Notes: Schedule forces players' tough choices
It's only May, yet three major championships, four FedEx Cup playoff events and six tournaments to start the 2013-14 season indicate there's an awful lot of golf still to be played. If you want to turn your calendar ahead a few months, it's easy to get a sense of why the great players tread carefully with their schedules.
Simply put, there are so many great tournaments, so little time.
"It's just too much golf," Louis Oosthuizen said about that time of the year when American golfers are going into hibernation, but international players are squeezed in several directions. The good news is, the boys from Europe, South Africa and Australia have no shortage of options once they've gained world-class status. The bad news is, try pleasing everyone.
Take Adam Scott, for example. He has talked in the past of pacing himself during the early and middle months because the back end is so heavy. He's got a great point, too. Consider the HSBC Champions in China, in which Scott has played each of the past three years. If he wants to play there this year, it might mean playing five straight weeks, something players at his level rarely do.
That's because right from China, Scott will head to his native Australia and have the chance to play four more in a row: the Aussie PGA, in his home state, Queensland; the Aussie Masters; the World Cup; then the Aussie Open.
Given that it most likely will be his first return to Australia since winning the Masters, one can imagine how many calls will reach out to him.
Oosthuizen can commiserate. Trying to fulfill his European Tour commitments, the South African most likely will play Nov. 14-17 at the DP World Tour in Dubai, two weeks after probably having played at the HSBC Champions, where he has teed it up three straight years.
So, would Oosthuizen go from Dubai to Royal Melbourne in Australia the very next week for the World Cup? Consider him a definite maybe.
"I don't know if I'll be playing," he said. "I want to try and support the Sunshine Tour. But it's a lot of flying. We'll see."
Another who has to play the World Cup cautiously? Luke Donald. As much as he'd love to represent England, he's the defending champion of the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan, which will be held opposite the World Cup.
• • •
Sports, Politics Don't Mix: When the news broke that the 2013 World Cup would be staged at Royal Melbourne in late November, it was met with great approval. No surprise, given that Melbourne is simply one of the world's grandest golf courses.
But the aspect of the news that intrigued many was the decision to allow Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England to field their own teams. True, it's always been this way in the World Cup of Golf, but with golf headed for a return to the Summer Olympics, the feeling was, organizers would revert to what the International Olympic Committee favors: one unified team from Great Britain.
Thus was Graeme McDowell, the pride of Northern Ireland, openly talking about "playing for Ireland" in the World Cup, as he and compatriot Rory McIlroy have done twice.
But given the chance to represent Northern Ireland, McDowell and McIlroy might do so, which would open things up for Ireland's Padraig Harrington. (Ranked much lower than McDowell and McIlroy, Harrington would not have been in line to play for Team Ireland.)
It led to questions about all the pressure that has been tossed McIlroy's way, about whether he should play in 2016 for Ireland or Great Britain, and how it's unfair for the young man to say whether he considers himself Irish or British.
"Politicians have tried to sort it out for a long, long time," Harrington said. "It's not really the job of sports people. (Separate teams for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England) simplifies things."
• • •
This 'N' That: A par 5 of thoughts, observations, and wonderments:
• The Tiger Woods-Sergio Garcia thing from Round 3 of The Players Championship boils down to this: They don't get along, so what makes you think they're going to go out of their way for niceties? There was a great line from Fulton Allem, who once was asked why he dislikes slow play. "Etiquette is not a small city in France," he said. Well, when Woods and Garcia are paired together, etiquette is a small city in France, and they both share the blame for that nonsense at The Players.
• There isn't a more confounding par 5 on Tour than No. 9 at TPC Sawgrass.
• The Old Farmer's Almanac is predicting showers for the June 12-15 Northeast, which is bad news for a U.S. Open at Merion. Then again, do you trust the Farmer's Almanac?
• By all reports, it was an emotional World Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremony for Fred Couples. But my guess is, he might never step foot in St. Augustine, Fla., again.
• Players probably don't agree, but cuts should be at low 65 and ties, not 70.
• • •
Mutual Love Is Best: One of the glorious things about achieving world-class status is the ability to pick and choose your tournaments by the way the golf course fits your game. Being a guy who prefers shotmaking and those venues that don't demand 300-yard bombs, McDowell puts Harbour Town Golf Links, where he recently won the RBC Heritage, high on his list.
"I think it's pretty unusual that a guy loves a golf course that he doesn't play well on," McDowell said.
Then he stopped and realized he was an exception.
"Augusta's probably the only example of a golf course that I love that just doesn't love me back. But we'll continue that relationship, and we'll see where we go from here."
McDowell has missed the cut in four of his six Masters starts.
• • •
Talking Point: Steve Stricker is nearly twice as old as Rory McIlroy, 24. Just mentioning that fact made Stricker smile and shake his head, but if you think they had nothing in common while playing the first two rounds of The Players Championship, think again.
"We were talking about his girlfriend, Caroline (Wozniacki)," said Stricker, 47. "I was asking a bunch of questions about her, just because my daughter and wife are into tennis and we watch tennis. I think we're going to go to the U.S. Open (tennis) this fall, so I asked kind of how she prepares and what kind of workout regimens she has and what their days are like."
"Yeah, I don't care about Rory. I was asking about Caroline."
• • •
Like It Or Not, It's Home: When a particular golf course doesn't fit your eye or suit your game or flat-out please you, you've got the option to stay home. Except, of course, when it is the Masters or The Players Championship – layouts that stage massive events that are too big to ignore.
McDowell clearly has to sort things out at Augusta because no one will pass on the Masters. Similarly, there are players who need to work on their comfort at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass because it is the PGA Tour's showcase event and it's not changing locale.
Ryan Palmer proved it can be done, too. Having missed the cut in six of his seven appearances there, Palmer looked at his longtime caddie, James Edmondson, for advice. Edmondson said, "Why go up there Monday and Tuesday to hit your head against the wall. Screw it. Let's go in Wednesday. We can't do any worse."
So they registered at noon Wednesday and just played nine holes, then Palmer went on to shoot 10-under 278 and finish tied for fifth.
It could become a model employed by Robert Garrigus, perhaps. He has made five starts at The Players and has missed four cuts, shooting 41 over for his 12 rounds there. And Bubba Watson? He clearly does not like the place; in six tries he has missed three cuts, with a best finish of a share of 37th. Lucas Glover is another. Eight appearances, six missed cuts, though the one year he played well, 2010 (he was third), Glover also showed up late Wednesday.
Maybe that's the secret.
• • •
Seasonal Secret: Padraig Harrington said the trick to keeping fresh and carrying yourself from one season to the next is to step out of your role and into another to give yourself a break.
"You need six weeks off in order to not carry stress from one season to the next," he said.
When reporters looked quizzically at him, Harrington laughed. "You didn't know that?"
Clearly, the reporters did not. So Harrington explained: "You've got to do something different for those six weeks. You can sweep the floor. You can be a janitor. It's not to stop working; you've got to do something different."
So how does Harrington handle his six-week getaway?
"I wish I knew. I can give you all the answers, but putting them into action (is another thing)."
• • •
Next Stop, Kavarna: You're probably thinking you can't get from Jacksonville, Fla., to this coastal town on the Black Sea in Bulgaria, right?
When it comes to the power brokers of global golf, anything's possible. That's why 11 competitors from The Players Championship – six of whom missed the cut – were chartered from Florida through Paris and into Bulgaria for this year's edition of the Volvo World Match Play Championship.
It's a 24-man field that features eight three-man groups. A curious setup, perhaps, but there's no knock on the quality that has assembled, including match-play specialist Ian Poulter.
Graeme McDowell, Geoff Ogilvy, Carl Pettersson, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Thorbjorn Olesen, Henrik Stenson, Branden Grace, Peter Hanson, Francesco Molinari and Bo Van Pelt also joined Poulter for the charter.
Van Pelt is the only American in the field.