I couldn’t help but think about Tiger Woods when I listened last weekend to Michael Jordan’s induction speech at the Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony. Jordan talked about how he drew motivation from so many different things, like comments that fired him up, perceived snubs and doubts, anything to get an edge.
Woods is no different. We saw it last week. People wondered what’s wrong after a three-event winless drought, and he won the BMW Championship by eight strokes.
Jack Nicklaus had a little of that, too. Lee Trevino used to say, “Don’t wake up the Bear! Let me sleep! Keep him in hibernation!”
• Woods wins the BMW by eight and his first-place lead over Steve Stricker shrinks from 1,504 points to 250. That’s because of a points reset to ensure drama at the season-ending Tour Championship, which was played under the cloud of boring anticlimax last year. This time, any of the top 5 in reset points would claim the FedEx Cup with a victory at East Lake.
In other words, a Tour that thrives on the free-enterprise system is relying on government intervention to make things interesting.
It is what it is. As said before is this space, if we are to wrap our minds around the FedEx playoffs, it’s necessary to focus on the word playoffs rather than the season-long process. The New England Patriots went 18-0 but then didn’t win the Super Bowl.
Woods could finish the year 1-1-2-2-11-1-2 and lose the Cup to someone registering his first win in more than two years (Jim Furyk). It’s an imperfect system because golf and playoffs don’t fit perfectly.
Playoff madness. Catch it!
• Stricker, No. 1 in points coming in, tied for 53rd at the BMW. What happened? Fatigue that comes from playing five big tournaments over six weeks is a part of the reason.
“I’m just giving myself a break with that and just kind of writing it off and saying that I was tired,” Stricker said. “Really, I was.”
Even more reason to have a week off in between the first two playoff events and the last two. Such a break would mean the BMW Championship would benefit from a full week instead having a short week.
• Speaking of someone who has reason to be tired . . .
Brandt Snedeker has played 13 of the past 14 weeks on the PGA Tour, sitting out only the week before the PGA Championship. That’s rare ironman duty for a touring professional. Just the thought of it probably makes Woods tired.
But, besides perhaps his last hole Sunday, Snedeker hasn’t let potential fatigue affect him. Rather he has flourished. Before his bizarre final-hole triple bogey and tie for 10th at the BMW Championship, Snedeker had also posted a T-2, three T-5s and a T-12.
“Missing nine weeks early in the year (because of a broken rib) got me fired up to play,” Snedeker said. “It’s what I love to do. And when you’re playing well, there’s no sense in sitting at home and watching TV.”
Snedeker entered his first tournament back from injury – the June 11-14 St. Jude Classic – ranked No. 176 in the FedExCup standings and fell to No. 183 two weeks later. At that point, he said he told his wife, “I might not have a job next year if I don’t get my butt in gear.” But he has risen to 33rd and says he still feels fresh.
“I’m not worn out by any means,” he said. “I’m playing my best golf, playing 13 of 14. Maybe I’ve found my way of playing.”
Just how has he managed the fend off fatigue? Rest, exercise and a little less practice.
“I do a good job of sleeping in to 1 or 2 (p.m.) on Mondays and Tuesdays,” Snedeker said. “And I try to work out. I run 2-3 miles after I play. It gets the blood flowing and helps me mentally and physically.”
And he’s not done yet. Snedeker said he plans on playing at least four of the five Fall Series events.
Remarkably, he won’t play the Tour Championship because of that wild finish at Cog Hill. He four-putted from 12 feet for triple bogey and fell out of the Tour Championship. All he needed to do was two-putt for bogey, but he ran the first putt 3 1/2 feet, lipped out and then missed a tap-in.
• Bizarre statistic of the year: Padraig Harrington has made a double bogey or worse in 13 consecutive PGA Tour starts. What makes it so odd is that Harrington has five top 10s in a row.
By comparison, Woods has seven doubles all year, none since the British Open.
• Scott Verplank played with Irishman Harrington the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship near Boston. Needless to say Harrington was a fan favorite because of the Irish-American population in Beantown.
But Verplank has seen more partisanship.
“I played with him in Ryder Cup singles in Ireland,” Verplank said. “It was subdued (in Boston) compared to that.”
• Like the battery bunny, the Nicklaus family news keeps on going. Jack will hit a ceremonial shot at the Masters. Son Gary, 40, is coming out of retirement to try Q-School. And junior Nick O’Leary of Dwyer High in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., one of Nicklaus’ 21 grandchildren, is a highly recruited tight end.
Not that the 6-4, 215-pound O’Leary can’t play got. Word is he shot 77 at age 12 in just the second round he played.
At that rate, he should be shooting in the 50s by now.
• The Kazakhstan Open will be played this week at the Zhailjau resort in Almaty, Kazakhstan. It offers the largest purse of the year for a regular European Challenge Tour event.
No word at the moment on whether Borat or his sister will attend.
If he does show up, officials might want to tighten security.