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Three players seeking to bounce back in 2011
Kevin Currie, Golf Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Since 2000, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and Tiger Woods have won more events than any other active player has won in his entire career.
They have combined for 107 wins, 18 majors and 16 World Golf Championship titles in that time frame. Woods alone accounts for 56 victories, 12 majors and 14 WGC's, but the other two were far from slouches as they combined for the 51 other wins.
Singh won 26 times, while Mickelson visited the winner's circle on 25 occasions. Singh's 34 career titles are the fewest of the group.
The next closest active player to Singh on the career wins list is Davis Love III. His 20 titles are five fewer than Mickelson has collected since 2000.
The trio easily have the top three spots in wins in the 2000s. The player with the next-most wins since 2000? Jim Furyk with 12.
Mickelson, Singh and Woods had difficult seasons in 2010 for a variety of reasons and it will be interesting to see if they can get back to their dominating ways.
Mickelson's win at the Masters, his third title at Augusta, was the only victory for the group last year.
Singh went through his third winless season since 2000 and he has plummeted to 91st in the world rankings. The Fijian has not visited the winner's circle since winning two FedEx Cup playoff events in 2008.
Part of Singh's problem has been his putting. He tumbled from 183rd in total putting in 2009 to 298th in 2010. He fell over 100 places despite "improving" his putts per round from 29.88 in 2009 to 29.84 in 2010.
As for Mickelson and Woods, injury and off-the-field concerns had a lot to do with their lack of wins in 2010.
Mickelson announced just before the PGA Championship that he was suffering from psoriatic arthritis. His symptoms really began before the U.S. Open, but medication helped him continue playing.
Mickelson's arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks its own organs and tissues. The same affliction more-or-less ended the career of Bob Murphy.
While he was dealing with that, Mickelson's wife Amy and his mother both continued to undergo treatment for breast cancer.
As the 2011 season commences, it will be interesting to see how Mickelson handles the medication for his arthritis and how often he is able to play.
Then there was Woods. His car accident/divorce/swing coach change have all been discussed and debated ad nauseam. The one thing that people didn't know was that his Achilles was bothering him late in the season.
Through his difficult 2010 season, Woods was in contention several times. But it wasn't his swing changes that really hurt him, it was his putting.
Woods changed putters for the first time in forever and it showed, as he needed 29.07 putts per round in 2010. That was his highest total since 2006, when he averaged 29.38 putts per round.
He bounced back in 2007 as he cut his putts per round to 28.93 and won seven times that year. Can he do that in 2011? Only time will tell.
The thought here is that Singh will contend again, but is basically biding his time until he joins the Champions Tour. Mickelson will play about 20 times and win at least once.
Woods? I think his swing change and putter change click, and soon. We'll see him on the PGA Tour at least three or four times before Augusta and I think he will break his winless streak in that time frame.
THE NO. 1 RANKING
A year after four women held the No. 1 spot in the Rolex World Rankings, there could be a similar scrum atop the men's world golf rankings in 2011.
Dating back to April 1989 when the average points system went into effect, the top 10 in the rankings is at its closest since the start of the 1998 season, when No. 1 Greg Norman was 3.51 average points clear of No. 10 Mark O'Meara.
Lee Westwood enters the 2011 season 3.64 average points ahead of No. 10 Rory McIlory. Westwood starts the year with 9.24 average points.
That means the Englishman holds the dubious mark of being the first No. 1 ranked player to start a season with less than 10.00 average points.
Since Tigers Woods turned professional in 1996, Norman had posted the fewest average points of any No. 1 player as he started the 1997 campaign with 10.78 average points.
Woods took over the spot from Ernie Els for the first time in 1998. To put Woods' dominance atop the world rankings into perspective since that point, he entered nine different seasons with a greater lead over the 10th-ranked player than Westwood's current average point total.
Woods' points total peaked at the outset of the 2001 season when he had 29.40 average points, which gave him a startling 22.30-point lead over Tom Lehman, the 10th-ranked player.
No player could win this week and move ahead Westwood, but any of the top 10 players could claim the top spot with multiple victories this year. McIlory would need at least three wins, including one in a major, to take over the top spot.
Woods and No. 3 Martin Kaymer could move into the No. 1 spot with a pair of victories.
Regardless of who the top player is come the first week of April at the Masters, there will be several golfers within shouting distance of the No. 1 ranking and that will only enhance the pressure surrounding the year's first major championship.
- Tiger Woods has not released his schedule yet for 2011. It is possible that he will make his first PGA Tour start at Torrey Pines for the Farmers Insurance Open the final week of January. He is slated to play two weeks later at a European Tour event in Dubai.
- Interesting that we are in the first week of 2011 and neither the LPGA or the Canadian Tour has released its schedule for the year.