FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – If they crossed paths, it couldn’t have been for more than a few minutes, and it would have had to have come inside the clubhouse at Bethpage State Park. Hunter Mahan and Davis Love III had finished their miserable second rounds at The Barclays on opposite sides of this massive property, and getting out of town was the only thing on their minds.
Mahan’s 74 had left him at 5 over for the tournament, and Love (72) was at 6 over. Sitting around to chat about the upcoming Ryder Cup hardly was a priority, and each succeeded in his quiet exit.
Having started the FedEx Cup playoffs at 105, Love will not be among the top 100 to advance to TPC Boston for next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship. So expect the U.S. captain to escape to some peace and quiet and remain sequestered until Tuesday, Sept. 4, when he will be in New York to announce his four captain’s picks.
Since the moment the top eight automatic picks were finalized Aug. 12 at the PGA Championship, Mahan had been presumed to be a lock for the Sept. 28-30 matches against the Europeans at Medinah (Ill.) Country Club. Suddenly, though, there is intrigue. Now, Mahan has missed the cut in his last two events. In his last eight rounds, he’s 20 over par. What’s more, his best finish in his last four tournaments is a share of 48th.
Then again, Jim Furyk was in line to miss the cut here and didn’t distinguish himself (T-42) at the PGA Championship, and he’s still considered a leading contender to be picked.
So, should Mahan be hitting the panic button?
Not at all, though the solemn look on his face as he walked away from Bethpage Black had the markings of a man who clearly is not happy with his current form.
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BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: Justin Rose can commiserate with Mahan, because two years ago when he teed it up at The Barclays, he, too, was hoping to make the Ryder Cup team as a European captain’s pick.
To strengthen his cause, Rose got himself into contention through 54 holes when the tournament was held at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J. The thing is, captain Colin Montgomerie was going to name his picks over in Europe that Sunday, a decision that was known before the last few groups went out.
It made for a very uncomfortable day for Rose, Paul Casey, Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington, all of whom were in contention – for The Barclays title and the last two Ryder Cup spots.
“I was sweating it out,” Rose said. “But after having had a good year, I was really up for winning that golf tournament.”
One phone call before he teed up on that final round ruined both of his dreams – for the Ryder Cup and The Barclays. Rose shot 72, slipped into a share of 15th, and wound up six behind Matt Kuchar, who had been tied with the Englishman to start the day, each five behind leader Martin Laird.
Two years later, Rose concedes the phone call from Montgomerie was awkward, “but, hey, you have a phone call, it shouldn’t distract you from the job at hand.”
It’s just that, the way the whole thing unfolded was unfair to each of the players. Harrington was paired with Casey that day, and a few holes into their game, the Irishman got word that he was in. Likewise, Donald.
“Just a really strange scenario to be put in,” Rose said. “When I didn’t get in, I was disappointed, and when Casey didn’t get in, I was surprised..”
Fast forward two years, and the picture is vastly different for Rose (he’s an automatic qualifier), but not Harrington. The Irishman once again is hoping for a captain’s pick, though one day after propping up his chances by shooting 64 to seize the lead, Harrington played his first nine holes in 40 to fall off the leaderboard.
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HEY, YOU ASKED: Having tossed in a tidy 5-under 66, Bob Estes found himself tied with Vijay Singh at 7 under, and reporters found the personable Texan in the media center.
When asked how he stumbled upon some of the changes that led to his lowest round to par since the opening tournament of the season, Estes was more than happy to explain: “Experimenting. A little bit stronger grip, a little weaker, a little higher, a little lower, stance a little wider, a little more narrow, different clubs, different golf balls.”
Whew. Reporters seemed fatigued just listening.
“We go through a lot out here every day that people don’t know about,” he said.
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WHO’S YOUR CADDIE? For this week, Sergio Garcia is employing Wayne Richardson, who normally works PGA Tour events as an on-course spotter for CBS.
Strange, you say?
Well, consider that last week Garcia won the Wyndham Championship while using a local caddie, David Faircloth.
Richardson, who was given the week off by CBS, has been hearing the jokes all week as he has tried to walk quietly around the Bethpage putting greens and practice area. He joked that he’s doing for Garcia what he does for CBS – check out the lies and report yardages to staff members who then relay the information to viewers. “Only I have to carry a heavy bag,” he said.
It’s in those duties that Richardson has become friendly with a good number of players, one of them being Garcia. When the precocious Spaniard split with longtime friend and caddie Gary Matthews, he put in a call to Richardson.
Garcia insisted he wasn’t sending out any sort of message that he doesn’t need a caddie; he said he was just trying to get back to playing golf, and this would help him focus.
Hard to argue with him, because in two weeks he has earned his first PGA Tour victory in four years, nailed down a Ryder Cup spot and put himself into the thick of things here at The Barclays.
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SHORT SHOTS: With the cut line fluctuating between level par and 1 over, it appeared that those at 2 over had a very slim chance to make it into the weekend. If that held true, one of the cut victims was going to be Furyk, who bogeyed four of his first six holes en route to a 73–144. If so, it would be the first cut Furyk has missed in the playoffs, though he was a DQ victim at The Barclays in 2010 . . . . . Forget those storylines of last man in writing a Cinderella story. No. 125, Jason Bohn, had talked Wednesday of “firing at pins” in an effort to go low because there was nothing to lose. But Bohn fired six bogeys, a double and shot 78 in Round 1 Thursday, then called in his withdrawal, citing a sore back . . . . . Matt Every, who opened with a 75, withdrew after eight holes of Round 2, citing a sore neck . . . . . Henrik Stenson matched his low round of the year (65) to climb to 4 under and get into contention. Hard to believe, given his pedigree and former status as No. 4 player in the world, but Stenson is playing in just his fourth playoff tournament.