Notebook: Five players making up for blah season with strong playoffs

ernie els
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Associated Press

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Wednesday, September 14, 2011 | 9:54 p.m.

Only 70 players made it to Cog Hill for the BMW Championship, the third leg in the FedExCup playoffs. For those who didn’t have good years, they still can make up ground by performing well in the playoffs.

Ernie Els has done just that.

He is the only player at Cog Hill who has yet to register a single top-10 this year. The Big Easy barely made it to Boston with a tie for 32nd at the first playoff event. Then, he tied for 16th to barely advance to the third stage of the playoffs.

The streak will have to end if Els is to advance. He needs at least a top-10 finish to get to the Tour Championship.

Four other players -- Johnson Wagner, Chad Campbell, Sean O’Hair and Lucas Glover -- also made it to Chicago with only one top-10 finish during the regular season. O’Hair, Glover and Wagner all won tournaments.

PACE OF PUTTING: Dustin Johnson rarely takes more than about 20 seconds when it’s his turn to play. Get him on the putting green, however, and Johnson has learned to slow down.

His 10th hole in the second round of the Deutsche Bank Championship was a good illustration. He crouched from the other side of the cup for some 10 seconds. Then he looked at his 20-foot putt from a side angle, before crouching behind the ball for the longest time, then bringing in caddie Joe LaCava for an opinion.

Why the extra time? Johnson struggled with his putting earlier this year, and simply wants to make sure he pours everything into it.

“The more comfortable I get with line, the more comfortable I am over the ball,” Johnson said. “I’ve been trying to get good reads, get as much confidence as I can going into the putt. I can’t control if the ball goes in the hole, but I can control how I hit it.”

Not to worry. Johnson is as efficient as ever with the rest of his game.

“The only time, I take a lot of time is on the putts, to make sure I’m reading it right,” he said. “Other than that, I don’t take any time at all.”

FAXON THEORY: While talking about the rage over long putters, Brad Faxon wondered if players needed to change their attitude instead of their equipment or their style.

Faxon long has been a believer that players should putt like they don’t care -- in other words, stop getting so uptight about the result that it prevents them from having a fluid stroke or a swing

“When people start changing their style, they immediately feel a freedom,” he said. “It’s kind of like, `This is so different that if I miss, it doesn’t matter as much.’ It’s a new way of trying. When you see someone else’s club, you take a couple of strokes with his putter. Inevitably you hit good strokes, because you’re not thinking about making or missing. You’re hitting it to see how it feels.

“Rather than thinking, `Oh my gosh, I should think like this with my putter,’ you think it’s the style or the putter that makes it better.”

DIVOTS: Bob Verdi, a longtime columnist for The Chicago Tribune and later for Golf Digest, has been selected to receive the 2012 Memorial Golf Journalism award. He will be honored next year at Muirfield Village. … The USGA has hired Sarah Hirshland as its senior managing director of business affairs. She completes the USGA’s new senior leadership team that includes Mike Davis (executive director), John Bodenhamer (rules and competition), Mike Butz (championships) and Rand Jerris (public services). The USGA also hired Joe Goode as head of communications. Goode previously worked at Bank of America.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Yani Tseng is No. 1 on the LPGA Tour in earnings, scoring, driving distance, greens in regulation and birdie average. She is No. 3 in putting.

FINAL WORD: “They’re a very young team, besides me.” -- Juli Inkster, 51, on the U.S. Solheim Cup team.