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Notes: Home stretch towards the playoffs

SANDWICH, England – Three majors down, one to go.

And while the attention now shifts to Atlanta for the final major of the year at the PGA Championship, right behind that is the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs on the PGA Tour. With only five tournaments left in the regular season, the standings indicate what kind of year it has been.

Two of the major champions – Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke – are not PGA Tour members and won’t be there.

A 14-time major champion might not be there for long, if at all.

Tiger Woods, who hasn’t played since he withdrew from The Players Championship in May and hasn’t earned any points since The Masters, dropped three spots to No. 129 in the FedEx Cup standings. Only the top 125 qualify for the playoff-opener at The Barclays, and the fields are then trimmed to 100 players, then 70 and 30 for The Tour Championship.

Even if he returns soon, it might not be for long if Woods doesn’t play well.

But he’s not alone in his struggles. Three players who finished in the top 10 in the FedEx Cup last year are not among the top 100 in the standings, and two of them might not get to the first playoff event.

Ernie Els, who missed the cut in the last two majors, is at No. 139. Paul Casey is even farther down the list at No. 143. The other top 10 player from last year is Retief Goosen, who is No. 106.

Jim Furyk won the $10 million prize last year. He ended a streak of four straight missed cuts at the British Open, but he still is No. 76 in the standings and will have to work hard – if not over the next five weeks, then the first two playoff events – to get back to the Tour Championship.

FATHER-SON TRIP: U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein made his first cut in a major at the British Open, ending a two-week trip to Britain that was memorable not only for where he played and practiced, but the company he kept.

He played with his father, Wally Uihlein, the chief executive of the Acushnet Co., who has kept busier than usual this year preparing for Titleist’s umbrella company to be sold to a Korean group headed by Fila. Joining them were Acushnet vice president Peter Broome and his son, Matt, who plays at Furman and grew up with the Uihleins.

“It was good fun,” Peter Uihlein said. “We had a few days of good golf. We haven’t done that in at least 10 years.”

They played Kingsbarns and the Old Course at St. Andrews, along with Carnoustie and Royal Aberdeen, a key part of the trip for when Uihlein returns in two months for the Walker Cup.

Wally Uihlein referred to it as more than just a father-son trip.

Along with going to Royal Aberdeen before the Walker Cup, Uihlein thought it would be beneficial for his son to experience links golf, see the home of golf and get an appreciation of how golf is passed down from generations.

“It seemed like the appropriate thing to do,” Uihlein said. “It’s not just a son going to play golf with his father. We’re much more purposeful than that. It was as much about the culture and the emotional experience, and how people feel about their golf over here.”

His son and Matt Broome, who reached U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying this year, each opened with a 66 at Kingsbarns. As for the Titleist chief?

“My (handicap) index shows 20 rounds over the last 15 months,” Uihlein said. “I broke 80 most of the time, and I was happy with that.”

ONE-TWO KNOCKOUT: Royal St. George’s tends to produce a good leaderboard, along with a few surprises, but it sure wasn’t kind to players in the top 10 last week – starting with the top.

Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, Nos. 1 and 2 in the world, both missed the cut.

According to Official World Golf Ranking administrator Ian Barker, it was the first time the top two players missed the cut in a major dating to 1989, which is as far back as its data base goes on such matters. The 2009 British Open also was missing the top two players on the weekend at Turnberry when Tiger Woods missed the cut and Phil Mickelson didn’t play that year as his wife was in the early stages of battling cancer.

Along with Donald and Westwood, also missing the cut last week were Matt Kuchar (No. 6), Graeme McDowell (No. 9) and Nick Watney (No. 10). The best performance from top-10 players came from Martin Kaymer (No. 3) and Steve Stricker (No. 5), who tied for 12th.

CADDIE FORTUNES: Caddies keep changing jobs this year, whether temporary or permanent, but the one with the best fortune might be John Mulrooney. He was on the bag for Darren Clarke at the British Open, but what’s amazing is how he got there.

Clarke had lined up Ricci Roberts, who won all three majors with Ernie Els, to be his caddie in Spain the week of The Players Championship. Roberts decided instead to go to Florida to watch Els get inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Mulrooney, meanwhile, was in Spain to caddie for David Howell, but the former Ryder Cup star got injured. Mulrooney then was to work that week for Maarten Lafeber until he got injured.

He wound up with Clarke, who went on to win the Iberdola Open.

“He’s a little bit different, a little bit quiet, but a very, very good caddie,” Clarke said. “He’s worked on some proper bags before. We went out that week and won, and then it was a case of having to call Ricci and saying, ‘I’m sorry, but I’ve just won with John, so with your permission I’d like to carry on with him.’ So Ricci was fine. I carried on with John, and he’s been very good for me.”

DIVOTS: A week after Steve Stricker won the John Deere Classic, he went to the British Open with an incentive to try harder. Stricker signed an endorsement deal with Avis Rent a Car, which went into effect Thursday. The deal requires Stricker to wear the Avis logo on his shirts and outerwear. … Only seven shots separated top from bottom going into the weekend at the British Open, although the R&A is not looking into a 10-shot rule. Jim McArthur, chairman of the championship committee, said the 99 players who made the cut at St. Andrews in 1995 made it difficult to get everyone around in a reasonable time. “I don’t think there’s any proposal at the moment to have another look at that just now,” he said. … More reading material on Tiger Woods is now in stores, this book loaded with pictures. He is the latest subject of Bluewater Productions’ biographical comic book series. This one is called, “Fame: Tiger Woods,” and it became available in stores last week.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Chris Kirk became the fifth PGA Tour rookie to win this year. The record for most rookies to win in one year is six in 2004. There are 14 tournaments left, including four in the Fall Series and one opposite-field event.

FINAL WORD: “There’s winning tournaments, there’s winning big tournaments, but there’s winning majors, which is just a little bit different.” - British Open champion Darren Clarke.