Keeping top spot is cold comfort for Woods

(China Daily)
Updated: 2010-08-10 09:21
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Keeping top spot is cold comfort for Woods

Tiger Woods of the US hits from the 15th fairway during a practice round for the 92nd PGA Golf Championship at Whistling Straits, in Haven, Wisconsin, August 9, 2010. [Photo/Agencies]

Tiger stumbles to the worst 72-hole score of career at Firestone

Tiger Woods struggled to the worst 72-hole performance of his career on Sunday, finishing an astonishing 30 strokes behind winner Hunter Mahan at the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational.

Woods claimed he was not injured and hinted his final-round seven-over par 77 and joint-78th finish in the 80-man field at 18-over 298 was caused by his off-course woes in the wake of his sex scandal.

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"It has been a long year," Woods said.

After posting his most miserable effort in 14 years as a professional on a course where he has won seven times and was defending champion, Woods faces the Thursday start of 2010's last major, the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

"I've got to be ready come Thursday. That's all that matters," Woods said. "I need to hit the ball better, chip better, putt better and score better.

"I don't see how it can be fun shooting 18-over, especially since my handicap is supposed to be zero."

It was no consolation for Woods to retain his world No 1 ranking for at least one more week, his five-year reign surviving only because second-ranked US star Phil Mickelson shot a worse round than Woods did.

Reigning Masters champion Mickelson had to finish alone in fourth or better to surpass Woods, but Mickelson fired 78 to plunge all the way to equal 46th at the $8.5 million event.

"It's hard to be upbeat after a round like today," Mickelson said. "I felt sharp and ready to go attack the course and it just didn't happen. I've got a lot to work on the next three days."

Mahan, 28, has little work to do after a bogey-free, six-under 66 for his third PGA title, first WGC triumph and a $1.4 million top prize. He had never dreamed he could finish 30 strokes ahead of Woods at an event.

"I never, ever thought that would be possible," Mahan said. "It never crossed my mind. It's definitely different."

Mahan also sealed a berth on the US Ryder Cup team, vaulting from 10th to second in the standings with only one more week before the top eight players earn automatic berths on the team to take on Europe in Wales in October.

Woods fell to 10th in the standings, meaning he will not qualify for the US squad unless he performs well at the PGA Championship.

But Mahan wants to see Woods in Wales even if he is a captain's pick of Corey Pavin.

"People don't think he's a team kind of guy, but he's a good team member, he really is," Mahan said of Woods. "He will find his game. I have no doubt about that.

"You don't realize how much stuff outside golf affects golf. It really, really does. I think he needs the Ryder Cup right now."

Woods said he would not pick himself right now.

"I wouldn't help the team if I'm playing like this," Woods said. "I think I can turn it around, but we've got a lot of time between now and then, which is good."

Woods has not won a title since last November in Australia, just weeks before the start of a scandal that has seen him admit infidelity on wife Elin with multiple mistresses.

"He's just not the regular Tiger we're used to seeing," said American Anthony Kim. "He has obviously had a lot of stuff going on and he's dealing with that and that's obviously more important than golf."

One player who almost certainly won't be at the Ryder Cup is slumping Sergio Garcia.

The Spaniard revealed after finishing tied for 22nd that he would take a two-month break after the PGA Championship, effectively ending his chances of making the European team.

Garcia has been a key member of the past five European teams, posting an impressive record of 14 wins, six losses and four halves in his matches.

Mahan began three strokes off the pace but surged to the front by the turn after picking up five birdies on the front nine.

He made only one more birdie coming home, but that was enough to win on 12-under 268 with compatriot Ryan Palmer two strokes back in second.

"I got better each day," Mahan said. "To win any time on the PGA Tour is great but an event like this, 80 of the best players in the world, it's something special."

Agence France-Presse