Busy summer schedule leaves top Tour players feeling fatigue prior to Ryder Cup

Justin Rose (IGF)

Busy summer schedule leaves top Tour players feeling fatigue prior to Ryder Cup

PGA Tour

Busy summer schedule leaves top Tour players feeling fatigue prior to Ryder Cup

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Was it Hermine? Or was it that wall?

Justin Rose likely knows the answer, though either way it doesn’t change the fact that his Labor Day was a difficult one golf-wise.

From 11 under and in contention through nine holes in Round 4 of the Deutsche Bank Championship, the Englishman crashed down the leaderboard with an emphatic thud. Forty-five strokes over the last nine holes — a double and two triples did the trick — sent Rose from T-3 to T-57 quicker than you could say Tropical Storm Hermine.

But just as there is a calm before the storm, for Rose there’s a silver lining to the collapse: A week off that he feels he sorely needs.

“It wouldn’t be the worst thing; I hate to say that,” said Rose, when asked if not qualifying for the Tour Championship (Sept. 22-25) would be beneficial to his mental health.

When Rose crashed over the final nine holes at TPC Boston, it dropped him to 50th in the FedEx Cup standings, which means he has to do something pretty special at this week’s BMW Championship to get into the top 30 and earn a spot into the Tour Championship.

On the one hand, Rose and Matt Kuchar share the longest stretch of consecutive starts in the Tour Championship (six) “and I’m very proud of that; it’s not easy to do,” said the Englishman. But on the other hand, it’s been a whirlwind of summer golf and having two weeks off before the Ryder Cup (Sept. 30-Oct. 2) would be welcomed.

“The rest would be good going into the Ryder Cup,” said Rose. “The Ryder Cup is a huge goal. I’d like to play a lot of matches, and there’s a level of fitness needed.”

Rose and many of his colleagues at the world-class level knew the golf calendar was jam-packed from mid-July to late September.

“Something’s got to give at some point,” said Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, who circled the Olympics as part of his schedule. So did Rose and a few others, such as Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler.

No regrets for any of them, but neither is there much spark to their golf right now.

Stenson conceded that “I feel like at this time I’m running out of steam a little bit, and I’m paying the price for a hectic and successful summer.” Nursing a tender right knee, the big Swede is 24th in the FEC standing, but since the Ryder Cup is important to him, Stenson is skipping this week’s BMW.

Should he remain in the top 30, he’s likely to play the Tour Championship in two weeks. But should he drop out, it would mean three weeks of rest prior to the matches at Hazeltine in Chaska, Minn. Not the worst thing, he agreed.

“I want to be prepared and rested as best I can when I get there because it is one of the most tiring weeks we have,” said Stenson. “We play a lot of golf, and it’s a lot of intensity.”

Phil Mickelson understands why Stenson is skipping the BMW and why Rose wouldn’t be too disappointed to miss out on the Tour Championship. “I think the guys who played (in the Olympics) are going to be fatigued,” said Lefty. “I just think it’s a lot of golf.”

Don’t get him wrong, Mickelson wanted to be part of the Olympics. But had he qualified for Rio, “I would have probably skipped one or two of these (playoffs).”

Of the eight Americans who have already qualified for the Ryder Cup, only Patrick Reed played in the Olympics, and he appears to be the remarkable exception as his play has been sharp.

The BMW will be Reed’s seventh straight tournament, and the stretch includes a win, a T-5, three other finishes inside the top 15, and a T-22.

His Team USA compatriots cannot say the same thing because Fowler, Watson and Kuchar all seem to be laboring. Fowler is also playing in his seventh straight tournament and only once in that time has he finished inside the top 20. Watson (one top 10) is playing for the sixth time in seven weeks, Kuchar (bronze at the Games) for the seventh time in eight weeks), but it’s not as if any of these three potential Ryder Cuppers are flashing their best stuff of late.

Unfortunately, it’s something a lot of them were fearful of.

“I just think it’s going to be hard to be mentally focused throughout the rest of the FedEx Cup,” said Mickelson.

“You can’t do it all sometimes,” said Rose.

Which is why many of them didn’t circle the Olympics and chose, instead, to be fresher for the FEC playoffs and Ryder Cup. Rory McIlroy, for instance, appears quite on top of his game, having played just 10 competitive rounds over the last six weeks. Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson each have played solid back-to-back tournaments after having had three weeks off and of the top 10 in the current FEC standings, only the leader, Reed, and No. 8 Emiliano Grillo played in the Olympics.

Those who bypassed a chance to play in the Olympics took their share of grief. But as the Rio tournament fades into the background and the Hazeltine stage takes focus, some players wondered if criticism could hound players who run out of gas at the Ryder Cup. The old “what have you done for me lately . . . “ business.

Rose said he is protecting against that but knows it comes with the territory.

“At the end of the day, you’re your own boss so you can play what you want,” said Rose. “But you’ve just got to face the criticism.”

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