozniacki) May 22, 2014
As for the dejected man of the hour, McIlroy lost the No. 1 position to Woods a year ago March and flailed through a miserable 2013 season. He has been playing well of late but confirmed that it would be tough to keep his mind on golf.
"I just want to get my head into golf this week and concentrate on the tournament and try and do well," he said. "Been playing well. The form's been good. Just want to dive straight into it and keep myself somewhat busy and just try and have a good week on the course.
"I'm not going to lie. It's going to be very difficult," McIlroy added. "But you know, at least when I get inside the ropes, just try and concentrate on the shot at hand."
Even during the best of times, Wentworth has not been the favorite venue for the two-time major champion. He missed the cut in his last two outings in 2013 and 2012 but vowed to put the past in the rear-view mirror.
"I'm trying to go in this week with the mindset of not getting frustrated, just trying to play to my spots and not be frustrated that I might only get to hit driver two or three times a round and feel like my advantage of my length is taken away from me," he said. "I'm just going to try and accept that you've got to plot your way around this golf course and not be overly aggressive. Hopefully I can put in a performance that's a little better than it has been the last few years."
Tiger’s No. 1 as a dad
As for the erstwhile world No. 1, Woods said earlier this week that he still had no idea when he would return to competition, but his former wife Elin Nordegren had nothing but praise for her ex as a dad to their two kids, 6-year-old daughter Sam and son Charlie, 5.
"I have moved on and I am in a good place," Nordegren, in her first interview since divorcing Woods in 2010, told People. "My relationship with Tiger is centered around our children and we are doing really good -- we really are -- and I am so happy that is the case. He is a great father."
Nordegren, who graduated with a degree in psychology and a 3.96 GPA from Rollins College on May 10, took an indirect swipe at Woods in her commencement speech.
"When I entered my student advisor office in the fall of 2005, I was 25 years old, I had just recently moved to America, I was married without children. Today, nine years later, I'm a proud American, and I have two beautiful children," Nordegren said.
The audience laughed after she added, "But I'm no longer married."
Though not mentioning the name of the guy who serially cheated on her, Nordegren made light of the past.
"It was right after I had taken Communication and the Media [class], I was unexpectedly thrust into the media limelight," she said. "I probably should have taken more notes in that class."