By Alex Miceli
For the first time since Nov. 2, the top five in the Official World Golf Ranking has changed. Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama enters the rankings stratosphere for the first time in his career on the heels of a four-victory stretch that started 3½ months ago at the Japan Open.
The move pushed out former World No. 1 Jordan Spieth, who entered the top 5 in late March 2015.
The top 5, in order: Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Matsuyama.
Ironically, the Westgate LV Sportsbook has Spieth as the favorite at 8-1 to win the Waste Management Phoenix Open this week in Scottsdale, Ariz., ahead of Matsuyama at 10-1 and wunderkind Justin Thomas at 12-1.
In the desert at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour, Henrik Stenson is the favorite at 13-2 with Spaniards Sergio Garcia and Rafael Cabrera-Bello at 15-1.
Woods’ numbers indicate room for improvement
Tiger Woods made an inauspicious return to the PGA Tour last week in his first official start in 17 months. After rounds of 76 and 72 merited the weekend off at the Farmers Insurance Open, where he won eight of his 79 Tour titles, Woods caught a flight to Dubai as rookie Jon Rahm was en route to his first Tour title.
For Woods, the numbers were not impressive: 50 percent driving accuracy, 299.3 yards in driving distance and only 55.56 percent of greens in regulation. Slotting that performance into the 2016-17 Tour statistics, Woods would rank 216th, 41st and 229th, respectively.
Woods, 41, who will return to the Tour in two weeks in the Genesis Open at Pacific Palisades, Calif., must deliver better numbers during the next couple of months to put himself in position to compete at the Masters in early April.
For a history lesson, Woods’ last win came at the 2013 WGC Bridgestone Invitational. During that week in Akron, Woods ranked sixth in driving distance (315.0 yards), 11th in driving accuracy (62.50 percent) and second in GIR (73.61 percent).
This week in Dubai, where Woods won in 2006 and ’08, he has been installed as a 40-1 pick to win.