JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Rory McIlroy has an easy time defining his season to date. It hasn't been very good.
He jokes with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald that he effectively has taken six months off and now it's time to get to work.
The good news for him is that he says golf is starting to feel more like play than work again entering the Barclays and today's start of the four-tournament PGA Tour FedEx Cup playoffs.
He was swinging freely during his pro-am Wednesday, finally comfortable with his driver and launching balls high and relatively straight. McIlroy said he feels like he turned a corner at the Bridgestone Invitational early this month (he tied for 27th), and he rallied at the PGA Championship two weeks ago to at least flirt with contention for the first time in a major this year.
Last year, McIlroy, 24, won consecutive playoff events and tied for 10th at the playoff-finale Tour Championship, but Brandt Snedeker won the FedEx Cup and the $10 million prize. "Maybe it will be the other way around (this year)," McIlroy said. "That's the beauty of it. You look at basketball, baseball, football. Teams squeeze in and make a great playoff run and win. I'm in that position where I've got nothing to lose and everything to gain."
Playoff primer: The playoffs — consisting of the Barclays, the Deutsche Bank Championship, the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship — start with the top 125 players in FedEx Cup points. Tiger Woods enters at No. 1. Only the top 100 after the Barclays advance to next week's Deutsche Bank Championship; the current top 43 are guaranteed a spot (McIlroy is 49th).
A good rap? Ben Crane was lucky to get into the playoffs at No. 125. He missed the cut last weekend at the Wyndham Championship, and this was the first year no one moved into the top 125 in the last pre-playoff event.
He likely needs to finish at least in the top 40 at the Barclays to advance. Instead of stressing out, Crane — who had a cult hit video, Oh, Oh, Oh, with his Golf Boys cohorts Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson and Hunter Mahan — made another video set to a rap song he calls Bubble Boy. Among the lyrics: "Being down here at 125, wipe my tears, the dream's still alive." Crane took a few videos on the course Wednesday and put the finished product on YouTube.
DUFNER RETURNS: Jason Dufner wasn't swamped with phone calls and text messages after winning his first major at the PGA Championship this month. Then again, he changed his cellphone number about a week before. "Very limited people have access to my phone number," he said, among them fellow ex-Auburn athletes Bo Jackson and Charles Barkley.
Besides a short media tour in New York, Dufner was home in Alabama, living up to his pledge that winning a major would not change his life. "I still took the trash out on Tuesday morning, and we (he and wife Amanda) actually got a new puppy, so I was up at 3 in the morning every night taking him out to the bathroom."