Els chase of top spot moves to Florida
Like a World Series title for the luckless Boston Red Sox, the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking for years has been nothing more than an unattainable fantasy for everyone other than Tiger Woods.
Now, though, with Vijay Singh having passed Woods for No. 1 and Ernie Els having passed Woods for No. 2, the top spot might be more like a high fly ball in the sun, with a handful of players collecting underneath it.
I got it ... no, you take it ... crunch.
At this week's Funai Classic at Disney World and the Chrysler Championship the following week in Tampa, Singh and Els will resume the battle for the top spot that once belonged solely to Woods ... then was taken over by Singh ... but now finally may fall into the hands of Els.
"It's nice, but I'm still No. 2," Els said three weeks ago after his victory in the American Express Championship, which finally moved him past Woods after years of futile, frustrating pursuit.
"I've been chasing Tiger for the last five, six years, and now it seems like I've got to chase Vijay. It's fine. I just feel I'm really in a much better frame of mind right now. I think the game is on, well and truly."
Els, who had chances to overtake Woods for No. 1 at each of the last three majors this season, slipped into a funk after failing to earn a victory in any of those outings.
After a few weeks at home with his family, though, Els was able to put his disappointment from the majors behind him and reload for the end of the year, which has already seen him win twice in the last three weeks.
His victory Sunday in the World Match Play Championship in England, which came on his 35th birthday, moved Els closer to the top spot Singh has held since winning the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston on Sept. 6.
Els, who has five victories worldwide this year, has 12.12 world ranking points. Singh, who has all eight of his wins on the PGA Tour, has 13.48 points — the smallest the gap between the two has been since Singh moved to No. 1.
"I really wanted to draw a line and make the switch," Els said of his effort to put the major championship season behind him. "I needed to get that out of my system and start over. Otherwise, I'm going to get left behind."
Although Singh and Els both had opportunities earlier this year to catch Woods, it was Singh who finally passed him with his win in Boston. Victories in his next two outings gave the 41-year-old Fijian five victories in six starts on the PGA Tour and an even larger lead in the world ranking over Woods, then Els.
But Els has closed the gap in the last three weeks, winning twice and tying for seventh in the Dunhill Links.
Singh, meanwhile, skipped the American Express Championship to check on his Ponte Vedra Beach home following Hurricane Jeanne, tied for 18th in the Dunhill Links and was beaten in the first round of World Match Play Championship by European Ryder Cup captain Bernhard Langer.
During a practice round two weeks ago at St. Andrews for the Dunhill Links, Els and Singh played a few holes together without discussing the No. 1 ranking.
"We shot around and we talked a little bit," Els said. "Obviously, he congratulated me on my win and I congratulated him on all of his wins and that was that. You know, I think we both are professional enough to know what's going on in the world of golf.
"I think definitely the hype will not be the same with Vijay as it was with Tiger," Els said of the pursuit for No. 1. "But Vijay has got so much talent, he works so hard. To get where he is right now is hard work, and I don't think he's going to let it slip."
Els is taking this week off, leaving Singh alone to earn ranking points at Disney, but both are expected to play in next week's stop at Westin Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, where Singh was second to Retief Goosen a year ago and where Phil Mickelson also will return to action after a disappointing Ryder Cup showing.
Both will play the following week at the Tour Championship, where Woods is expected to make his first start since getting married two weeks ago. Woods is skipping Disney for the first time since 1996.
As for Singh, he said his goal is to win 10 times this year, something not accomplished on the PGA Tour in more than 50 years. That, surely, would settle any fight over the top spot in the world — for this season, anyway.
"Two out of the last three tournaments, it's going to be a tall order," Singh said. "But I've just won ... five out of six, so I'm sure I'm capable of doing that."
"I've been chasing Tiger for the last five, six years, and now it seems like I've got to chase Vijay."
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