November 4 — Golf watchers and everybody else with a Twitter account or FaceBook page have blamed Tiger Woods for living a lie, besmirching the game of golf with his serial philandering and club-tossing, not being a Christian — really, for everything short of world hunger and starting the Iraq war.
Too damn good. Lee Westwood, who surpassed Woods last week as the world’s top-ranked golfer, may be the first of Tiger’s peers to blame the current No. 2 player for being too damn brilliant for his own good.
After finishing the first round of this week’s HSBC Champions event in China just one shot back of Francesco Molinari’s 7-under lead, Westwood mused about the volatility among golf’s top four players — himself, Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Martin Kaymer.
Competition for No. 1. “I think the world rankings are reflective of how competitive world golf is at the moment. Nobody is out-and-out world number one,” Westwood told reporters in Shanghai after firing a 6-under 66.
With any one of the top four able to grab the top spot with a win this week, Westwood noted that the contest for top billing was testament to the high bar Woods set as No. 1 for 281 straight weeks. While Woods’ less-than-stellar play in 2010 certainly factored into his vulnerability, his usual other-worldly play forced other golfers to step up their games, according to Westwood.
The competiton for the top position has “partly to do with Tiger not having played quite so well this year and partly to do with Tiger having made everybody else elevate their game,” the 37-year-old Englishman said.
Undone by own brilliance. “Tiger’s a victim almost of his own brilliance. We have all had to work harder and we have closed the gap, I guess.”
Westwood, who’s still dealing with a balky calf, said he was under no pressure to prove he’s golf’s best.
“I don’t think I need to reinforce why I’m world number one. I didn’t really go out there [today] with any particular thought to perform like the world number one,” he said. “I think you get there as a result of good performances but it’s nice to show everybody there is a particular reason why I got to this stage. I think I did that today.”
With a bogey-5 at the seventh hole his only flaw amid seven birdies, he certainly played like the best in the game — other than Molinari, of course, who had seven birdies and no blemishes on his card.
Flashes of old Tiger. Woods, for his part, showed flashes of the Tiger of yore, with shots like his second at the par-4 15th (his sixth hole of the day). Lying behind some tree sprigs, Woods started his approach shot left of the bunker and “cut it all the way around,” he said. “It came out great. I flushed it and…hit a good pitch.”
Or the “pretty sweet” 247-yard approach shot that he knocked onto the green at the par-5 second hole. “It was a high, drawing 5-wood that landed right on the number and rolled up there pin-high,” he said. “I missed the [eagle] putt but that was a sweet shot.”
If Woods can cobble together three more rounds like his Thursday outing, Westwood’s reign atop the golf world may be short-lived.
Good day. “I hit a lot of good golf shots,” Woods affirmed. “I felt like I was able to control my distance well coming into the greens, and also putted really well today. Had good speed.”
Woods, who credited his work with swing coach Sean Foley for his solid opening round that included a first-hole bogey and five birdies said his goal was the same as always — to win. That, he added, would take care of recapturing the No. 1 position.
“I got to number one in the world by winning golf tournaments and I’ve had that sustainability for a number of years by doing that,” he told reporters. “The whole idea is to win golf tournaments and this is no different. The reason why we tee it up is to win.”
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Remember the whole Cadillac Escalade-fire hydrant incident last Thanksgiving?To commemorate the first anniversary of Woods’ precipitous fall from grace, here come the Tiger Woods tell-all books.