HARRISON, N.Y. -- He can thank Tiger.
For the inspiration. The peek at history. The kick-start at just the right point in the season.
Rich Beem isn't usually that kind of guy. One of the TOUR's most outspoken and funniest players, you'll usually find him making fun of something. Himself. You. Whatever's handy.
So it came as no surprise when he opened his press conference Friday by singing Happy Birthday to himself. And shaking his head in mock frustration when a reporter asked how old he was.
Media guide, he said. That big book they give you at the start of the year. Seen it?
Yes, he was teasing. And smiling. And in rare form. That happens when you 're 134th in the standings, open the FedExCup playoffs -- and the first of four $7 million tournaments -- with rounds of 64-68 and head into the weekend with a chance for a windfall season.
When Beemer -- he even calls himself that -- walked off the Westchester Country Club Course, he looking like a man who could leapfrog half the field in the FedEx standings. Yes, the projection was a 70-place leapfrog if he eventually finished second.
That "62.5" he witnessed by Tiger in the second round at Southern Hills a few weeks ago -- you know, the 63 where the putt for history horseshoed out at 18 -- was catalyst for his opening 36 here at The Barclays.
He called it motivating.
"It was unbelievable,'' said Beem, who played the first two rounds at the PGA with Tiger and Bob Tway. "I mean, I think the reason I'm playing as well as him is just the fact that I was able to watch that and watch him play golf.
"I think the one thing that doesn't get verbalized to the golfing public is how he actually plays golf. I mean, he hits the ball fantastic, he putts the ball fantastic but he plays golf so well. He hits the ball where he's supposed to, the right trajectory, right spin, right everything and he does that on every single shot. You don't see him trying to play to the fat of the green unless that's the only shot he has. He's always trying to hit a specific target with specific height, a specific amount of spin. He's trying to play a golf shot. He's not trying to make a swing. He's not trying to do anything.''
Yet, there he was with a chance at history and Beemer, who shot 70 that day, was walking stride for stride.
"I told him, we were walking up 18, I said, 'Why don't you get this one, too, because you've got every other record in the planet?' " Beem laughed. "Then (Tiger's caddie) Stevie Williams goes, 'Yeah, that's what I keep telling him.' "
Now Beem is talking to himself. Reminding himself of what's at stake, of how he's one of the good streaky players out here. Of the fact that, with all due respect, he doesn't want to go home. At least anytime soon.
"No offense to my wife or kids or anything, but when you're playing well, you want to stay on the road,'' he said. "And I want to stay on the road because I'm playing well."
|Been Awhile, Beemer|
|Rich Beem hasn't won since his breakthrough victory in the 2002 PGA Championship:|
The alternative is to finish below 120 in the standings Sunday and head home. Or finish out of the top 70 after the Deutsche Bank Championship and go home.
The goal? Other than the obvious -- win the $10 million annuity, which would mean Beem would have to win multiple events and have the top players wash out -- is to make it to the final 70 at the BMW Championship.
"I want to play my way in, and I'm having fun trying to do that,'' he said. "I mean, I know that every shot counts, and I know that I've got to play well but if I play well this week; and if I get into next week, I've got an opportunity and I've got an opportunity next week to get into Chicago.
"If that happens, that will be probably as gratifying as anything that I've done in a while.''
Beem has won three times on TOUR in his career, including the 2002 PGA Championship, which was his last win. He gets on good streaks, bad streaks. And right now, he's playing in his fourth tournament in a row. Missed the first two cuts, finished T37 at last week's Wyndham Championship. Now this -- and maybe three more.
"Yeah, I've been streaky in my career, something I'm proud of," Beem said. "But anyways, I don't mind it. I enjoy it when I get hot. I enjoy it because I play well, I don't think about much and I fire at pins and I'm able to do that.''
A 64? A 68? Indeed.
"I hit some wayward iron shots today and some wayward drives, but I got away with it all pretty much,'' he said. "Never got myself into too bad of a position. I had one bad hole on No. 2, which was just being overly aggressive on the green. But other than that, I plodded my way around the golf course, hit some good shots in there but also made some good putts.''
That double bogey on the second hole? He hit it left off the tee, then into the right-hand bunker. He came out to eight feet, ran it four feet past and missed that. ". . Felt pretty stupid after that and got over it,'' he said. "Birdied my next two holes after that, so felt pretty good."
Beem has a long road to Atlanta, but he knows the answer for 2008. Play better.
"It's the bottom line from day one, from January 1, you've got to play well to get far enough up in points to be able to play in all of the events,'' he said.
As for Westchester? Beem will just try to ride the streak. His best finish here was his rookie season -- a tie for 28th. The reason he remembers? He birdied the last two holes to get there. And, well, there was his caddie.
"My caddie, at the time said, 'Well, what do you think about this shot?' "Well, it doesn't matter.' ''' Beem recalled. "Doesn't matter? I moved up like 15, 20 spots, whatever it was. He's on his way out already. Doesn't matter.''
And when the caddie asked Beemer for his check Sunday night?
You guessed it.
"Oh,'' Beemer said, "It doesn't matter."
But this week does.
Yes, Beemer has fun. But he's taking dead aim this week; taking a page from what he saw from Tiger on the way to his 13th major. He's just trying to make a swing. And let the swing take it from there.
Motivation. Inspiration. Chicago and Atlanta on his mind.