Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – You saw Boo Weekley ride his driver off the first tee at the 2008 Ryder Cup, as if it were a bucking horse, as if he were a giddy cowboy, as if golf’s biggest extravaganza were a rodeo. It was the ultimate week in professional golf for the likable Milton, Fla., redneck who likes to hunt deer with a bow and arrow and take care of wild hogs with a shotgun.
The next spring, he had another career moment. The difference is that it got little attention and brought misfortune, so much that he hasn’t been the same golfer since.
Weekley remembers that fourth round of the 2009 Players Championship as if it were yesterday’s turkey shoot. His drive came to rest on an upslope in the rough near a bunker, leaving an awkward stance, with his left foot well above his right. In position for a top-10 finish, he took a mighty swing and his club stuck into the side of the mound.
“I knew I tore something,” Weekley, who would withdraw soon after, said Tuesday at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic media day.
A torn labrum in his left shoulder eventually would require surgery and give him periodic problems as related to hitting a golf ball on the PGA Tour. When you talk about Weekley and shots, it might refer to cortisone, considering how many of that variety he has received.
“It’s been crazy,” said Weekley, 39, who won twice on Tour in 2007-08. “I’ve been fighting with it ever since. It won’t ever get right, I don’t think.”
That’s bad for his avocation as well as vocation.
“My left shoulder interferes with my (deer) hunting,” Weekley said, managing a smile. “I can’t pull back with my bow. I might have to go the old-man way with a crossbow.”
As for his golf career, that appears to be at a crossroads.
After consecutive seasons in the top 25 in earnings, Weekley dropped to 85th in 2009, then to 111th and to 180th last year, when, oddly enough, he led the Tour in ball-striking but lost his card by a wide margin. Having relied on sponsor exemptions in 2012, he ranks 121st in earnings entering this week’s McGladrey Classic, meaning he’s on the eleventh-hour bubble to make the top 125 and regain a full exemption.
“Trying to block it out is the hardest part,” Weekley said of his position with two starts remaining. “It wears on your mind. One shot, one putt, one break can cost you your job on the PGA Tour. It’s very stressful.”
Weekley leads the Tour in total driving but ranks 189th in putting (strokes gained). But he’s quick to say Tour statistics can be misleading. Yes, he led in ball-striking (combination of total driving and greens in regulation) last year, but he found himself aiming at the middle of greens and facing 40-foot birdie putts because he couldn’t fade the ball thanks to shoulder tightness.
“I didn’t feel it was a good ball-striking year,” he said.
He feels the same about the putting stat. He routinely ranks high in ball-striking and very low in putting. But he maintains the fact that he hits a lot of greens and faces long birdie putts drags down his putting ranking.
“It lies,” he said. “It doesn’t make no sense. All that’s overrated. People say I’m one of the worst putters on Tour. I might not be the best, but I’m not the worst.”
Weekley finally felt he was getting back on track this spring when he tied for third at Puerto Rico and tied for sixth at the RBC Heritage. But the next week he withdrew from the Valero Texas Open when painful cysts near his buttocks made walking difficult and required removal. As a result, he missed a month and never regained momentum.
“Everything mentally wore me out,” said Weekley, about 15 pounds heavier than his Ryder Cup days. “Mostly it’s confidence. I’m not hitting shots I’m capable of, but it’s starting to get better. It’s turning around. … It’s embarrassing the way I’ve played the last two years. I don’t care if I’ve been hurt.”
Weekley had another long vacation, of five weeks, during the FedEx Cup playoffs and Ryder Cup. He said he picked peanuts and corn and shot wild hogs during that layoff. What he did not do was watch the Ryder Cup.
“I love golf,” he said, “but I don’t watch it. It’s my job.”
A few years ago, pre-injury, Weekley said he planned to walk away from golf after he saved an undisclosed amount of money. The post-injury slide, though, has changed his outlook. He sounds hungrier.
“I’ll just play until my body gives out,” Weekley said. “I’m looking at it very differently. I’ve got to make this happen. I don’t want to go out on the bad note.”
Nor does he want to end this season without a 2013 card. Whether he succeeds or fails likely will come down to the Nov. 8-11 Children’s Miracle Network, the last official event. He will go to Disney World knowing there will be other challenges besides competitive golf.
“It’s rough,” Weekley said. “You play at 7 a.m. and walk 8-9 miles and it’s hot. Then the kids run up to you on 18 and ask how you play. Then you gotta go see Mickey (Magic Kingdom) and the next thing you know you’re walking another 8-9 miles. It’s rough.”