Even after the biggest win of a career that is starting to fill up with significant titles, Justin Rose had to share the stage with two stars who appear headed in opposite directions.
Rory McIlroy took another leap forward by nearly pulling off a remarkable rally.
With his third-place finish at Doral, Rory McIlroy remains the No. 1-ranked player for the second straight week.
1. Rory McIlroy
2. Luke Donald
4. Martin Kaymer
5. Steve Stricker
6. Charl Schwartzel
7. Justin Rose
8. Webb Simpson
9. Jason Day
10. Hunter Mahan
Tiger Woods took a disturbing step back when a sore left Achilles tendon became too painful for him to continue. He withdrew from the final round Sunday at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, the second time in 10 months that he couldn’t finish a tournament because of his Achilles.
In the end, Rose earned a one-shot victory over Bubba Watson and vaulted from 22nd place all the way up to seventh in the Official World Golf Ranking. And Woods, by virtue of not finishing, dropped from 16th down to 18th place.
The top five places in the ranking remained the same, with Rory McIlroy on top, followed by Luke Donald and Lee Westwood. Former PGA Champion Martin Kaymer is still fourth, with Steve Stricker holding on as the top-ranked American in fifth place.
Reigning Masters champion Charl Schwartzel climbed into sixth place from his previous perch at No. 9 thanks to his tie for fourth at Doral, with Webb Simpson dropping to eighth from sixth. Jason Day slipped to ninth from eighth, and Hunter Mahan held onto the 10th spot.
The second 10 includes No. 11 Adam Scott, No. 12 Dustin Johnson, No. 13 Phil Mickelson, No. 14 Bill Haas, No. 15 Matt Kuchar, No. 16 Watson, No. 17 Graeme McDowell, No. 18 Woods, No. 19 Nick Watney and No. 20 Keegan Bradley.
Also this week, George McNeill climbed up to No. 106 from his previous spot at No. 176 after winning the Puerto Rico Open.
With the Masters just three weeks away, Woods’ future looked muddled as ever when he limped through the parking lot to a black sedan and drove away from Doral, not knowing the severity of this latest injury.
In a statement he issued later, Woods said, “I felt tightness in my left Achilles warming up this morning, and it continued to get progressively worse. After hitting my tee shot at 12, I decided it was necessary to withdraw. In the past, I may have tried to continue to play, but this time, I decided to do what I thought was necessary.”
Just as he was leaving, McIlroy was charging. The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland, who reached No. 1 in the world last week by holding off a late charge by Woods, holed out a bunker shot for eagle on the 12th hole and before long was within one shot of the lead.
Two bogeys left him two shots behind, but with a start to the year reminiscent of the Tiger Woods of old. In five tournaments, McIlroy has a win, two runner-up finishes, a third and a fifth.
“There was no thought of me relaxing this week or thinking that my job’s done,” McIlroy said. “I know better than that.”
Rose was oblivious to all this.
He started the final day three shots behind Watson. He went to the back nine two shots behind Bradley. When he scrambled for bogey on the final hole of the Blue Monster to stay one shot ahead, Rose thought he had won the tournament upon hearing someone in the crowd say that Watson had hit into the water.
Instead, he had to wait for Watson to hit a bullet 4-iron out of the palm trees, over a corner of the water and onto the green to just inside 10 feet for a chance at birdie to force a playoff.
As wild as this day turned out to be, Rose left nothing to chance. He went over to the practice range to stay loose, and only when he heard nothing -- no cheers for a birdie putt -- did he realize that Watson had missed the putt and Rose had captured his first World Golf Championship title.
“These moments are incredibly sweet,” Rose said.
Rose figured he would need a score much lower than 2-under 70 to have any chance of winning at Doral, especially after spending the first three days with Watson.
“That’s the way I saw the day playing out,” he said.