Golf roundup | Scott looks for No. 1 ranking at TPC Sawgrass; Phil Walters wins third straight Sarasota title

HERALD STAFF,WIRE REPORTSMay 8, 2014 

Walters Waltershilip Knowles, center, claimed the inaugural Manatee County Amateur Championship title, beat runners-up Davis Miller, left, and Phil Walters, right, by 12 strokes. JASON DILL/jdill@bradenton.com

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, Scott 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.

What adds to the interest at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach 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.

"I don't think I knew that," 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 Thursday, is the second title he is unable to defend this year because of a balky back. Woods had surgery on 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 victory 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.

And now he's not even playing.

SARASOTA MEN'S AMATEUR -- Phil Walters is starting to make the Sarasota City Amateur his personal playground.

The Manatee County resident claimed his third Sarasota Men's Amateur, and his second in a row, this past weekend at Bobby Jones Golf Club.

But this time around, Walters didn't have it locked up until the very end.

"I had about 10 feet straight up the hill," Walters said. "… It was dead into the grain and I'm like, 'You know what? This is 9-10 feet. This is one of my best chances today. I'm going to go and make this.' So it was moving, too. It hit the back of the hole, dead center."

That birdie putt lifted Walters into elite company. Only Mark Leetzow and Joey Lamielle have won as many as three Sarasota City championships.

Walters, though, nearly gave the tournament away.

With three holes remaining, he found himself in a precarious situation. He was under a pepper tree and had to hit a high shot from under that tree and over an oak tree to get his ball onto the green.

"I'm like, 'This is it. This is the defining moment of the whole tournament for me,'" Walters said. "So I took a swing under the pepper tree and hit it. I got it over the tree in front of me and got it all the way to the green. Into the wind, 157 (yards) with a 9-iron. Hit it about 20 feet and almost made it for birdie."

The miraculous recovery left him deadlocked with Sarasota Riverview senior Mason Fox on the par-4 18th.

Fox didn't make a birdie, which left it up to Walters for another chance at glory.

He rolled it in to cap a comeback -- he was four shots behind after the first two rounds -- and etch his name into the record books.

"It's more special, because of the stage it was on and that I didn't play well," Walters said. "I know that sounds cocky, but if you ask the guys I played with, they'll tell you I played (bad). I made birdies, but I left so many shots on the golf course."

Despite not having his best stuff, Walters said knowledge of the British Course aided his effort.

"I've played there since I was a kid, so I know it well enough to where I can play bad and shoot 69 (in the third round) like I did," Walters said.

The victory marks the fourth major individual crown for Walters in area golf. He has a Bradenton City Men's Amateur championship on his resume to go with the three Sarasota City titles.

-- Herald sports writer Jason Dill contributed to this report.

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