Adam Scott will be gunning for a hat-trick of wins, Rory McIlroy scents history but Tiger Woods takes a rest as the circuit heads down to Mexico for the first World Golf Championships event of 2020.
Here are three talking points in golf this week:
– Scott keeps rolling –
Revitalised Adam Scott is on a roll. He ended an almost four-year win drought three days before Christmas at the Australian PGA Championship.
After the long wait, the red-hot Aussie then made it back-to-back victories with his triumph at the US PGA Tour’s Genesis Invitational on Sunday — his first outing of 2020.
It propelled the 39-year-old into the world’s top 10 for the first time since June 2017 and Scott heads to the WGC Mexico Championship this week looking to make it three wins from three.
He has form at the event, which he won in March 2016 in its previous incarnation as the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral in Florida which, coincidentally, had been his last victory before the near-four year barren patch.
– Woods faces wait for 83 –
Tiger Woods was back to his best in 2019 with a stunning 15th major win at the US Masters, a record-equalling 82nd PGA Tour victory in Japan and then captaining the USA to glory in the Presidents Cup.
It seemed only a question of how quickly the 44-year-old would reach the magic mark of 83 victories and eclipse Sam Snead as the golfer with most PGA Tour wins.
But fitness concerns are again being raised and Woods clearly struggled with his troublesome back, shooting weekend rounds of 76 and 77 at Riviera to finish last.
“That’s not normal for him,” said his caddie Joe LaCava. “I’m not really concerned with the score, I just want him to be healthy. Because he’s certainly capable.”
Woods will sit out the WGC Mexico Championship this week as he takes care of his fitness for his Masters defence in April.
He has time to rest his back before his next scheduled outing, at Bay Hill on March 5, which starts a busy run with the Players Championship at Sawgrass on March 12 and the WGC Match Play in Austin two weeks before the Masters tees off on April 9.
– McIlroy aims for WGC ‘slam’ –
World number one Rory McIlroy carded a top-five finish at Riviera but will rue another tournament that slipped from his grasp with a final-round blowout as he heads to Mexico.
Starting in a share of the lead, McIlroy’s two-over 73 on Sunday was largely down to a shocking triple-bogey seven on the fifth.
“Apart from that, I played pretty well,” the Northern Irishman reflected wryly before heading off to contest the $10.5 million WGC Mexico Championship, which begins Thursday.
McIlroy won the WGC-HSBC Championship in Shanghai for the first time in November and has the added incentive of being able complete a “grand slam” of the four WGC titles in the rarefied air of the high-altitude Chapultepec course.
He was runner-up last year to Dustin Johnson — the only player to have won all the WGCs — so if McIlroy can turn the tables he will equal the American big-hitter, having also won the WGC Match Play in 2015 and the WGC Invitational in 2014.
– New world rankings –
Scott was the big mover this week, leaping from 14th to seventh with his Genesis Invitational victory. Matt Kuchar rises five spots to 15th after sharing second place.
Top 20 week beginning Monday, February 17:
- 1. Rory McIlroy (NIR) 9.30 pts
- 2. Brooks Koepka (USA) 8.80
- 3. Jon Rahm (ESP) 8.48
- 4. Justin Thomas (USA) 7.49
- 5. Dustin Johnson (USA) 6.98
- 6. Patrick Cantlay (USA) 6.14
- 7. Adam Scott (AUS) 6.06 (+7)
- 8. Webb Simpson (USA) 5.98 (-1)
- 9. Tiger Woods (USA) 5.93 (-1)
- 10. Xander Schauffele (USA) 5.71 (-1)
- 11. Tommy Fleetwood (ENG) 5.53
- 12. Justin Rose (ENG) 5.43 (-2)
- 13. Tony Finau (USA) 4.96 (-1)
- 14. Patrick Reed (USA) 4.75 (-1)
- 15. Matt Kuchar (USA) 4.63 (+5)
- 16. Bryson DeChambeau (USA) 4.40 (+2)
- 17. Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 4.39 (-2)
- 18. Shane Lowry (IRL) 4.34 (-1)
- 19. Gary Woodland (USA) 4.30 (-3)
- 20. Marc Leishman (AUS) 4.18 (-1)