By Doug Ferguson, AP Golf Writer
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) – Tiger Woods, coming off an 82 for his worst round as a pro, will be out of the top 50 in the world ranking for the first time in more than three years.
And if he doesn’t turn his game around quickly, he will be ineligible for a World Golf Championship for only the second time in his career.
Woods was No. 1 in the world eight months ago. But after missing most of last year recovering from back surgery, and playing poorly in the few times he did play, Woods made his 2015 debut in the Phoenix Open at No. 47 in the world. He missed the cut by 12 shots.
Woods will be no better than No. 53 next week, and could fall even farther depending on what happens at the Phoenix Open and Dubai Desert Classic. Woods has not been lower than 58th in the world since winning the first of his 79 title on the PGA Tour at the Las Vegas Invitational in October 1996.
He last was out of the top 50 on Nov. 27, 2011. Woods won the Chevron World Challenge the next week and moved up to No. 21.
Woods is playing next week at Torrey Pines, where he is an eight-time winner but last year missed the 54-hole cut. After a two-week break, he then plays the Honda Classic. He will have to be in the top 50 after the Honda Classic to be eligible for the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral.
The only other WGC event for which Woods didn’t qualify was the HSBC Champions in 2011, another year marked by injuries and no wins.
The question as he left Phoenix was how quickly he could turn it around. Woods is in the early stages of a fifth swing change. He left Sean Foley during his four-month break from golf at the end of last year and has hired Chris Como as a consultant.
More startling was his chipping. Woods says he doesn’t have a feel for where the bottom of the club should be when he makes contact on his short-game shots. It was embarrassing at times at TPC Scottsdale. He chose to play safer shots along the ground than to get the ball more in the air. When he no option to pitch the ball in the air, he either flubbed it or bladed it.
Woods tied for last with club pro Michael Hopper. Including the 18-man field at the Hero World Challenge in December, he now has tied for last in two straight events.
He was going to attend the Super Bowl in nearby Glendale but instead flew home to Florida on Friday. His plans until he tees it up next week at the Farmers Insurance Open?
“Practice each and every day,” Woods said. “Just work on it.”
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