Sport Golf

Monday 18 December 2017

Tiger stays calm amid threat to No 1 status

Mark Garrod

Tiger Woods appeared unconcerned by the threat to his status that could see him deposed as world No 1 by either Lee Westwood or Phil Mickelson at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, which starts in Akron today.

Mickelson could reach the No 1 spot for the first time with a top-four finish, providing Woods is outside the top 37, but if he wins the tournament there is nothing Tiger can do to prevent the end of his five-year reign.

Westwood -- who is drawn to play alongside Woods in the opening two rounds -- was runner-up in the Masters and British Open this season and must finish first or second to have a chance of overtaking the two Americans.

As he searches for his first win since returning to the game in April following time out to address his personal life, the 34-year-old Woods faces a real threat.

However, he refused to focus too much on the possibility of being dethroned, saying: "Am I conscious of the pack closing in? Yes, because every tournament you guys remind me. You just play -- how I got here was playing golf tournaments and winning golf tournaments."

Woods last won a title at the BMW Championship in September 2009, two months before his life was transformed following revelations about his extra-marital affairs. He feels, though, that things are slowly coming together as he looks to claim his fifth consecutive Firestone title.

"I've been through stretches when I haven't won and it's a matter of putting the pieces together and being patient, it's not something that happens overnight," Woods added. "I've started to put it together and I am excited."

Woods is not surprised by the impressive form shown by Westwood.

"I've always enjoyed playing with Westy, he's a great guy. We've been going at it for a long time. I always knew he had that talent and level of play, now he is showing it," he added.

"Almost every big event we always seem to get paired together. We're going to have a good time."

Woods, who also confirmed he will be playing at the HSBC Champions event in Shanghai, has dropped out of the automatic qualifying positions for the Ryder Cup in October, but hopes to cement his spot this week.

He readily admits he is struggling with his putting, something he attributes to speed.


"It has been off all year. I've three-putted quite a few times, which I don't do normally, so I've had to go back to basics and practise a bit more. I haven't worked on it as much as I should have the last couple of years."

While Woods has not practised to the same extent as before his break from the game, he believes things are settling down for him.

"It's been more difficult this year with all the attention and questions. I've had to alter a few things; they are normalising and this is a good sign. It's been a long 10 months."

Westwood and Woods tee off at 1.50pm local time (6.50pm) just ahead of Padraig Harrington and US Open champion Graeme McDowell, who were also partners in the opening two days of the Irish Open last week.

WGC-Bridgestone Invitational,

Live, Sky Sports 1, 7.0

Irish Independent

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