Jim Rutledge believes he can win on the Champions Tour and he’ll set out this week hoping to prove it as the seniors golf tour gets back into the swing of it on the East Coast at the Allianz Championship in Boca Raton, Florida, today.
The 53-year-old Victoria native left town 10 days ago with wife and caddy Jill in preparation.
“I’m expecting a lot,” Rutledge said of his upcoming fourth season on the Champions Tour. “I haven’t been able to put too much into it because the weather [at home] has been nasty. We’re both just looking forward to get going.
“Time flies by so fast. It was nice to have the break, you look forward to it, but now the break is over and let’s get back at it,” added the popular veteran, who has not competed since earning his full card after going back to qualifying school back in mid-November.
“I definitely believe I can win. Good thing I’ve given myself another chance — a long stretch of events to be able to do it,” he said of earning full playing privileges for 2013. “I can’t say I haven’t settled in, because I have. I know all the courses. I know everything there is to know about the tour.
“There are no surprises. I just have to go out and play now,” he added.
What will it take to win and hopefully finish in the top 30 money leaders so he can escape the challenges of Q-school?
“It’s going to take good putting,” he said. “My ball striking has been OK. Putting has been the issue, not unlike a lot of guys. But inside 100 yards, it comes down to good wedge play and good putting.”
Rutledge is coming off a season in which he earned $270,434 in 20 events to finish 49th on the 2012 money list. His play on weekends (the tour usually plays three-round events, starting on Fridays) has been among the top. It’s early starts that have hampered him.
Ten-plus days of preparation in the Florida area, where the Tour will compete the next two weeks before heading to the West Coast, will only benefit him.
“I haven’t been playing a lot,” Rutledge said before leaving. “I’ve been trying to swing every day and certainly trying to putt, if we can. The [winter] conditions just weren’t the same. It’ll be nice to peel some gear off instead of putting four layers on, trying to play golf.
“But the reason I’m out there is to get the exercise in and get as much done as I can,” said Rutledge, who has been training in the off-season at Uplands Golf Club.
“It’s a lot of work. Not unlike any other tour,” he stressed. “The biggest hurdle was tour school. It’s not like we have to grind out cuts, we have to grind out some good finishes. I’m not in the same scenario as a lot of guys are in, though. I could go away in a heartbeat.
“I have to either win [an event] or finish in the top 30 [at season’s end] to keep my playing status. That’s what keeps me going.”
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