Rude: Wilson plays up a weight class

Mark Wilson hits a tee shot on the 14th hole during the final round of the Humana Challenge.

Mark Wilson hits a tee shot on the 14th hole during the final round of the Humana Challenge.

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Jeff Rude’s “I Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday, the same day as his video show of the same name.

• • •

Don’t look now, but the only three-time PGA Tour winner of the past 53 weeks stands 5 feet 8 inches and weighs 145 pounds. On top of that, he learned his craft as a youth during a short season in suburban Milwaukee. That might help explain why he had to go through the Tour Q-School as recently as five years ago and why he never finished better than 128th in season earnings until 2007, the year he turned 33.

That makes Mark Wilson many things.

A trivia answer to the “only three-time winner” question.

A little guy who stands tall in the biggest of golf leagues.

A late bloomer.

A 145-pound short hitter somehow excelling in the era of bombers.

An overachiever.

A closer.

A believer.

A guy succeeding Corey Pavin-style.

Ask around and you’ll quickly learn that Wilson is one of the nicest men on Tour. Dig around the archives and you’ll learn that he has now won five times on Tour over the past five years.

Considering five victories in a season used to be standard fare for Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus, five career victories may not seem like that much of an achievement.

Until you consider a couple of things: 1. It’s not easy winning on Tour. 2. His company.

Wilson now has one less victory than Stewart Cink, a major champion who has played on numerous Ryder-Presidents Cup teams. And one fewer than Hall of Famer Jose Maria Olazabal, who, of course, made most of his noise in Europe but has played 227 times over here.

What’s more, Wilson has as many Tour titles as many other major champions and Ryder Cuppers. The list, believe it or not, includes former Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman, who seems like a 13-win guy. It also includes three-time major champion Padraig Harrington, John Daly, Jesper Parnevik, Bob Toski and Scott Verplank.

Wilson’s latest triumph came by two strokes Sunday at the Humana Challenge, long known as the Bob Hope Classic. He closed that by making birdies on two of his last three holes and half of his final eight, one by holing a long bunker shot.

His victory total is heady stuff for someone who has played in but seven major championships, the first five of which he missed the cut.

The numbers help explain why he succeeds. He drives the ball straight, is strong from wedge distance, is a terrific scrambler and putts well. Last year, he ranked 20th in driving accuracy and 11th in scrambling and greens in regulation from 100 to 125 yards out.

That’s what short hitters have to do. Otherwise, they won’t stick around the Tour for long.

Here’s a lesson we can all learn from the Wilson approach: His game improved during the past six years since he heeded valuable advice from sports psychologist Bob Rotella: “The sooner you decide to just trust what you've got, the quicker you're going to get better.”

In other words, don’t try to be someone else. Play hard using your own strengths. After he got that advice, he got through Q-School and started winning on Tour.

Now you might say he has turned into a Mr. January of sorts. He’s off to a fast start for the second year in a row, not all that likely for someone who now lives in Chicago, not the best place for winter preparation.

But for Wilson, his edge seems to lie in what he doesn’t do rather than what he does do to prepare.

Beware the uncluttered mind.

“The only thing I can think of is that the break in November and December, I can clear my mind of golf,” he said. “I tend to remember the good things I did the season before, and when I come out the last two years, I really just had a clear mind and focused on what I’m doing, not worry about my standing in the world rankings. . . . I feel like I’m more into my zone.”

The idea that strong-minded Vijay Singh and Rory Sabbatini would jaw with each other during competition hardly should surprise anyone. The incident happened during the Sony Open third round after Singh allegedly swore at Sabbatini’s caddie after thinking the caddie distracted Singh during a putt.

Mark Russell, PGA Tour vice president for rules and competition, told me that he advised Sabbatini to “write up what happened and send it in if you still feel strongly about it.” Sabbatini told The New York Times that Singh needed to apologize to his caddie for inappropriate behavior.

“You know how competitive these guys are,” Russell said. “People don’t realize that everybody out there aren’t the best of buddies.”

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