The 15-foot birdie putt Phil Mickelson made on the final hole at Quail Hollow meant more than an extra US$130,000 (Dh477,477) for finishing alone in second place. It put him in position to become No 1 in the world. Mickelson could reach the top spot in the world ranking for the first time in his career by winning The Players Championship, provided Tiger Woods finishes out of the top five.
Of the players considered to be the "Big Four" of his generation Woods, Mickelson, Vijay Singh and Ernie Els Mickelson is the only one to have never been No 1. The Quail Hollow Championship had already been decided when Mickelson came to the 18th hole in a tie for second with Angel Cabrera, five shots behind Rory McIlroy. The final birdie that made him solo runner-up gave him enough points for a chance to rise to the top at Sawgrass.
Woods, who missed the cut last week for only the sixth time in his career, has been No 1 for the last five years. Mickelson is trying to become only the 13th player to be No 1 since the rankings began in 1986, and he has momentum on his side. He won The Players Championship two years ago, and is coming off a Masters victory and a second place at Quail Hollow. "I'm glad that this first tournament went well, because after a couple weeks off after a big high like Augusta, you never know where the game is going to be at," Mickelson said on Sunday. "I'm looking forward to next week."
Woods is reeling from the highest 36-hole score of his career at Quail Hollow. He shot a 79 in the second round his second-highest round as a professional and missed the cut by eight shots. This is the second time in the last two years that Woods's top ranking has been on the line. Last year at Doral, Sergio Garcia could have become No 1 with a victory in the World Golf Championship provided Woods was 27th or worse. In that situation, however, Woods had never finished out of the top 10 at Doral.
While he won The Players Championship in 2001, this is the only tournament where Woods has finished out of the top 20 at least five times. Last year, he closed with a 73 to finish eighth. * AP