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Hate to be Rude: A reason to smile

• NOW ON GOLFWEEKTV: Hate to be Rude: Jack Nicklaus

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

•Even though converting par saves from 6-10 feet is vital at a U.S.Open, I keep getting the feeling that Sergio Garcia might win the Openat Torrey Pines. The Spaniard, having been tutored by short-game guruStan Utley of late, showed in winning The Players Championship that hisputting from that range under pressure has improved.

When on, heblends power and accuracy off the tee as well as anyone else. We sawthat at the 2007 British Open at Carnoustie and at The Players. Perhapsthe most important statistic at a U.S. Open is hitting greens inregulation, and that’s a Garcia strong suit. You can’t win an Open outof the rough. That partly explains why Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelsonhave combined to win just two of 26 Open starts.

Like others outof Spain, Garcia also is armed with a creative short game. And his lagputting, more important on fast U.S. Open greens than anywhere else, isfine, as evidenced by the fact he led the Tour last year in three-puttavoidance.

Though Woods and Mickelson have won nine PGA Tourtitles at Torrey Pines, Woods is coming off knee surgery and therevamped South course doesn’t agree with Mickelson like the originallayout did. On top of that, many medium-length hitters (Jim Furyk,Steve Stricker, Mike Weir, Justin Leonard) aren’t all that familiarwith Torrey South because they usually skip the Buick Invitationalbecause it’s a bombers’ paradise that doesn’t best suit their game.

•Memorial Tournament front-runner Matthew Goggin has now led after thefirst round three times this year on Tour. So he’s something of golf’sMr. Thursday.

Being a Thursday player, though, seems to matterin golf in two instances: If you’re Tiger Woods and sending the field athought-provoking message, or if you’re playing a mini-tour event thatends on Thursday.

• I’m fairly certain Matt Goggin’s identity crisis has vanished since Matt Gogel retired.

•The NCAA Tournament, now in session, isn’t always an indicator of PGATour success. But it was in 1999 at Hazeltine National. The top 3 thatyear? Luke Donald, Charles Howell III and Ryuji Imada. All three havewon on Tour since March 2006.

All three also are examplesthat, with rare exception, it takes time to learn how to win on Tour.In other words, this year’s NCAA studs are more likely to show up onTour leaderboards in 2017 than 2009.

• Latest evidence that ittakes time for games to age like wine: Ricky Barnes, 2002 U.S. Amateurchampion, last weekend scored his third consecutive top-10 finish onthe Nationwide Tour. Until this run, he had never had as many as two ina row.

• If all four majors were played in May, Kenny Perrywould be known as golf’s second-best player. He not only plays well atJack Nicklaus’ tournament, he plays like Nicklaus this time of year.

•Latest hint that the U.S. will win this year’s Ryder Cup aftersuccessive 9-point blowout losses comes from Spanish sage SeveBallesteros. The former European team star and captain said recentlythat he hopes the Americans win this year because the Ryder Cup is“getting very boring” and “everybody is losing interest” and that U.S.success would give the matches a lift.

As if Woods, Mickelson& Co. didn’t have enough motivational tools in their belt, now wecan add pity. And I’m not sure if anything riles the competitive juicesof elite athletes more than pity.

Ballesteros has a point to apoint – another Euro rout might lessen interest in the biennial affair.But don’t count on either – the rout or the indifference.

• Thetop threat to Woods’ reign in golf apparently isn’t Mickelson or a leftknee that has been surgically repaired three times. Rather, daughterSam, who turns 1 in June, might be.

Woods said the other daythat his knee rehabilitation is “right on schedule” for the U.S. Openand left the impression that his noggin hurt more than the knee thanksto Sam.

“We have a little cut-down putter that she smoked me in the head yesterday with,” Woods said “I have a hard head.”

It’sclear someone – Woods, instructor Hank Haney, someone – needs to informSam that you’re supposed to putt with a putter, not drive with it.

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