DORAL, Fla. (AP) — For the first time in his career, Sergio Garcia has a mathematical chance to be No. 1 in the world.
Tiger Woods has been atop the world ranking for the past 144 weeks – dating to June 12, 2005 – and his 21.542 points were more than twice his nearest challenger after winning the U.S. Open in June.
But he missed the next eight months following knee surgery, and while Garcia has only won twice since then, the Spaniard has been runner-up four times, including two FedEx Cup playoff events and the PGA Championship.
Garcia, who was 16.278 points behind Woods after the U.S. Open, trails him by a mere 1.59 points. To become No. 1 in the world, Garcia would have to win the CA Championship and have Woods finish 27th or worse.
“It would be nice to accomplish something like that, and more than anything, when is around, which is even tougher,” Garcia said Tuesday. “But you can’t say more than that on it.”
The odds of that happening are not in his favor.
Garcia is capable of winning anywhere, but Woods has never finished out of the top 10 in his six previous trips to Doral. Woods has only 22 tournaments on his two-year ledger for the world ranking, meaning his minimum divisor of 40 (number of tournaments played) will stay the same the rest of the year.
Phil Mickelson is No. 3 in the world, trailing Garcia by .44 points. Neither of them has ever been No. 1 in the world.
Garcia says the notion of becoming the first European in 15 years atop the world ranking has not been on his mind that much. He has played six times this year, but his progress was slowed by a first-round loss in the Accenture Match Play Championship.
“Obviously, it is a little bit because you have a chance,” Garcia said. “If you don’t have a chance, then there’s no way of thinking about it. But you do have a chance.”
The last European at No. 1 was Nick Faldo in January 1994.
BETHPAGE TICKETS: More fans might have a chance to see the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black this year.
USGA executive director David Fay said officials are meeting this week to decide whether to sell daily tickets for the three practice rounds, which would be a break from recent tradition.
And with some corporate sponsors cutting back on hospitality because of the economy, that could mean more tickets are available.
“We’re adding to the number of our ticket flow,” Fay said. “We’ve had some tent buyers scale down. We’re feeling it a bit. But instead of gnashing our teeth, we realize the opportunities there. We’re seriously considering selling daily tickets for the practice round. We recognize that a lot of people – good times or not – would like to go to the U.S. Open.”
Bethpage Black is part of a massive state park that has ample room for viewing, and Fay said the allotment of tickets would go well past 40,000, but not quite 50,000. He said the operations crew has studied the configuration and do not believe additional fans will hurt the viewing experience.
A decision on practice round tickets could come this week.
TIGER AGAINST THE WORLD: Tiger Woods won the Accenture Match Play Championship last year to become the first player to hold all three World Golf Championships at the same time.
Unless he wins the CA Championship this week, it will be the first time he has gone four WGC events without winning.
Geoff Ogilvy won at Doral last year, Vijay Singh won the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone with Woods recovering from knee surgery, and Ogilvy won the Match Play two weeks ago in Woods’ return to competition.
KIM’S NEW DEAL: Anthony Kim has a new logo on his golf bag and joined some exclusive company in the Nike stable.
Kim announced an endorsement contract Tuesday with the Royal Bank of Canada in which he will have the RBC logo on his golf bag. This comes about six weeks after Kim and Nike Golf agreed in principle on an equipment and apparel deal.
What makes this unique is that Nike typically prefers a clean look with its clients from head-to-toe – the swoosh on the cap, shirt, shoes and the golf bag. The only exceptions are Tiger Woods (AT&T on the bag) and Michelle Wie (Sony on the bag).
Kim tied for eighth in the RBC Canadian Open last year, where the relationship took root.
Jim Little, the chief brand and communications officer for RBC, described Kim as a “highly recognizable, world-class professional athlete who can help us grow our brand in the U.S.”
Kim presented Little with a large belt buckle at a press conference at Doral.
GOLFWEEK FOUNDER: Charley Stine, who founded Golfweek magazine and produced the first issues from his garage, died March 3 after a brief illness. He was 81.
Stine started Florida Golfweek in 1975, spending his weekends traveling to tournaments. Surprised to see so little coverage of golf in daily newspapers in golf-mad Florida, he created a tabloid-sized weekly to cover the events and publish the scores. He later enlisted sports writers from across Florida to write for the magazine.
He dropped “Florida” from the name in 1983, and the magazine went national in 1986. Stine sold the publication to Rance Crain of Turnstile Publishing Co. in 1990.
DIVOTS: Honda Classic winner Y.E. Yang still struggles with English, but his wife, Young Ju Park, might be able to help him get around in Miami this week. Her parents emigrated to Paraguay when she was young, and she moved back to South Korea after high school. … The USGA is giving its members a head start on buying tickets for the U.S. Open next year at Pebble Beach. They can enter a random drawing through April 15 for weekly tickets that range from $425 to $1,150. … The volatile FedEx Cup points system last year enabled Bubba Watson and Ken Duke to reach the Tour Championship. That made both of them eligible for their first World Golf Championship this week.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Stuart Appleby is the only player to compete in all 30 of the World Golf Championships. He has finished in the top 10 only six times.
FINAL WORD: “It’s not an easy game to pick up quickly. Just look at Charles Barkley.” – USGA executive director David Fay on the difficulty of golf.