No. 1 Jason Day faces early test
Los Angeles — One of Jason Day’s goals at the start of the year was to stay at No. 1 for the entire calendar year. The year is not even two months old, and already he is facing his first big challenge.
And not just from one player.
Dustin Johnson, coming off a third-place finish at Pebble Beach, and Phoenix Open champion Hideki Matsuyama both have a mathematical chance to reach No. 1 in the world by winning the Genesis Open at Riviera. Johnson would need Day to finish around fourth or worse, while Matsuyama could reach the top only by winning and Day finishing about 25th or worse.
Tiger Woods in 2009 was the last player to start and finish a year at No. 1.
Rory McIlroy was the last player to stay at No. 1 for longer than a year, starting with his victory at the 2014 Bridgestone Invitational and ending when Jordan Spieth passed him with a runner-up finish in the 2015 PGA Championship.
Just don’t get the idea Day is consumed with the ranking.
“I said earlier that a calendar year would be great to go No. 1, but I need to just focus on what I need to do because you can’t really focus on staying No. 1,” Day said. “The more you focus on the actual target itself, the more you attach yourself to it, you make mental errors out there, you get more frustrated, you do silly things on the golf course that you shouldn’t be doing.”
Johnson also had a mathematical chance to get to No. 1 last week, but he would have had to win Pebble and have Day finish out of the top 50. Day tied for fifth. Johnson also had a chance at the PGA Championship last summer, but he missed the cut and Day was runner-up.
Day doesn’t have a lot of history at Riviera. The only reason he is playing is because of the tour’s new “strength of field” regulation that requires most players to compete at an event they haven’t been to in four years.
His best finish is a tie for 62nd.
He keeps reminding himself that he didn’t have a great history at Bay Hill and The Players Championship, and he won them both last year.
Woods bows out
Back spasms not only kept Tiger Woods from playing at Riviera, but they also forced him to withdraw from a news conference.
Woods, the unofficial host of the Genesis Open, pushed his news conference back until Wednesday and then canceled it. The tournament said in a statement after getting daily treatment the last four days, Woods was advised by doctors to limit all activities.
“He flew out here and got to see one of his doctors,” Mark Steinberg, his agent at Excel Sports, said. “Based on the work they did the last couple of days, they advised he just stay horizontal. It’s best to listen to the doctors. The ultimate goal is to get out and play.”
Woods has not played Riviera, his hometown event, since 2006. When California-based Hyundai Motor America signed on as title sponsor last year, it picked the Tiger Woods Foundation as the chief charitable beneficiary and the tournament host organization.
That assured Woods playing, and even when back spasms surfaced in Dubai two weeks ago and forced him to withdraw, he still flew to California on Saturday with hopes of taking part in various tournament activities. Instead, he has stayed in his hotel.
“The hope was the spasms would calm down,” Steinberg said. “And they haven’t.”
Fabled caddie dies
The European Tour lost another legendary caddie when Dave Musgrove died Monday at age 74.
Musgrove and Dave Renwick, who died last year, are the only caddies to work for three major champions. Musgrove was on the bag when Seve Ballesteros won his first British Open in 1979. He worked for Sandy Lyle when the Scot won the Open in 1985 and the Masters in 1988, and he was alongside Lee Janzen when he won his second U.S. Open title at Olympic Club in 1998.
The end of the Masters coincides with the start of Golf Channel’s latest project, a three-part series on Jack Nicklaus.
The Golf Films project is called “Jack,” and it will air over three straight nights in prime time starting at 9 p.m. on April 9. It will feature nearly 100 interviews and hundreds of hours of archived film.
Site: Los Angeles.
Course: Riviera Country Club. Yardage: 7,322. Par: 71.
Purse: $7 million.
TV: Thursday-Friday, 2-6 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday, 1-2:30 p.m. (Golf Channel), 3-6 p.m. (CBS); Sunday,
1-2:30 p.m. (Golf Channel), 3-6:30 p.m. (CBS).
Defending champion: Bubba Watson.
Women’s Australian Open
Site: Grange, Australia.
Course: Royal Adelaide GC.
Purse: $1.3 million (First prize: $195,000).
TV: Wednesday, 9 p.m.-2 a.m. (Golf Channel); Thursday-Friday,
11 p.m. to 2 a.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday, 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Defending champion: Haru Nomura.
Site: Naples, Fla.
Course: The TwinEagles Club (Talon Course). Yardage: 7,193. Par: 72.
Purse: $1.6 million (First prize: $240,000).
TV: Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday, 3-5:30 p.m. (Golf Channel); Sunday, 3-5 p.m. (Golf Channel).
Defending champion: Bernhard Langer.