Playoff picture: Woods needs big weeks

Tiger Woods during the 2010 British Open.

Tiger Woods during the 2010 British Open.

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No doubt, Tiger Woods has never looked more ordinary on the golf course.

But one could argue that he’s also never arrived at this point of the year as a more fascinating study. Think about it: By the time August has rolled around in past campaigns, Woods has virtually wrapped up the money title and about a half-dozen player-of-the-year honors.

Ho-hum.

photo

Tiger Woods pumps his fist during Round 1 of the British Open.

This year is different. When it was suggested to a colleague that Woods might skip the Barclays, as he has never shown a passion for that tournament, the head shake was emphatic.

“Don’t think he can skip it,” the colleague said. “It might be the only playoff event he gets into.”

It was a funny observation, but the fact that it might also be true strikes at the heart of this matter. Woods enters this crucial two-week stretch – Bridgestone Invitational, followed by the PGA Championship – in scramble mode, desperate for solid performances just to make sure his 2010 season continues into September.

OK, so it’s difficult to picture the FedEx Cup playoffs without him. And, sure, some of us wouldn’t be surprised if he reeled of consecutive wins and vaulted near the top of the money list. But is it also possible that Woods will stumble each of the next two weeks and not be much of a story for the playoffs?

Presently, Woods sits 80th on the money list, 111th in the FedEx Cup standings and ninth on the Ryder Cup points list. If he were anyone else, he’d be an afterthought with such status. Instead, he’s on everyone’s mind, and that’s why he’s probably more interesting than ever.

There’s the fact that Woods hasn’t won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open – and if he doesn’t succeed at the upcoming PGA, it will be the third time in his career that he has gone 10 majors without a win.

The first time stretched from the 1997 U.S. Open to the 1999 British Open. How did Woods respond to that drought? By winning five of the next six.

The next time ran from the 2002 British Open to the 2004 PGA, which also landed on Whistling Straits, site of next week’s affair. All Woods did after that was win two of the next three, four of the next eight, five of the next 12.

But he’s not the same Tiger Woods this time around, you say. Actually, you’re right. He’s actually more interesting now.

• • • 

With August upon us, there is the usual array of pleasant surprises (we’re talking about you, Jeff Overton).

But what grabs the attention at the other end of the spectrum is this: Geoff Ogilvy has missed more cuts (four) than he has top 10s (one).

Stunning.

• • • 

The year he turned 40 (1969), Arnold Palmer played in 26 PGA Tour events.

Heck, there are 30-year-olds who would need two years to spread out 26 tournaments.

• • • 

Speaking of which, Henrik Stenson won the 2009 Players Championship and that created the opportunity finally to accept membership with the PGA Tour. Eight months in, how goes his participation?

Well, hopefully you haven’t blinked, because you could have missed the Swede. He has played in just nine tournaments, but if you strip away the World Golf Championships (two), majors (three) and defense of the Players, you have a guy who has played in just three pure PGA Tour tournaments.

Outside the top 125

• Mike Weir (128th) 11

• Jonathan Byrd (136th) 8

• Rod Pampling (166th) 8

• Daniel Chopra (170th) 6

• • • 

OK, there’s still time to go, but you’d have to think that some notable names are starting to peek at the Fall Series schedule, just in case. They are, after all, sitting outside the top 125 on the money list with the season winding down.

Some of the more noteworthy names, with their current money status and the number of consecutive years they’ve been inside the top 125 (box to the right)

• • • 

Further proof that this pro golf business has become a bit out of whack: Ian Poulter made $135,000 for his participation in something no one cares about, the Tavistock Cup. He’s earned just $53,089 in his past five PGA Tour events.

• • • 

Oh, and Tiger Woods earned $75,300 for sleep-walking to a T-19 at Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament.

Nicklaus, on the other hand, earned just $61,869 in a 1962 season that consisted of 26 tournaments and three victories.

• • • 

Since winning the 2008 PGA Championship at Oakland Hills, Padraig Harrington has played 22 rounds of major-championship golf to the tune of 44 over par. In eight rounds this year alone, Harrington has not shot better than 73.

• • • 

Don’t look now, but Stewart Cink’s streak of annual appearances on Team USA is in jeopardy. He’s played each of the past six years in either a Ryder Cup (2004-06-08) or Presidents Cup (2005-07-09), but sits 13th in the Ryder Cup standings.

• • • 

Adam Scott at the British Open showed off not only a new clothing company with which he has aligned – Aquascutum  – but also a left-hand-low putting grip.

“It feels good, but it’s going to take time. I’ve just got to work on it,” Scott said.

It doesn’t at all impact his work with Dave Stockton, “because it’s still the same thought process: You lead with the left hand,” said the Aussie.

Another player, K.J. Choi, recently has switched to a more radical change in his putting – a sidesaddle style not seen since that PGA Tour’s most proficient winner, Sam Snead. In fact, they’re calling him “Slammin’ Sammy Choi,” said Michael Yim, Choi’s agent with IMG.

The jury is still out on Choi’s move – he has missed two straight cuts after having made 14 in a row – but one colleague couldn’t believe it.

“If you had asked me to write a list of the 10 best putters, his name would have been on it,” Mark Calcavecchia said. “Just goes to show that everyone goes crazy at one time or another.”

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