Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday.
Graeme McDowell, of course, is golf’s current poster boy for feast or famine. The Ulsterman somehow has three victories and five missed cuts in his last eight starts worldwide. Such wild inconsistency is likely unprecedented and has prompted this gallows humor from golf’s human yo-yo:
“My last 8 weeks of tournament play in binary form: 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 1,” he tweeted after winning the French Open on Sunday. “It’s a funny old game!!!”
Or, if you prefer abbreviated English, that’s MC, 1, MC, 1, MC, MC, MC, 1.
Funny is one word for it. Maddening is another. Exhilarating is on the list. McDowell has known both extremes multiple times in such a short period.
Several old-timers queried said they have not heard of anything remotely similar to that run. And we thought Phil Mickelson was inconsistent. Or Angel Cabrera. Or the slumping Rory McIlroy, who last year won five times and missed five cuts.
How do we explain McDowell’s high-low streak, other than to chalk it up to the unpredictability of golf? Intercontinental travel has something to do with it.
After he missed the Masters cut, he won at nearby Hilton Head Island, S.C. After missing the Players cut, he flew to Bulgaria and won the Volvo Match Play. After a 1,700-mile flight to London, he missed the cut at BMW PGA. After flying back to the states, he missed the U.S. Open cut, then went back over the Atlantic and missed the Irish Open cut before winning in France.
I’m dizzy thinking about it.
McDowell, though, is hardly the only 2013 example of players winning after rough patches. In other words, a series of missed cuts isn’t always the failure it appears to be. As has been said many times, a player might not be far from playing well or badly at any given time.
For example, Michael Thompson had three MCs and a T-78 before winning the Honda Classic this year. Martin Laird had four MCs in eight starts, with a best finish of T-34, before winning the Valero Texas Open. And Jonas Blixt had missed eight of 16 PGA Tour cuts, including the week before, and had no Tour top 10s leading up to his victory Sunday at the Greenbrier Classic.
Blixt, though, had gained momentum with a T-11 at Colonial followed by a runner-up finish at Nordea Masters in his Swedish homeland. Then he won the Greenbrier thanks to putting. He tied for 60th in driving accuracy and for 43rd in greens in regulation but made up for that with his blade. He was first in total putts and second in strokes-gained putting, lending more credence to that old Willie Park Jr. line: “A man who can putt is a match for anyone.”
Blixt’s closest pursuers also excelled despite recent rough patches. Co-runners-up Johnson Wagner (six) and Steven Bowditch (five) had missed a bunch of cuts in a row.
• Pencil in Blixt for another victory probably early next year. Why? He won his first title in his 19th Tour start, at the 2012 Frys.com Open. And he claimed the Greenbrier 19 starts later.
• Despite poor finishes at the Memorial (T-65) and U.S. Open (T-32), the latter at least partly due to an elbow strain, Tiger Woods is the betting favorite for next week’s British Open, at about 7-1 odds.
Word is that Woods has been practicing and “all is good” with the elbow, according to a Woods friend who didn’t want to be named.
The question now is which Woods will show up at Muirfield: the one who has struggled recently or the one who has won four of his eight Tour stroke-play events this year?
Given that remarkable .500 batting average, the fact Hall of Famers win at Muirfield and Woods’ hunger to win his first major since June 2008, I love his chances. Particularly on a 7-1 each-way slip and, of course, if he finally gets down the speed of greens for the first time since March.
• What’s the most important joint in golf? Augusta National? St. Andrews? Far Hills, N.J. Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach?
No. Tiger Woods’ elbow. It used to be his knee.
• John Daly has withdrawn from the British Open because of an elbow injury that will require surgery. No word on whether 12-ounce curls caused the problem.
• Two Parks are in the World Golf Hall of Fame: Scotland’s Willie Park Sr. and Willie Park Jr. So if Inbee Park wants to enhance her chances of winning her fourth consecutive major of the year at the upcoming Ricoh Women’s British Open, she should go to the Old Course at St. Andrews and tell everyone she is Scottish.
The Scots love their Parks.
• A couple of thoughts about the inspirational Gary Player posing nude in ESPN The Magazine’s annual Body Issue (story and photos here):
1. The fitness enthusiast looks fabulous for 77. We should all hope to look that good at that age.
2. That said, I’d much rather look at the female golfers who have posed over the years, such as Sandra Gal, Belen Mozo, Suzann Pettersen, Anna Grzebien and, this year, Ladies European Tour player Carly Booth of Scotland.
Booth, by the way, has this Shakespeare quote tattooed to her right hip: “It is not the stars to hold our destiny, But it is ourselves.”
Makes one want to study the Bard more closely.
• By the way, the top three in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings are part-time players: Steve Stricker (seven Tour starts this year), Tiger Woods (nine) and Adam Scott (nine).
Apparently less is more.
• Remarkably, the creative Phil Mickelson has only two top-10 finishes at the Open Championship. Why? He’s not the best wind player and has had trouble bringing down his trajectory, and he has had problems getting accustomed to the slower greens in the United Kingdom.
Mickelson knows the fix. He applied it mentally two years ago at Royal St. George’s. He said he was going to act like it was his first Open Championship and learn and embrace links golf. Then he went out and contended.
• In case you missed it: In announcing that it would follow the U.S. Golf Association ban on anchored putting, the PGA Tour on July 1 said in the first paragraph of a statement that it and the PGA of America strongly recommend that the USGA postpone the ban on recreational golfers for several years.
In its statement two days later, the USGA ignored that recommendation, not even mentioning it.
• The top five players in FedEx Cup points (not already exempt) after the Greenbrier got British Open berths: Billy Horschel, Boo Weekley, Russell Henley, Jimmy Walker and Harris English.
The odd man out was Charles Howell III, who was 19th in FedEx points (one spot behind English) but the sixth non-exempt player on the list. That left him so close but so far away from Muirfield.
• Luke Bielawski, a 24-year-old law student, is currently in Louisiana on his coast-to-coast golf journey that began May 7 in California. So far he has hit shots through mountain passes, railroad tracks and the Mojave Desert and met former President George W. Bush while going through Dallas.
A self-acclaimed 6-handicapper, Bielawski will take a break from hitting a golf ball down roads Friday and play the pre-qualifier for the PGA Tour stop in Mississippi: the July 18-21 Sanderson Farms Championship.
You might say he’s a crazy long shot on a long journey.