Number One…Again

By Peter Aviles
Updated: March 7, 2005

MAPLEWOOD, NJ–And the winner…and again the undisputed number one ranked player in the world…Tiger Woods.

These are the words one can envision hearing at the conclusion of the Ford Championships as Tiger Woods bested Phil Mickelson by one stroke in what was the equivalent of a heavyweight championship boxing match. When the last blow was thrown, Tiger was the last man standing, thereby earning the victory and regaining the number one spot in the world rankings.

This final pairing lived up to the hype as Tiger and Phil battled one another going head to head, and shot for shot until Phil’s 68th shot of the day, a shot that ever so gently caressed the right edge of the 18th hole but failed to drop, and thereby ended Mickelson’s hopes for a third consecutive victory. However, the stage was set earlier, actually a day earlier when Tiger fired a remarkable 63 on Saturday, setting up the Sunday showdown by moving into the final pairing within two shots of Phil, who was atop the leaderboard. Phil was aware of what was at stake, especially after shooting a 66 of his own and was up for the test, openly speaking of wanting the challenge of going against the best. As the old adage goes, beware of what you wish for.

The two battled back and forth, cautiously and warily eyeing one another until the par 5 603 yard 12th hole when Tiger smoked a drive that by his demeanor you knew it was good. If there was any doubt, Tiger’s imitation of Michael Jordan’s tongue waggle said it all. This was a significant point in the tournament because Tiger went on to eagle the hole, taking a two shot lead. He punctuated the moment with a demonstrative fist pump. Phil continued to make inroads, cutting into the lead and eventually pulled even, tying Tiger at 24 under. When Tiger bogeyed the 16th hole, the door was left wide open for Phil. He had a chance to take the lead, but was unable to handle prosperity. When the spotlight was on, Phil wilted. He had a chance to go to the 17th hole up one stroke with two holes to play. Inexplicably, he missed a very short par putt to also bogey the hole. “I hit a good putt” he said to no one in particular, seemingly stunned by the turn of events. When Tiger birdied the 17th hole, all of the pressure switched to Phil. His attempt on the 18th hole to tie and force a playoff on was valiant, but alas, not to be. Tiger, living up to his name pounced on the opportunity as he has done to so many for so long, leaving only the carcass remains of another who lost the battle.

Meanwhile, Vijay who held the position of being the number one ranked player in the world since September, 26 weeks in all, played well and finished in a third place tie with a final round score of 66, five strokes behind Tiger. His putting betrayed time several times during the round. One can only speculate what might have been had he made a few putts.

Coming up is as good a stretch of tournaments with the Bay Hill Invitational on March 17, followed by the Players Championship the following week leading to the Masters on April 7th. Tiger is scheduled in compete in all three as are many of the top players in the world. This will make for compelling golf, and hopefully as good as we saw in the Ford Championships

So the southern swing of the PGA begins with Tiger reclaiming the number one position in golf. With nine of the top ten in the field (Ernie Els being the exception), the field was a strong as any tournament outside a major. Beating all of the contenders as he did could easily make them all pretenders as his recent play could serve as an ominous signal for those aspiring to dethrone the winner of the Ford Championship for once again, the name of the undisputed number one player in the world is …Tiger Woods.