Friday 24 May 2019

Idle Tiger steals a march on Padraig

NICE one Tiger! What’s the point in being best player in the world if you can’t work it to your advantage?

While his leading rivals in the FedEx Cup play-offs must play six times in seven weeks if they want to hit that $10m jackpot, Tiger has put his feet up for a fortnight. Boo Weekley may not be the sharpest blade in the golf bag but he’d no shortage of company on Tour when he recently professed his ignorance of the convoluted points system for the new “climax” to the PGA tour season.

“I don’t know nuthin’ about the FedEx Cup,” said country bumpkin Boo, adding: “I never was good at math.”

Well Tiger Woods certainly knows his sums. Predictably, so does qualified accountant Padraig Harrington, who at 21st place in the FedEx standings believes he must win at least twice in the four tournament series to have any chance of taking that $10m prize. Confessing that his batteries were flat in Tulsa after all the hullabaloo which followed his first Major Chamopionship win at Carnoustie, Dubliner Padraig hopes a good start at The Barclays tomorrow will generate enough adrenaline to carry him through a four week FedEx marathon.

“It’s definitely is an issue,” Harrington said. “Like a lot of players, I believe a better start will keep us focused, especially somebody like me, down in 21st or so. “I've had eight days off, the longest break I've ever taken in season and probably the longest time I've ever had without hitting a golf ball. I needed it. So I'm hoping that I'm going to be reasonably fresh this week and for the next three weeks.”

Tiger has played just 13 events on the PGA Tour in 2007 but winning five of them gives Woods the chance and the confidence to take some priceless time off this week. Already, Woods plays fewer tournaments than his peers. Throw in his visit to the Dubai Desert Classic last February and he’s had just 14 outings in 2007. Undoubtedly, Tiger’s fame places him under more pressure than any golfer in history.

Yet measure his schedule against the 19 tournaments Harrington has already played around the world this year and its clear the scales are loaded in his favour.

Yet Tiger’s earned his time off, says Harrington. “That’s his prerogative because he's played the best golf so far this year and he's leading FedExCup points. “I have to win maybe two out of four events, so I'd better take my chances and play all four,” Harrington added.

“Tiger probably needs one good performance. So he can take a week off and still go and win this thing. The rest of us don't have that luxury.” Yet if the rules for the new series permit Woods (or anyone else) to skip one event and still have a chance of claiming first prize, they’re clearly flawed. Rory Sabbatini, who usually opens his mouth just to change feet, was spot on when he said: “I’m sure they’ll (arrange) it so you have to play in all four if you want to be eligible to win that $10m. Otherwise, you should win a fraction of it.”

As an individual contractor, Tiger’s perfectly entitled to skip this week’s event at a course where he’s had little success in the past. So what if his failure to play The Barclays in Westchester this week makes a mockery of golf ’s new play-off series and will almost certainly cut this weekend’s TV ratings by half.

As for Tiger’s pride in boosting golf ’s status as an athletic pursuit with his victory in blistering heat at Southern Hills … is the same really struggling to catch his metaphorical breath 11 days after playing two tournaments on the trot? Nonsense! Course specialists Harrington, a winner at Westchester in 2005, and Sergio Garcia, who clinched a second tour victory here with a playoff win over the Dubliner in 2004, could wind up in another thrilling headto- head on Sunday.

The other five eligible players missing this week are: Stephen Ames (back injury), Jose Maria Olazabal (knee), Jason Bohn (rib), Ryan Palmer (family illness) and Bernhard Langer, who is playing in Holland.

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