Woods takes chunk out of McIlroy's world rankings lead with Torrey win

Tiger Woods at the Farmers Insurance Open
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Tiger Woods said he was excited with the way he played all week at Torrey Pines -- and no doubt happy to slice a quarter of his deficit to Rory McIlroy in the world rankings away in the span of one week.
By
PGA.com news services

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 | 1:38 a.m.

SAN DIEGO -- Tiger Woods never looked so irritated winning a golf tournament so comfortably.

His record eighth victory at Torrey Pines was all but over when Woods ripped a 5-iron from 244 yards over the corner of a bunker and onto the green at the par-5 13th hole, setting up a two-putt birdie that gave him an eight shot lead in the Farmers Insurance Open.

WORLD RANKING

Rory McIlroy is now in his 32nd week atop the world rankings, and has tied Vijay Singh for the eight-longest reign at No. 1. The seventh-longest holder of the top spot is Nick Price at 44 weeks.

Player

Points

1. Rory McIlroy

12.43

2. Tiger Woods

9.29

3. Luke Donald

7.94

4. Justin Rose

6.63

5. Louis Oosthuizen

6.60

6. Adam Scott

6.08

7. Brandt Snedeker

5.74

8. Lee Westwood

5.69

9. Bubba Watson

5.26

10. Jason Dufner

5.15

At least he had plenty of time to savor this victory. The final five holes felt like they took forever.

Woods twirled his club on the tee and leaned on it in the fairway as the final round dragged on. He lost rhythm and appeared to lose interest, and it showed. A bogey from the bunker on the 14th. A tee shot that caromed off a eucalyptus tree on the 15th hole that led to double bogey. A tee shot he popped up on the 17th hole that left him 50 yards behind the other players and led to another bogey.

''It got a little ugly at the end,'' Woods said. ''I started losing patience a little bit with the slow play.''

No matter. It only affected the margin, not the outcome. Woods had to settle for an even-par 72 that gave him a four-shot win over defending champion Brandt Snedeker and Josh Teater, who each had a 69.

The victory also helped the No. 2-ranked Woods take a sizeable chunk out of Rory McIlroy's lead at the top of the world rankings.

McIlroy has held the No. 1 spot since his PGA Championship victory last August, but his advantage is now down to 3.14 points with Woods having shaved 1.06 points off his deficit at Torrey Pines. Both Woods and McIlroy are next scheduled to play in the WGC-Accenture Match Play, which starts Feb. 20 in Arizona.

The top of the top 10 remained static as the top six continued to be McIlroy, Woods, No. 3 Luke Donald, No. 4 Justin Rose, No. 5 Louis Oosthuizen and No. 6 Adam Scott. But there was a lot of movement below them.

Snedeker moved from eighth up to seventh place, while Lee Westwood, who makes his season debut this week in Dubai, slipped from seventh to eighth. Bubba Watson remained in ninth place, while Jason Dufner advanced from 11th place up to 10th.

The second 10 includes No. 11 Steve Stricker (down from 10th), No. 12 Ian Poulter (up from 13th), No. 13 Keegan Bradley (down from 12th), No. 14 Sergio Garcia (up from 19th after tying for second in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters), No. 15 Dustin Johnson (down from 14th), No. 16 Webb Simpson (down from 15th), No. 17 Charl Schwartzel (down from 16th), No. 18 Graeme McDowell (down from 17th), No. 19 Nick Watney (up from 21st) and No. 20 Peter Hanson (down from 18th).

Also this week, Chris Wood of England leaped up to 60th from his previous perch at No. 142 thanks to his victory in the Qatar Masters.

With the PGA Tour being criticized for slow play, Torrey Pines wasn't an ideal start to the network portion of its schedule. With Woods virtually a lock to win, CBS Sports wanted the final round to resume Monday later than normal so that it could be televised in late afternoon on the East Coast. Play was so slow that CBS went over its allotted time.

Woods, meanwhile, had the ideal start to his tour season.

Only a week earlier, he missed the cut in Abu Dhabi, in part because of a two-shot penalty assessed after his second round for taking an illegal drop. Woods had never missed the cut on the European Tour, and he had never started his season with the weekend off.

He might have been the only one who didn't panic.

Woods seized control with a 65 on the North Course at Torrey Pines, the spent the rest of the week pulling away from the field until no one could catch him.

''I don't know if anybody would have beaten him this week,'' said Nick Watney, who got within five shots of Woods when the tournament was still undecided until making three bogeys on his next five holes. ''He's definitely on his game.''

It's still too early to figure out the state of his game, especially in relation to McIlroy, who also missed the cut in Abu Dhabi.

Torrey Pines is a public course that Woods treats like his private domain. He won the tournament for the seventh time, one short of the PGA Tour record for most wins in a single event. Sam Snead won the Greater Greensboro Open eight times. Woods won for the eighth time at Torrey Pines, including the 2008 U.S. Open, and that's a PGA Tour record that Woods previously shared with ... himself. He also has won seven times at Firestone and Bay Hill.

''I think he wanted to send a message,'' said Hunter Mahan, who shares a swing coach with Woods. ''I think deep down he did. You play some games to try to motivate yourself. There's been so much talk about Rory. Rory is now with Nike. That would be my guess.''

And it was his 75th win on the PGA Tour, seven short of the record held by Snead. Woods has won 23 of those tournaments by at least four shots.

''I'm excited the way I played all week,'' Woods said. ''I hit the ball well - pretty much did everything well and built myself a nice little cushion. I had some mistakes at the end, but all my good play before that allowed me to afford those mistakes.''

Woods mostly had reason to be excited about his short game.

In the third round Sunday, he was furious with himself for going long on the par-3 eighth green, without much green between his ball and the hole. Woods hit a chip solidly, with just enough loft, to leave himself a tap-in par. In the conclusion of the final round Monday, he pulled his tee shot into a bad spot in the bunker on the par-3 11th. The lie was good, but he had to aim well left, meaning his legs were spread wide on the slope of the sand.

He blasted it out with his 60-degree wedge to a top shelf, and then watched it feed down a slope to the right. It lost pace at the end or it might have gone in.

It looked good for television. It was a difficult shot, but not impossible.

But Woods believes those are the shots he wasn't converting a year ago. And that's one reason his outlook was so bright on the rest of the year, even after having to cope with so much fog along the Pacific bluffs.

He played the par 5s in 12 under for the lead -- that alone would have been enough to win -- and attributed that to his short game.

''My short game was back to how I know it can be,'' Woods said. ''My shots that I hit, especially out of these nasty little lies, I hit some really good ones this week. And that allowed me to save some pars, make some birdies, and move my way up the board. And basically, that's what I did.''

Woods figures his swing change under Sean Foley took root at some point last year, but that he had devoted so much time to the swing that he neglected his wedges. Now that he is practicing more on his short game, he expects better results - turning a 74 into a 70, and not losing leads at the majors, like he did twice last year.

Still, the season is young. Any measure of Woods likely will have to wait until the road to the Masters gets going during the Florida Swing.