Talking points in golf this week


Paris (AFP)

Tiger Woods will start his first effort to claim a record-breaking 83rd PGA Tour victory at Torrey Pines on Thursday, after Lee Westwood and Gaby Lopez lifted titles last Sunday.

Here, AFP Sport looks at four talking points in golf this week:

Tiger eyeing record

Woods will get his golfing year underway in the Farmers Insurance Open with much of the focus on his attempt to surpass Sam Snead's all-time record of 82 PGA Tour wins.

The 15-time major champion tied Snead's mark last year in Japan at the Zozo Championship but has only played twice since -- as a winning Presidents Cup captain and in his unofficial Hero World Challenge.

However the 44-year-old will have to get the better of an extremely strong field which includes defending champion Justin Rose and world number two Rory McIlroy, also making his first start of 2020.

Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines before, including this tournament on seven occasions and his famous 14th major triumph in the 2008 US Open.

Westwood rolling back the years

Former world number one Westwood became only the third player to win a European Tour title in four different decades with a two-shot victory in the Abu Dhabi Championship at the weekend.

The 46-year-old had not won a tournament since November 2018, despite some strong performances last season including a fourth-placed finish at the British Open.

Westwood climbed 34 places in the world rankings to 29th, suggesting that his dreams of an elusive maiden major title may not be over yet.

"Fantastic. I am ecstatic, elated and a bit emotional. Just great to keep playing well, and you know, show that I am still good enough," said Westwood after holding off fellow Englishmen Tommy Fleetwood and Matthew Fitzpatrick, as well as France's Victor Perez.

Westwood's first win came in the 1996 Scandinavian Masters.

Mexican stock continues to rise

It was another excellent weekend for Mexican golf as Abraham Ancer's brilliant final-round 63 at La Quinta fired him to a second-placed finish behind Andrew Landry and into the world's top 30, while Lopez won a dramatic opening event of the LPGA season on Monday.

Ancer is still waiting for a first PGA Tour success to add to his 2018 Australian Open victory, but has finished in the top 10 three times in five tournaments.

Lopez secured her second LPGA Tour win by edging out Nasa Hataoka on a seventh play-off hole after darkness forced the Tournament of Champions into a fifth day.

"I know I don't need to fear anyone else apart from myself, and I proved to myself I can win in any situation," the 26-year-old said.

Golf dips into eSports market

The European Tour launched golf's first eSports series, with American Payton Gordley winning the opening event and taking home a $5,000 prize.

Over 45,000 hopefuls took part in qualifying for the series played on popular online game World Tour Golf (WGT).

"I was jokingly saying that I was going to use the prize money to buy the gold putter on the game, but realistically I'll probably use it for my college tuition," said Gordley.

World rankings

Top 20 on Monday, January 20

1. Brooks Koepka (USA) 9.88 average points

2. Rory McIlroy (NIR) 9.09

3. Jon Rahm (ESP) 8.02

4. Justin Thomas (USA) 7.70

5. Dustin Johnson (USA) 6.80

6. Tiger Woods (USA) 6.26 (+1)

7. Patrick Cantlay (USA) 6.19 (-1)

8. Justin Rose (ENG) 6.05 (+1)

9. Xander Schauffele (USA) 5.97 (-1)

10. Tommy Fleetwood (ENG) 5.76

11. Webb Simpson (USA) 5.19

12. Patrick Reed (USA) 4.83

13. Adam Scott (AUS) 4.64

14. Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 4.58 (+4)

15. Gary Woodland (USA) 4.49 (-1)

16. Tony Finau (USA) 4.49 (-1)

17. Bryson DeChambeau (USA) 4.36 (-1)

18. Paul Casey (ENG) 4.36 (-1)

19. Shane Lowry (IRL) 4.33

20. Matt Kuchar (USA) 4.23 (+4)


29. Lee Westwood (ENG) 3.12 (+34)

30. Abraham Ancer (MEX) 3.11 (+9)