Bombers' 3-woods cut Tour courses down to size

Tiger Woods pulled away from the field after being tied with three others through 14 holes, winning his second Players Championship title in the process.

Tiger Woods pulled away from the field after being tied with three others through 14 holes, winning his second Players Championship title in the process.

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8:13:47 AM ET. 04/19/2014




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Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday.

“Not many drivers” is a crazy new catch phrase in sports. It applies not to the Indy 500 or the Iditarod dog-sled race but to, of all things, professional golf in the so-called Bomber Era.

“Not many drivers.” We heard it last week at The Players, where seemingly more and more players hit 3-woods off the tees.

“Not many drivers.” We heard Rory McIlroy say that probably would be the case if conditions are firm at the upcoming Memorial Tournament, hosted by arguably the best long-straight driver in the game’s history.

“Not many drivers.” We certainly will hear that at the U.S. Open at Merion because, well, we’ve already heard it.

The big-headed, easier-to-hit driver becoming less and less of a weapon in golf? Doesn’t sound, feel or smell right.

But that’s the state of the game at the moment, at the PGA Tour level anyway.

Why? For starters, consider that Players champion Tiger Woods said last week that his 3-wood shots at TPC Sawgrass went more than 300 yards and his 5-wood missiles approached 300. He does that and still has a short iron into a 460-yard par 4.

There’s more to it. A 3-wood, at about 43 inches, allows players to stand closer to the ball, in theory allowing for better contact. New 3-woods have hot faces, not to mention smaller heads and additional loft that help with workability and control.

In other words, those czars of golf who dislike long putters won’t have to ban the big-headed driver. Because the ball goes so far for them, elite players seem to be doing it themselves.

• • •

A player report that Vijay Singh’s week-old suit against the PGA Tour already has been settled is not true. So says Jeff Rosenblum, one of Singh’s lawyers. Singh is still waiting for the Tour to respond to the suit, Rosenblum said Wednesday.

The Tour on April 30 cleared Singh of a violation for using deer antler spray, and the Hall of Famer sued eight days later. His lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages, claiming he was subjected to “public humiliation and ridicule.” The spray contains small amounts of Insulin-like Growth Factor-1, a substance banned by the Tour.

Rosenblum contends that had the Tour consulted with the World Anti-Doping Agency after Singh admitted to using the spray Jan. 30, WADA would have said the same thing it did in late April before Singh was cleared – that the “spray is not considered prohibited.”

“WADA didn’t change the rules,” Rosenblum said.

He cited a Feb. 5 WADA statement saying players should be vigilant in using the spray because it could lead to a positive test. “It didn’t say that it would,” he said.

The attorney also says the Tour should have had Singh’s sample of the spray tested at the UCLA laboratory for bioactivity, absorption and fragmentation level in addition to just IGF-1 level.

Rosenblum said Singh has spent a “great deal of money” on legal fees and expert testing – expenses that “should have been avoided.”

If Singh’s suit has weaknesses, they would appear to be: (1) He is seeking to have his reputation restored even though the Tour already cleared him; and (2) It is perhaps unreasonable to suggest that the Tour should test every substance on the WADA banned list. The complaint says the Tour should’ve analyzed the spray in 2011 when it was called into question in a case involving Mark Calcavecchia.

• • •

One published report quotes two marshals saying Tiger Woods wasn’t told that Sergio Garcia already had hit on the second hole of The Players Championship during the third round. But another report quotes a marshal as saying he indeed told Woods that.

He said, he said.

Besides the fact a distracted Garcia hit a shot deep into right trees and later expressed a frustration that triggered a war of words between the two men, I can tell you this with certainty:

I was standing about 15 feet from Woods in a horseshoe of spectators and recall two things: One, he was ultra-focused and took a long time to size up the low shot in the trees and determine club selection; two, the crowd went crazy when Woods pulled out a fairway metal and took off the head cover.

None of that really matters in the big picture, though. Woods could have defused the entire situation with simple human decency, with a “Hey, man, sorry if you were distracted” apology.

Instead, the Woods-Garcia rift escalated. And something tells me we haven’t seen the end of their cold shoulders.

• • •

Yes, Woods took what looked like a questionable drop after skying a drive into water on No. 14 at The Players. Considering his Dropgate controversy at the Masters, this observer is surprised that he didn’t call in an official to cross T’s and dot I’s.

Tiger Woods, the Mad Dropper.

Who knew?

You can be certain the armchair rules officials are on alert in their living rooms.

• • •

In honor of the 100-year anniversary of Francis Ouimet’s stunning U.S. Open victory over British heavyweights Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, the golf gods served appropos David-Goliath scenarios involving faceless rookies the past two weeks:

First Derek Ernst beat Phil Mickelson at the Wells Fargo Championship, then David Lingmerth dueled Tiger Woods down the stretch at The Players.

Fittingly, the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum is right down the street in nearby St. Augustine. And clearly it needs a new wing for golf.

You need no further evidence that golf’s talent is deeper than ever.

Swede Lingmerth, 25, arrived at his 13th Tour start having missed eight of 10 cuts since closing with 62 and losing a playoff at the Humana Challenge in January. He would have won The Players had he putted reasonably well, but he missed seven putts from 6 to 15 feet on the first 10 holes of the fourth round.

Ernst, 22, started Charlotte week as fourth alternate, 1,207th in the world and ranked 196th in earnings, with only $28,255. The graduate of four Q-School stages last fall had sandwiched ties for 59th (Sony Open) and 47th (Zurich Classic) around five consecutive missed cuts.

So we shouldn’t be surprised the next time a kid excels out of nowhere.

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