Jeff Rude’s Hate to Be Rude column appears on Wednesday on Golfweek.com.
Tiger Woods leads the PGA Tour in victories (three), scoring average (68.91) and FedEx Cup points. That said, he’s hardly a lock for Player of the Year entering the playoffs because he tied for fifth in number of 2012 major championships won.
Comeback player, yes. POY, no. It could be a double, though, if he picks off a playoff event or two, which he might, considering he is playing all four this year and the sites suit him. At the moment, though, Woods’ major void means he’s probably chasing Rory McIlroy, runaway PGA champion and two-time winner.
His attempt to make a strong finishing kick starts with The Barclays at long and rugged Bethpage Black, a 7,468-yard layout where Woods won the 2002 U.S. Open and contended seven years later.
“This is all the golf course you want,” he said Wednesday. Which means this: If it’s a brute for Woods, it’s a self-inflicted painful exercise for recreational types.
Of course, he has won 14 majors, so he’s expert at handling the April-August part of the schedule better than anyone in history except Jack Nicklaus. But historically Woods’ game has picked up speed this time of year as he plays more often. To wit: He’s the lone multiple FedEx Cup winner.
Still, he seems concerned about too much golf through the Ryder Cup, and understandably so. Some players are in the midst of playing eight of nine weeks.
“I hope it doesn’t get us burned out, playing that much golf,” Woods said, looking ahead to the Ryder. “I can see why some guys are taking a break. … It’s kind of nice knowing that the Ryder Cup does start on a Friday, but then we’ve got a lot of functions there, too, coat-and-tie things that I don’t think none of us really like.”
That last part hasn’t changed. He never has been much for ceremonial black-tie affairs. So no one should buy him a tuxedo for Christmas.
• Woods’ immediate order of business is playing Thursday and Friday at Bethpage while paired with McIlroy. Woods will be watching – not just for two days but for two decades.
“I just hope that everyone just lets (McIlroy) grow and develop as a player because it’s going to be fun to see over the next 20 years how this kid’s career is going to pan out,” Woods said.
• Davis Love III has some ideas on his captain’s picks, of course. Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan would appear to be locks, unless they contract the shanks. Love has the luxury of watching how prospects fare this week and next, and he’s planning to sit back and observe.
It has been said that Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker are leaders for the final spot. It’s reasonable to suggest the captain will take someone, in that group or out, who shows him something over this fortnight.
Footnote: Furyk, Fowler and Snedeker are paired together for the first two days at The Barclays. Almost seems like that was drawn up by someone with Roman numerals in his name.
• I’m thinking that perhaps conventional putters should be banned. I mean, if long and belly putters are so great and users of conventional putters are so stupid that they don’t switch, then take away their putters as punishment.
• Here’s the latest of countless examples that straight driving gets you only so far on the modern-day Tour: Jerry Kelly leads in driving accuracy, hitting 71.8 percent of his fairways, but ranks 128th in earnings and has no top-10 finishes.
• Tim Clark, one of the Tour’s better guys, has but one victory, at the 2010 Players. But he does know how to finish second. Runner-up at the Wyndham Championship on Monday, Clark has had at least one second-place finish on Tour in eight consecutive seasons.
He has been second 10 times total. That won’t get you to the Hall of Fame, but you could buy a wing with all that prize money.
• And, lastly, a few belated words about Augusta National …
Chairman Billy Payne’s words from April and now his actions (in August) finally match up. In April at the Masters, Payne went on about wanting to be progressive in growing the game to all corners and constituents. On Monday, he deviated from policy on membership issues to finally follow through with the admission of the club’s first two female members, Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore.
Payne and the National should be applauded. At the Masters in April, your correspondent here wrote that he was surprised Augusta National Golf Club wasn’t out front in fostering inclusion, given its goal of promoting the game worldwide. This sentence, after Payne talked of progressive intentions, also was written: “You figure that a woman member here seems inevitable.”
Here’s a toast to alignment.
• I’m thinking it won’t be difficult to finish as runner-up in the women’s club championship. I know it’s early, but will second place get a piece of silver?
• And just how many lockers will there be in the women’s locker room? That could be telling or, more apropos to golf, foretelling.
• Darla Moore is married to Richard Rainwater, the billionaire investor who grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, with Hall of Fame golf writer Dan Jenkins. Jenkins once said his group of friends used to let the younger Rainwater tag along when they were kids and said, “We would have been nicer to Richard had we known he’d grow up to be one of the richest men in the world.”
Or that his future wife was going to become an Augusta member.