Count Tiger Woods, newly crowned World Challenge champ Graeme McDowell, and European Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter among golf’s superstars who believe Rory McIlroy nailed it when he said he'd play fewer events next year.
Woods, who finished fourth last week in his annual glorified member-guest that boasts 17 of his closest friends, said he just lacked the oomph to defend his World Challenge title and was eager for a break.
"Overall I struggled with my game this week. I didn't quite have it," Woods told reporters Sunday after finishing the week at 9-under -- eight strokes back of McDowell. "It's been a long year and I've played a lot. Just really looking forward to...having nothing to do with golf for a few weeks, just put [my clubs] away, enjoy the holidays, be with my kids, and just really enjoy that.”
The host of the tourney that benefits his foundation and that Woods helped support with $4 million from his own pocket (in addition to the earnings he donates each year) was hardly alone in heaving a sigh of relief that a jam-packed season was finally over. Indeed, Woods, McDowell, and Poulter all followed the lead of McIlroy, who has said for a while that he would add a few more blackout dates to his 2013 calendar.
"I would just love to cut my schedule back even further and I think next year I will cut it down again to a max play of 22 or 23," McIlroy told ESPN UK in October, before shifting into second gear to bag the money titles on both sides of the Atlantic and the Euro Tour’s final event in Dubai. "It has been a great season and I am ready to be done. It is just such a long season these days."
The physical wear and tear was not what tuckered out the 23-year-old best golfer in the world so much as the psychological.
“It's a long year, and physically it's fine,” he told reporters during the Deutsche Bank Championship over the Labor Day weekend. “You can play golf and you can travel and everything. But mentally and emotionally is where you get fatigued, I feel, and that's something you just have to be careful of and wary of and really know...when you feel burned out and you need to take a break."
Jet lag, more than anything, finally wore down the globe-trotting Poulter.
"I put myself in a situation this week where, to be honest, I'm kind of spent," Poulter told reporters after a 17th-place finish in the 18-player World Challenge field. "My body was just telling me, and I was making stupid mistakes.”
The charismatic Englishman had an up-and-down 2012 campaign that included three top-10 finishes in the majors, a win at the HSBC Champions tournament in China, and an MVP performance at Medinah where he anchored a shocking comeback by the Europe Ryder Cuppers. The two-time PGA Tour winner believed that fewer stops on his global world tour could improve his chances of finally nabbing a major.
"There are so many good tournaments around the world and I would love to play all of them but unfortunately we can't. You have to look at it, plan it, and try and play where you know you can perform,” Poulter said. "I've got to a stage in my career where playing 26 weeks a year is probably too much, so I'm going to look to cut a few tournaments out next season."
For McDowell, who replaced Woods in the 2009 World Challenge tourney after the infamous fire hydrant incident, used the event as a springboard to a star-making 2010 year that included his U.S. Open victory. Even a second W in the unofficial tournament after a disappointing 2012 season would not cajole McIlroy’s newly affianced Northern Irish countryman out of a prolonged hiatus to “recharge” his batteries.
“This 10 weeks is huge for me really just from a resetting and recharging and resetting my goals and getting ready for a big year next year,” McDowell said after a final-round 4-under 68 on Sunday. “This will give me some nice momentum going into the off season....I'm going to shut her down here for a few weeks.”
As for Woods, he had a six-week breather coming up but allowed that he might knock a few around if his son were game.
“I'm sure I'll dink around and be a shag bag or something like that with Charlie,” Woods said. “He may want to go out there and hit a few balls...and if so, I'll hit a few balls, but as far as actually sitting out there and working on my technique and my numbers and all that stuff, that's probably not going to happen at least until after Christmas.”