Rude: Tour's 'off-season' leaves little room for rest
Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday.
Took a cat nap after the Presidents Cup and woke up to find a new PGA Tour season upon us. That’s golf for you. Other professional sports go away for four months or so and give fans a chance to miss them. Golf leaves for about 30 minutes and asks you to watch once more with a passionate, fresh eye.
When golf says it’s taking a breather, it means a breath.
More ideal, of course, would be a separation of a week or two between one season and the next. That would be particularly advantageous this year because the golf fan used to X is now getting Y: A season, like a school year, split over two calendars, in this case 2013 and ’14.
That cram job and potential disconnect aside, the new fall system is an improvement for sponsors and players (especially fully exempt ones) because there are FedEx Cup points and Masters berths at stake. It’s also different because players will try to get a head start in earnings and FedEx Cup points rather than play catchup in a desperate attempt to keep their cards.
The new format, in theory, also would increase playing opportunities for lower-tier players, but the jury is out on that topic of access. Twenty-nine of the 50 qualifiers from the Web.com Tour Finals (the Q-School replacement) are in this week’s season kickoff event, the 132-man Frys.com Open.
That leaves 21 on the sidelines and some eyebrows raised.
• The Americans win these Presidents Cups not because of the top of their lineup but because of the bottom. That’s backwards from other sports. The so-called bench is the key here because there’s not much sitting at a Presidents competition.
Two players on each 12-man team sit out a four-ball session and two different players from each side rest during foursomes. That favors the far superior U.S. depth and is the main reason the Yanks lead the series, 8-1-1.
It’s time for change, and the fix is to reduce the total points at stake from 34 to 28. That would facilitate closer matches and overall interest and growth.
Let’s put it this way: If the Ryder Cup played for 34 points instead of 28, it never would have grown to the mega-spectacle it has become. Europe rose and became competitive and elevated Ryder interest because it always rode its 5-6 show ponies and sat its lesser players against a deeper American team.
Playing for 28 points also would allow everyone to compare apples with apples in regard to the Europeans and Internationals. Because of the Presidents’ six extra matches, that’s anything but the case.
Hence we have this incongruity: The Americans have lost seven of the past nine Ryder Cups in an event where its depth is minimized and have won eight of the 10 Presidents Cups in a format that maximizes U.S. depth.
• The most remarkable thing about last week’s water-logged Presidents Cup is this: After seemingly 40 days and 40 nights of rain and delay after delay, the competition actually finished ahead of schedule and didn’t need an ark.
• That happened because Sunday singles was televised via tape-delay because bad weather was forecast. Appropriate word there is delay.
• When David Duval broke through and won a major championship at the 2001 Open Championship, many thought he would vault to bigger and better things. Instead, he hasn’t won since.
Because of that and some other cases, I’m not one to quickly project that a golfer will vault off success to greater heights. Supposed springboards come with no guarantee.
That said, I’d be surprised if Internationals such as one-time Tour winner Jason Day and winless Graham DeLaet and Brendon de Jonge don’t become more accomplished and confident players after their good showings at the Presidents Cup.
• Yes, the self-taught DeLaet, at 31, has developed into one of the Tour’s best ball-strikers. But when I heard a TV type at the Presidents Cup say the Canadian is the game’s best hitter, I couldn’t help but think this:
Did the broadcaster not see Henrik Stenson play golf after July 1? Or check the Swede’s record and bank account?
Stenson and DeLaet tied for first in Tour ball-striking (combined rankings of total driving and greens in regulation). Stenson led in GIR and was third in driving, and it was vice versa for DeLaet.
The difference is that Stenson hit the fairway more routinely (70.1 to 65.8 percent) and hit so many of his shots while under the pressure of contention in big tournaments.