PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — As much time as Adam Scott spends away from the PGA Tour, this might have been a good week to take off.
By the mathematical wonder of the world ranking, the former UNLV player could have stayed in The Bahamas this week and still moved to No. 1 in the world ranking provided three other players had an ordinary week at The Players Championship.
“See you later,” Scott said with a laugh when told of the scenario.
Scott would love to get to No. 1 for the first time in his career, though he’s more interested in winning big tournaments. Besides, he had a chance at Bay Hill and the Masters to replace Tiger Woods atop the ranking and squandered both chances.
“Look, I’m here to win golf tournaments,” Scott said. “That’s been the goal, and from that you can get to No. 1 in the world if you win often enough.”
What adds to the interest on the TPC Sawgrass is Scott has company. Henrik Stenson, Masters champion Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar each have a mathematical chance to reach No. 1 for the first time.
Here’s the very least the four contenders have to do for a chance at No. 1:
— Scott has to finish in the top 16.
— Stenson has to finish in the top six.
— Watson has to finish second alone.
— Kuchar has to win.
“It would be the same as the green jacket,” Watson said, describing it as the “pinnacle of the game.”
Kuchar said, “That title is a pretty impressive title. To be No. 1 in the world at anything is amazing. To have a chance to be No. 1 in the world in the game of golf, I think all of us that play have those dreams.”
It’s been made possible in part by Woods being on the sidelines. The Players Championship, which starts today, is the second title Woods is unable to defend this year because of a balky back. He had surgery March 31 and still doesn’t know when he might return.
Woods effectively has owned the No. 1 ranking for the better part of 15 years, his most recent reign dating to his win last year in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Other players have reached No. 1 with a caveat. Woods was going through a swing change in 2004 (though Vijay Singh helped his cause by winning nine times and a major), and he was going through another swing change and a divorce when he lost the No. 1 ranking from October 2010 to March 2013.
Now he’s not even playing.
But the landscape is changing in golf. Woods has gone six years without a major and has been hampered by injuries to his legs, arm and back in recent years. Stenson a year ago became the first player to win the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai in the same season. Scott won the Masters and became a force in the majors.
“This guy (Scott) has had as much of a ‘No. 1’ period as anyone,” Geoff Ogilvy said. “He contends every time he tees it up. He only plays the big tournaments. After two rounds, it feels like he has a chance in every tournament.”
That sounds a little like Woods, minus the outrageous number of victories.
Even so, Ogilvy remembers the time when someone else got to No. 1 — whether it was Singh in 2004 or Lee Westwood in 2010 — and the murmurs were that Woods was busy changing his swing. Now?
“(Scott) seems to be playing better every week than Tiger,” Ogilvy said. “Tiger won five times last year, but you go to the majors, Scotty seems to be in contention with a chance to win more often than Tiger. If Tiger is your benchmark, he (Scott) has been a better player.”