Rutledge begins long road back


Victoria pro returns to Nationwide Tour for another run at the PGA Tour

Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2008

VANCOUVER -- He's no longer a rookie. Victoria's Jim Rutledge is back to being just another pro golf veteran, one looking to put the frustrations of the 2007 PGA Tour behind him as he returns to the more familiar fairways of the Nationwide Tour.

There was no fairy-tale ending last year for Rutledge, who after three decades of slogging it out in golf's minor leagues earned himself a promotion to the PGA Tour.

Rutledge struggled as a highly publicized 48-year-old PGA Tour rookie. He made just five of 23 cuts and the $62,242 he earned last year placed him a dismal 226th on the money list.

So he's back on the Nationwide Tour, which begins its 2008 campaign this week in Panama. Rutledge will be there, hoping to rediscover some of the magic he displayed on the 2006 Nationwide Tour.

While 2007 was a year filled with considerable frustration, Rutledge says he has not given up hope of getting one last chance at the PGA Tour.

"I'd like nothing more than to do it again," he said. "It doesn't matter how old you are, it's still a new experience and you can never be totally prepared for it. I'd love another crack at it, and this is the way to do it."

When he lost his status on the PGA Tour, Rutledge retained some playing privileges on the Nationwide Tour. He is not completely exempt, but his status is better than fellow British Columbians Chris Baryla and Bryn Parry, who are both conditional members. That allowed Rutledge to draw into the Panama tourney, while Baryla and Parry will likely have to cool their heels until at least late March when the Tour begins its U.S. schedule.

"I fall right in behind the guys that got their Nationwide Tour cards," Rutledge says. "I will get in probably five of the first seven events and then they reshuffle, so I want to get off to a good start and move higher up that list and be able to play everything."

As it stands now, Rutledge will play this week in Panama, next week in a new Nationwide stop in Mexico and he will also get into the two events Down Under next month in New Zealand and Australia.

Rutledge is particularly looking forward to the New Zealand Open, which he won in 2006. That victory propelled him to the 14th-place finish on the 2006 Nationwide money list that earned him his PGA Tour promotion.

Rutledge insists he hasn't spent a great deal of time reflecting on his disappointing 2007 season. There were, he says, a number of things that contributed to his less-than-stellar play, but spotty putting was at the top of the list.

Rutledge says he never fully adjusted to the PGA Tour's greens, which are a tad faster than those found at most Nationwide Tour events. An aggressive putter all his life, Rutledge says he found himself frequently blowing putts by the hole.

"The greens are just generally a touch faster with more slope," Rutledge says. "I think I was a little too aggressive with my putter and on the PGA Tour you pay for that. I needed to take my foot off the gas a little bit and play more break and not be so aggressive. But that's difficult when you have putted that way your whole life. There were too many three-putts and I was just working too hard on the greens."

Last year, Rutledge was also seeing most of the PGA Tour courses for the first time. He knows many of the Nationwide layouts very well, including this week's stop at Panama Golf Club.

"I feel comfortable out here and that's why I am so anxious to get started," he says.

The top 25 players after the Nationwide Tour's 30-event schedule concludes this fall will earn a promotion to the 2009 PGA Tour.