MIAMI (AP)– Davis Love III was the first.
He was in a playoff against Tiger Woods when he failed to save par from a bunker and lost the 1996 Las Vegas Invitational.
Brett Wetterich was the latest.
He was faced with a four-shot deficit against the world’s No. 1 player in the CA Championship at Doral. He held his own, kept it interesting as long as he could, but wound up in second place and in the record books as a footnote.
Wetterich became the 50th player to be runner-up to Woods on the PGA Tour.
“Guess I had to become some kind of statistic,” he said.
At least he’s in good company.
The 50 victims include 21 major champions and 18 of the top 30 players in the world ranking, a list that goes from A (Stuart Appleby) to Z (Paul Azinger) when allowing for nicknames (Zinger).
The milestone even caught Woods by surprise, based on the fact he said nothing for a few seconds and even then had little to offer except for, “Where do you come up with that?”
Matt Gogel (Pebble Beach) is now retired. Frank Nobilo (Western Open) works for The Golf Channel. Esteban Toledo (Buick Open) is on the Nationwide Tour. The list includes four Ryder Cup captains – Tom Kite, Hal Sutton, Tom Lehman and Azinger.
“I wouldn’t have guessed that,” Woods said. “I would have thought some guys had been there more often than others.”
Woods’ victory at Doral was No. 56 in his PGA Tour career, and while 13 players have been runner-up multiple times, there have been 12 tournaments where at least two players tied for second. In two tournaments, there was a four-way tie for second.
That puts Brian Gay on the list.
“Who?” Woods said. “When did I beat him?”
That would be the 2002 Buick Open, along with Toledo, Fred Funk and Mark O’Meara, the only time on tour Woods’ best buddy from Isleworth finished second to him.
Considering the record Woods has compiled, it might be a badge of honor to be runner-up. Better yet is to never be on that list, something David Duval once mentioned. Duval and Woods were rivals once, trading the No. 1 ranking during the summer of ’99. At The Players Championship that next year, it was mentioned to Duval that he had never been runner-up to Woods.
“Nope. And I won’t be,” he said.
That didn’t last long.
He might have finished second at the British Open in the summer of 2000 at St. Andrews if he could have escaped the Road Hole bunker in fewer than four attempts. His luck ran out in 2001 at the Masters, when Duval missed putts inside 12 feet on the final two holes to finish two shots behind as Woods captured his fourth straight major.
Only three major champions from this decade have stayed off the list – Ben Curtis, Todd Hamilton and Geoff Ogilvy, although the latter had done it overseas.
“I was runner-up to him in the Johnnie Walker,” said Ogilvy, who finished three behind in Thailand seven years ago. “He’s had 50 guys on this tour? That’s pretty amazing. If anything, it shows how much he’s won, especially for a guy in his early 30s.”
Ogilvy contemplated this for a few more seconds.
“Who’s finished second the most?” he added. “That would be interesting.”
That would be Ernie Els and Vijay Singh, five apiece.
Els is generally known as Woods’ favorite whipping boy, probably because some of his runner-up finishes were dramatic and all of them came in such a short span of time.
Starting with the Disney Classic in 1999, Woods won nine of the 16 events on the PGA Tour, and Els was a runner-up in five of them. It’s hard to count the U.S. Open and British Open because the Big Easy was a combined 23 shots behind. It’s hard to forget Kapalua, where they matched eagles on No. 18 in regulation, birdies on No. 18 in the playoff, and Woods finally outlasted him with a 35-foot birdie putt that the locals still try to make, without much luck.
“He’s probably going to be bigger than Elvis when he gets into his 40s,” Els said that day.
Singh never had it that bad, and his Avis moments were spread out. Perhaps the most noteworthy came outside Atlanta in 2003 at the American Express Championship, when they were vying for the money title and there actually was a race for PGA Tour player of the year. Woods beat him by two shots that day.
“Here’s a better stat,” Ogilvy said. “Who’s won the most times with him in the field?”
No surprise there, either – Singh with 13 victories, followed by Mickelson at nine.
Now, it doesn’t always work both ways, because Woods has been a runner-up 20 times on the PGA Tour. He has been second to Singh and Mickelson three times apiece, with Lefty winning the tiebreaker.
Singh beat him at the Deutsche Bank in 2004 to take away the No. 1 ranking. Mickelson ended Woods’ winning streak at six at the 2000 Buick Invitational, and he became one of only three players to beat him when Woods had a share of the 54-hole lead at the Tour Championship later that year.
It all started with Love hitting 8-iron into the bunker and missing a 6-foot putt for par. It was Woods’ fifth tournament as a pro.
“As disappointed as I am, I’m that much happy for him,” Love said. “He’s a great, great player, and he’s great for the tour.”
Wetterich might have spoken for the other 49 players after his runner-up finish at Doral.
“Finishing second,” he said, “is not a bad thing.”