Tiger Woods will go into the U.S. PGA Championship this week still ranked as the No. 1 golfer after Phil Mickelson failed to capitalize on his rival’s worst performance in a tournament as a professional.
Mickelson would have ended Woods’s 269-week stay atop the Official World Golf Ranking by finishing fourth or better at the Bridgestone Invitational yesterday, after Woods tied for 78th place. Mickelson could only muster a tie for 46th place, so will remain as the world No. 2.
Mickelson is the 10-1 favorite to win a second PGA Championship and fifth major title at the Las Vegas Hilton’s Race & Sports Book, with Woods second favorite at 12-1. Mickelson said after his closing round 78 at the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, yesterday that it’s only a matter of time before he tops the rankings for the first time.
“It’ll eventually happen,” he told CBS in a televised interview. “I have to play better golf, though.”
Woods hasn’t won one of the four major titles since the 2008 U.S. Open. If he fails to win a fifth PGA Championship this week both he and Jack Nicklaus will have accumulated 14 major wins by the age of 35. Woods once held a three-year advantage in his effort to eclipse Nicklaus’s record haul of 18 major wins.
Woods ended the Bridgestone Invitational, played over a course where he’s won seven titles, at 18-over par 298, his worst score on the U.S. PGA Tour as an amateur or professional.
By finishing second-last among the players who completed four rounds, Woods recorded his worst result since he was 60th at the Greater Milwaukee Open in 1996, his first tournament as a professional. Only Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, at 20-over, finished behind Woods at the Bridgestone.
“Shooting 18-over par is not fun,” Woods told reporters. “I need to hit the ball better, I need to chip better, I need to putt better and I need to score better.”
A final round 77 included two double bogeys, six bogeys and three birdies. Coming after scores of 74, 72 and 75, it’s the first time Woods has posted four rounds above par in a tournament since the 2003 PGA Championship. In 11 previous events at Firestone, he’d had never finished worse than fourth.
Mickelson also said he had to improve for the PGA Championship, which begins Aug. 12 at Whistling Straits Golf Club in Kohler, Wisconsin. His final round 78 at Firestone included seven bogeys and a double bogey.
“I’ve got some work to do these next three days,” the 2005 PGA champion said. “I have to get in a better rhythm.”
Hunter Mahan won the Bridgestone by two shots from runner- up Ryan Palmer. Mahan finished at 12-under par after a final round 64. It was the third PGA Tour victory for the 28-year-old Mahan and his second this year.
The last of Woods’s 71 PGA Tour wins came at the BMW Championship on Sept. 12, 2009. Since then he’s played nine events on the world’s richest golf circuit without a victory. He last finished first anywhere at the Australian Masters in November, two weeks before a car crash outside his Florida home led to an admission of marital infidelity and an almost five- month self-imposed hiatus from tournament play.
“It’s been a long year,” said Woods, who has been No. 1 a record 611 weeks during his career.
At last year’s PGA Championship, Woods for the first time yielded a 54-hole lead at a major, when he finished runner-up to Y.E. Yang of South Korea.
“I need to be ready by Thursday,” Woods said. “I definitely don’t want to start 18 over next week.”