NORTON, Mass. — The Deutsche Bank Championship is unlike every other Tour event in that it begins on Friday and ends on Monday, Labor Day. Because of the funky schedule, there is no urgency to get to TPC Boston any earlier than Wednesday.
At No. 65 on the FedEx Cup standings, Tiger Woods needs to have a decent tournament to stay in the top 70 and advance to the BMW Championship next week. But that wasn't enough to get him to the driving range before Wednesday at 3 p.m. He hit balls for 45 minutes and then walked to the short-game practice area with a small bucket of balls in each hand. Instructor Sean Foley, absent for the long-game session on the range, greeted Woods and the two walked together.
Woods seems to be rediscovering his game after the widely anticipated announcement of his divorce last week.
He enjoys his best FedEx rank all season. (He's 62 spots behind third-ranked Martin Laird, whom many golf fans still couldn't pick out of a lineup, and 64 behind aw-shucks FedEx front-runner Matt Kuchar. Hey, you've got to start somewhere.)
"If I would have putted like I did today in the middle two rounds, I would be right up there," Woods said after his final-round 67 vaulted him into a tie for 12th at the Barclays.
We have heard a lot of such talk from Woods, including the old saw about his putting and ball-striking taking turns inflating and/or helping his scores. We will know he is all the way back when he stops with the equivocations.
Woods has perhaps gone from having one good round per tournament to two, and he will look to make it three or four at TPC Boston, where he's won once and finished second twice.
He will need to finish no worse than approximately 54th place to advance to the BMW, and he will likely need two eighth-place or better finishes, or one third, to reach the Tour Championship.
The possibility of missing the next round of the playoffs might not have been enough to motivate Tiger on Tuesday, but many of those from 70 to 100 in the standings were on the range despite temperatures in the mid-90s. For them, the end of the 2010 season is in sight, and urgency is the word of the day.
"I took two weeks off to move to Jupiter, Fla., and there have been some other things that have kept me from firing on all cylinders," said Kris Blanks, who is 91st on the FedEx list. "I've got my card locked up for next year, and one of my goals this year was to make a million dollars, and I've done that. I have to sit back and reassess my goals for the Fall Series."
There is a lot of assessing and reassessing going on in the days leading to the second tournament of the four-week FedEx Cup playoffs. Players who wash out of the Cup go directly to the Fall Series events starting with the Viking Classic, Sept. 30-Oct. 3.
Players who survive to reach the 30-man Tour Championship at Atlanta's East Lake get into three of the four majors in 2011.
This week's bubble boy is Matt Jones at No. 70 in FedEx points. Next week's BMW Championship in Chicago takes only the top 70. Jones is used to living on the edge: Last year, he was No. 126 after playing Greensboro, the last event before the playoff-starting Barclays, which only takes the top 125.
"I wasn't doing any of the math," Jones said Tuesday. "I honestly thought that after I'd made the cut, it would be enough. But I didn't play any good on Sunday and that was that."
At No. 71 in FedEx points, Spencer Levin would miss next week's BMW Championship if he simply holds his position. He practiced his putting at TPC Boston before being drafted as a mid-round replacement in the Tuesday pro-am.
"I need to have a good week," said Levin, who like Blanks and Jones has never played TPC Boston.
Davis Love III, No. 72, used the extra day of preparation on Tuesday to take a putting lesson from Brad Faxon.
Alex Prugh, No. 95 and one of five rookies still in the FedEx playoffs, was among the last players on the driving range, along with Charlie Hoffman, No. 59. Hoffman gets extra credit for being among the first to hit the range Wednesday morning.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Earl is barreling toward New England and expected to arrive Friday. As of Wednesday, the worst of the hurricane was expected to remain east over the Atlantic, but showers were still likely for the tournament's opening round.
Deutsche Bank claims to be negotiating an extension of its title sponsorship, disputing one local report that the company has already cut the cord and will be replaced next year.
Corey Pavin planned to have dinner with Love III and his other assistants in Providence, R.I., on Wednesday night. They have a lot to consider this week, because Pavin will announce his four captain's picks at the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.
Woods will need a pick, as will Stewart Cink (top-20 finishes in his last three starts) and Anthony Kim, who has missed three straight cuts since coming back from a thumb injury. Zach Johnson, 15th in the FedEx Cup standings, also needs a pick.
In other action this week:
Pennsylvanian Rocco Mediate, 47, makes his first start on the Nationwide Tour at the first Mylan Classic at Southpointe Golf Club in Canonsburg, Pa. (Mylan is a pharmaceuticals company.)
Arnold Palmer is the honorary chairman for the tournament, one of four new Nationwide events in 2010.
With nine events remaining for players to work their way into the top 25 on the money list, three players lead the circuit with two victories apiece. Congratulations to you if you can name them. (Answer: Chris Kirk, Tommy Gainey and Martin Piller.)
Jamie Lovemark, the former USC standout whom many pegged for stardom, is also a lock to earn enough Nationwide money for a promotion to the PGA Tour in 2011.
On the Champions Tour, Jeff Sluman goes for his third straight victory at the Home Care & Hospice First Tee Open at Pebble Beach. But the favorite may be Mark O'Meara, a five-time winner at Pebble during his PGA Tour career.
As a gesture of mercy to the rest of the over-50 set, Bernhard Langer, a five-time winner in 2010, will take this week off. Fred Couples will try to maintain momentum from a final-round 67 and a third-place finish at the Boeing Classic.
British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen headlines at the Omega European Masters at Crans-Sur-Sierre Golf Club in the Swiss Alps. The field will also include upcoming Ryder Cup teammates Edoardo Molinari, who birdied his last three holes to win the Johnnie Walker Championship (and a Cup spot) last week, and Miguel Angel Jimenez. Sentimental favorite: Greg Norman.