Herrmann has covered the Mets and Yankees since 1988, and has been Newsday’s national golf writer since
Imagine if the Yankees said that they really did not feel like playing in the American League Division Series, that they needed to rest up for the next round and the World Series. Imagine them getting away with it, and you have an idea of what Jason Dufner is pulling this week.
Dufner is not playing in The Barclays at Bethpage Black this week, having cited a need to be rested for the next three stops in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs and the Ryder Cup. As the No. 2 player on the FedEx Cup points list, he believes he has enough of a cushion to coast into the next round. Unfortunately, he is right. That is a flaw in the playoff system, but it is a bigger flaw in Dufner.
He is making the playoff concept look silly. Plus, as analysts on GolfChannel pointed out when the announcement was made last Friday, if he is so drained, why did he not take off last week instead of playing in the non-playoff Wyndham Championship? (Hint: a close look at the salmon colored shirt he was wearing while he played with Fred Couples at the Masters this year reveals a Wyndham logo.)
In terms of breathers, there is a week off between the BMW Championship and the concluding Tour Championship.
So, you wonder what kind of reaction he will get from his Auburn buddy Charles Barkley, who is keen on competition. Barkley blasted LeBron James for leaving the Cavaliers for an easy ride with the Heat.
Not that one soul on the grounds at Bethpage will miss him. The problem is imagining what if other players made the same choice. What if the respective Nos. 1 and 3 players, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, put their feet up? Woods has done it, and it was not a happy sight for the playoffs. If it happened again and again, it would be bye, bye Barclays.
In some ways, The Barclays is the best of the playoff events because it attracts all the top golfers but, with 125 qualifiers, it also has some room for Cinderella.
Consider Heath Slocum, who just got in under the wire as No. 124 by finishing 31st at the rain-delayed Wyndham on Monday. Slocum has the potential to be a great story, because he has done it before. Three years ago, he entered The Barclays at Liberty National as No. 124 and won the tournament. It made his year, and arguably, his career.
It was not so much that Slocum won, it was who he beat. By making a putt on the final hole, he avoided a playoff with four players: Woods, Padraig Harrington, Ernie Els and Steve Stricker.
"That would have been one hell of a playoff," Slocum said at Bethpage Wednesday. "It would have been 'Woods, Stricker, Els, Harrington . . . and Who's that Heath guy?'
"I'm glad I made that putt," he said.
No one who wants to take the playoffs seriously can be glad that Dufner bowed out this week. You wonder why he needs more rest than the rest of the guys. This peanut stand can't help but think of what Barkley said at a celebrity outing on Long Island last year: "It's beautiful to be out on the golf course every day. All the other suckers are at work."