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Next for Tiger: Torrey Pines

Tiger Woods can't start a new year without being reminded of the last one.

And the last one wasn't very good.

Some of his peers couldn't help but chuckle when the pro-am tee times for the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines were posted in the locker room. For more than a decade, Woods had the first available tee time, a perk for being the best player on the PGA Tour, or not far from it. Those pro-am times are determined by the previous year's money list.

Woods was No. 68 on the money list.

He tees off at 11 a.m., which is about the time he used to finish.

"I can't imagine he'll be too thrilled with that," Pat Perez said.

And then there's the world ranking.

Woods lost his No. 1 spot nearly three months ago to Lee Westwood, so that's old news. He dropped yet another spot to No. 3 this week when Martin Kaymer won the Abu Dhabi Championship by eight shots. And if Woods doesn't return to his former self quickly, it won't be long before he slips even farther. The last time he was not in the top three was May 11, 1997.

What's more noteworthy about the world ranking, however, is it's the first time Woods has been ranked behind someone younger than him. He turned 35 over the holidays.

Woods has known this day was coming, even when his game appeared untouchable. In time, there would be a player -- or players, in this case -- younger than him that is not intimidated.

Sure, there was a brief challenge from Sergio Garcia. Adam Scott reached as high as No. 3, and Paul Casey did the same a year later.

Now, the youth brigade is coming in bunches.

Ahead of him in the ranking is Kaymer, the 26-year-old German who won the PGA Championship last year to become the youngest major champion since Woods. Kaymer also won the European Tour money title, and started the year with an eight-shot victory over what will be one of the strongest fields the European Tour will see all year.

"He's probably the most formidable player in the world when he is leading," Padraig Harrington said.

That's what they used to say about Woods. But in his most recent tournament, the Chevron World Challenge, Woods blew a four-shot lead in the final round to U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell. It was the first time Woods had lost a lead that large.

"He used to appear invincible," McDowell said that day. "Of course, he's made himself appear more human in the last 12 months. But there's something a bit special about his golf game, and I fully expect that mystique to return."

McDowell is 31, and right behind Woods in the world ranking at No. 4.

Woods also has to contend with younger players like Rory McIlroy, Paul Casey and perhaps even Luke Donald from Europe, not to mention Dustin Johnson and Anthony Kim from the American side.

So many talented, young players will not make Woods' task any easier. The bigger question is whether Woods is equipped for the fight.

Some of the answers might arrive this week at Torrey Pines, a public course along the Pacific bluffs that Woods has owned like no other. His epic U.S. Open title in 2008 was the seventh time he had won as a pro on Torrey Pines. He has not lost on this golf course since 2004, although he missed the last two years. He has never finished out of the top 10.

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