Hate to be Rude: Kraft a welcome surprise for SMU

Kelly Kraft during the Round of 32 at the U.S. Amateur.

Kelly Kraft during the Round of 32 at the U.S. Amateur.

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Jeff Rude’s “I Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday, the same day as his video show of the same name.

See that stack of papers on your desk? Those documents on an office shelf? Perhaps you should pay attention to them.

In an odd development, the University of North Texas lost newly minted U.S. Amateur champion Kelly Kraft because of a paperwork snafu.

North Texas’ pain was SMU’s gain.

Kraft orally committed to play at North Texas in his hometown of Denton but failed to turn in scholarship paperwork, said Jay Loar, SMU’s coach for the past 14 years. When SMU learned of that situation after Kraft impressed a Loar assistant at a 2007 junior tournament, the coaches invited Kraft and his parents in for a talk.

“He thought (signing with SMU) was the best option for him,” Loar said.

Looking back, that was something like losing the eventual Heisman Trophy winner to a clerical error.

“As it turns out, yes, I’d say so,” Loar said.

Kraft wasn’t ranked or recruited much back then. But Loar saw early on that Kraft had talent and a willingness to learn.

“He’s always been about tempo and rhythm, not mechanical positions,” Loar said. “I love that about him.”

The former Mustangs coach also likes this: He figures he’s the only college coach to have coached three U.S. Amateur champions. Kraft follows Hank Kuehne and Colt Knost.

Patrick Cantlay, for the moment, is golf’s new Mr. Runner-up. He has finished second in the NCAA, Western Amateur and, just last weekend, the U.S. Amateur.

While the latest sting probably continues, his sunny, self-appointed adviser here suggests he take gratitude from that impressive body of work and know that he is in fine company.

Jack Nicklaus finished second in 58 PGA Tour events, including 19 major championships.

Phil Mickelson has finished second in five U.S. Opens.

Tom Watson and Greg Norman have finished second in eight majors apiece.

In other words, Cantlay, a 19-year-old UCLA sophomore, is on the right fast track.

Am I all right with Fred Couples taking Tiger Woods with one of his two picks for the U.S. Presidents Cup team?

Of course.

A healthy Woods has been known to get his game in fine working order with three months of practice, no matter what swing tweaking he might be in the midst of. To suggest he can’t find form after three months of lab work is forgetting whom exactly we are talking about.

What’s more, the people of Australia are more than just fine with the pick. This international exhibition is as much about entertainment as competition. And Woods, whatever version shows up Down Under, will entertain.

Vijay Singh may be 48 years old and winless for three years and down to No. 53 in the world, but the aging Fijian workhorse has emerged as a legitimate candidate to win the FedEx Cup, as he did in 2008.

Singh, finally healthy, appears in the midst of another late-season surge. Not that that is surprising; he’s long been golf’s Mr. Eleventh Hour. When he won nine times in 2004, a stunning achievement for someone on the winter side of 40, he bagged six of those victories from August onward. He collected all of his three 2008 trophies post-July as well.

“I guess it’s coincidence,” Singh said the other day at the Barclays when asked of his stretch-run success. “I’m playing well here because I’m feeling good. I can be more aggressive and not really worry about how I’m going to wake up the next morning, and if I can play or not. So I’ve been struggling with this (back) for two years, so it’s the first time I feel really comfortable to go out there.”

His clock seems reset on the same time this year – largely because his back is cooperating. Like Fred Couples, Singh went to Germany for treatment recently.

“Got some shots in my back,” Singh said. “It’s worked miracles, yeah.”

On the scoreboard, too.

Singh moved up from 36th to eighth in FedEx Cup points Saturday with his tie for third at the Barclays. He tied for fourth in his most recent start before that, at the Greenbrier. He has shot 64 and three 65s in his last seven rounds.

What’s more, he’s back at a favorite playground at this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship. He has won twice and finished second once at TPC Boston.

Yeah, the 2011 majors are gone and the season is winding down. But history is on the table for at least one player.

At the moment, Luke Donald ranks fifth in FedEx Cup points and leads the PGA European Tour Race to Dubai. He has a chance to become the first player to win both titles.

You might say his chances are decent, considering the venues ahead. He tied for second last year at TPC Boston, site of this week’s Deutsche Bank event. He is comfortable in his adopted hometown of Chicago, site of the BMW Championship. And he finished second last year at East Lake, site of the playoff finale, the Tour Championship.

You might also say he’s motivated by the prospect of dual titles.

“It’d be special because no one’s ever done it,” said Donald, in the midst of playing eight of 10 weeks.

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