At 68, Gary Player has won 19 Champions Tour events, 24 PGA Tour events, nine majors and a total of 163 tournaments worldwide. He does 1,000 stomach crunches a day with an 80-pound weight on his chest, he's a fitness and diet fanatic and he's 20 pounds lighter than the 166 pounds he weighed when he won the U.S. Open in 1965.
But because he's from South Africa, one number that Player hasn't crunched is playing in the Ryder Cup. That doesn't mean he has no opinion about who should win the U.S.-Europe match in two weeks.
"America is favored and should be," Player said. "The Europeans don't see the severe, undulating greens that they will face at Oakland Hills. It's a completely different style of play. And it's being played in America. There are a lot of factors that lead to the conclusion that America should have a good chance to win."
Player, who was in Rancho Mirage, Calif., this week for the Christel House Open, a benefit expected to raise $600,000 for children's charities worldwide, said Tiger Woods is the key player for the U.S., despite the fact that his Ryder Cup record is only 5-8-2.
Said Player: "Golf is a puzzle without an answer. How do you work that out? It's a complete surprise. He's certainly going into the Ryder Cup playing the worst of his entire career, so he'll probably win every match." . . .
Player said he has flown more than 14 million miles.
"I think I've traveled more than any human being, he said. "Now, I'm not talking about a man going to the moon. That's not traveling, that's a man on a mission."
No one seems to be second-guessing Bernhard Langer's choice of Luke Donald over Fredrik Jacobson as one of the two wild-card choices, but that shouldn't stop the chatter.
Jacobsen is ranked 26th and has a better ranking than eight players on the European team, including the 47th-ranked Donald and the 62nd-ranked Colin Montgomerie, who was Langer's other captain's pick.
Jacobson could have made it on his own but he failed last week at the BMW International. He played 17 PGA Tour events and had five top-10s, but he also hurt himself when he missed the cut at the U.S. Open and the British Open.
But one important fact remains. Hal Sutton, and, apparently Player, believe the Ryder Cup will be a won or lost on putting at Oakland Hills. Maybe Langer forgot that Jacobson ranks fourth on the PGA Tour in putting.
If anyone is keeping an early score, the U.S. Ryder Cup team has five players ranked in the top 10 (Woods, Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III, Jim Furyk and Stewart Cink), five rookies and two players with winning Ryder Cup records (Mickelson and David Toms).
The European team has one player in the top 10 (Padraig Harrington), five rookies and two players with winning Ryder Cup records (Sergio Garcia and Montgomerie).
Putt for the Fun of It?
Woody Austin won the 1995 Buick Open and nine years later won the Buick Championship. He blames his winless interim on a bad mental outlook and bad putting.
Last year, Austin ranked 57th in putting, but it's the only time he has been inside the top 135. He's 111th this year and says his career would have been much different had he been able to get the ball in the hole more quickly. Austin has switched putters four times in the last two years, to a belly putter to a regular-sized putter, back to a belly putter and back again.
"If you can't putt, it's a tough gig," he said.
"You guys might talk about how Tiger might struggle in putting and yet he's still in the top five. Put him down at 180th or 165th like me every year and now we'll see how the scores change a little bit."
Woods, who ranks first in putting, is also sixth in driving distance. . . .
Michelle Wie update: She started the 10th grade at Punahou School in Honolulu last week and turns 15 on Oct. 11, three days before she plays in the Samsung World Championship at Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, Calif. . . .
He may be recognized more often for the color of his spiked hair and his unconventional clothes, but Ian Poulter had an impact in another way Sunday when he made the Ryder Cup team.
In true Poulter fashion, it was unusual.
Poulter made a quadruple-bogey eight at the 10th hole of the BMW International -- he hit his ball out of bounds from a fairway bunker and then took two penalty drops after knocking it into a ditch and then into water. But then he played the last eight holes in six under, shot 70, tied for 17th and earned a spot on Langer's team. . . .
Color the PGA Tour international. Since the victory of Australian Adam Scott at last year's Deutsche Bank Championship, international players have won 25 of the last 49 PGA Tour events, led by Vijay Singh of Fiji with seven.