Tiger chases 16th Ma­jor, top rank

Woods, John­son, Koepka, Rose and McIl­roy — all have a chance to top next week’s rank­ings

Hindustan Times (Patiala) - - Sport - Agen­cies sports­[email protected]­dus­tan­times.com n

Tiger Woods launched his quest for a 16th Ma­jor ti­tle, and a pos­si­ble re­turn to world No 1, with a PGA Cham­pi­onship prac­tice round in cold and rainy con­di­tions on Mon­day.

The 43-year-old Amer­i­can, who snapped an 11-year Ma­jor win drought by cap­tur­ing last month’s Masters, toured the front nine at Beth­page Black in just un­der two and a half hours ahead of Thurs­day’s start to the year’s sec­ond Ma­jor tour­na­ment. “I feel good,” Woods told Golfweek. “Got a cou­ple more days of work to get in and I’ll be ready to go.”

Woods hopes to pull within two of the all-time record 18 Ma­jors won by Jack Nick­laus and take a fifth PGA crown, which would match the ca­reer record hauls of Nick­laus and Wal­ter Ha­gen. “To tie Wal­ter Ha­gen and Jack Nick­laus with five wins would be a very spe­cial ac­com­plish­ment,” Woods said.

With a vic­tory, Woods would also match the all-time ca­reer US PGA wins record of 82 by Sam Snead. Woods, whose ca­reer had been jeop­ar­dised by years of nag­ging back pain be­fore 2017 spinal fu­sion surgery, won the 2002 US Open at Beth­page Black and shared sixth in the 2009 US Open, but those were in warmer midJune con­di­tions. This marks the first PGA Cham­pi­onship since 1948 to be played in May af­ter the event was shifted this year from its tra­di­tional Au­gust spot in golf’s lineup.

Woods prac­tised four times last week, in­clud­ing an 18-hole ses­sion at the Long Is­land pub­lic lay­out last Wednesday, two days af­ter ac­cept­ing the Pres­i­den­tial Medal of Free­dom in a White House cer­e­mony. The in-depth shot­mak­ing ses­sion at Beth­page was the first time Woods had seen the fa­cil­ity since the 2012 US PGA Bar­clays tour­na­ment.

Sixth-ranked Woods is among five play­ers with a chance to top next week’s rank­ings.

Top-ranked Dustin John­son, de­fend­ing cham­pion Brooks Koepka, Eng­land’s sec­on­dranked Justin Rose, four-time Ma­jor win­ner Rory McIl­roy of North­ern Ire­land and Woods all have a chance at the top spot.

John­son, Rose, third-ranked Koepka and fourth-rated McIl­roy could take No 1 with a tri­umph while Woods would need to win, have nei­ther Rose nor Koepka fin­ish sec­ond alone and have John­son fin­ish worse than solo 11th place.

TIGER OLD­EST NO 1?

Woods, who has not been world No 1 since March 2013, has spent a record 683 weeks atop the rank­ings. Should he re­turn to the top, Woods would be­come the old­est world No 1, over­tak­ing Aus­tralian leg­end Greg Nor­man for the dis­tinc­tion. Las Vegas West­gate Su­per­book odd­s­mak­ers have Woods as a 10-1 co-favourite with John­son and two-time US Open win­ner Koepka with four-time Ma­jor cham­pion Rory McIl­roy just be­hind at 12-1.

Woods jumped from 13th to sixth af­ter win­ning the Masters but hasn’t played since his Masters tri­umph. This marks only the sixth time in his ca­reer Woods has played two Ma­jors with­out at least one event be­tween them, the first time since the 2013 Bri­tish Open. Woods had fallen to 1,199th in the world rank­ings in De­cem­ber 2017 af­ter spinal fu­sion surgery as a last-ditch move to ease nag­ging back pain that made sim­ple move­ments dif­fi­cult.

From there, Woods con­tended at last year’s Bri­tish Open and PGA, won his first ti­tle in more than five years by tak­ing the 2018 Tour Cham­pi­onship. That set the stage for Woods to win his fifth Masters green jacket.

EYE ON OLYMPIC GOLD

Tiger Woods has col­lected plenty of Green Jack­ets and Claret Jugs dur­ing his dec­o­rated ca­reer, but there is one shiny thing miss­ing from his col­lec­tion—an Olympic gold medal. That is about the only big thing worth win­ning that Woods does not have, and some­thing he would like to take care of at next year’s Tokyo Games.

“Would I like to play in the Olympics? Yes,” Woods said. “I’m sure I won’t get many more op­por­tu­ni­ties go­ing for­ward at 43 years old to play in many Olympics. That would be a first for me and some­thing I would cer­tainly wel­come if I was part of the team.

“Get­ting there and mak­ing the team is go­ing to be the tough part,” he said.

WOODS SAD­DENED

Woods ex­pressed sad­ness for the death of a staffer at his Florida res­tau­rant whose par­ents have filed a law­suit against the golf star, his girl­friend and the busi­ness. The par­ents of Ni­cholas Immes­berger, who died in a drink driv­ing ac­ci­dent last De­cem­ber at age 24, filed the law­suit say­ing their son had been over­served al­co­hol at The Woods in Jupiter, Florida, celebrity web­site TMZ re­ported Mon­day. Immes­berger was a bar­tender at The Woods and knew the golf star per­son­ally, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

Woods ex­pressed his sor­row over Immes­berger’s death in re­sponse to a ques­tion about the law­suit. “We’re all very sad that Nick passed away,” Woods said. “It was a ter­ri­ble night, a ter­ri­ble ending. We feel bad for him and his en­tire fam­ily. It’s very sad.”

The res­tau­rant’s man­ager is Erica Her­man, who is Woods’s girl­friend and, ac­cord­ing to TMZ, re­cruited Immes­berger to the res­tau­rant.

AFP

Tiger Woods (C) and cad­die Joe LaCava dur­ing a prac­tice round prior to the PGA Cham­pi­onship at Beth­page Black on Mon­day.

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