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What we can learn from golf's silly season -- no, really

By Kyle Porter | Golf Writer

Tiger Woods might be the greatest benefactor of golf's silly season. (USATSI)
Tiger Woods might be the greatest benefactor of golf's silly season. (USATSI)

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I didn't believe them.

This is my first time to cover golf's "silly season" -- the stretch from the end of the Presidents Cup (or Ryder Cup) to January of the following year -- and I thought it might be disjointed but not this silly.

Then I saw Tiger Woods hitting a golf ball down a bridge from one continent to another and I knew everybody was right, this is definitely the silliest time of the year.

Woods is not alone. Several golfers do things this time of year you would never see them do in April or June. It's understandable -- they're collecting paychecks -- but that doesn't make it any less ridiculous.

The PGA Tour wraparound season (kind of) tried to correct this but the only tournament the star golfers really played in was the HSBC Champions -- and that was the one where Jason Dufner and Phil Mickelson dressed in traditional Chinese garb.

But still, I realized, there are a few things we can actually learn from this portion of the season. Not a ton, but a few. Here they are:

Who's poised for a breakout 2014

The nice thing about some of the stars resting or chasing cash overseas is that you get to get a look at the future of golf. We got a glimpse in the first event of the PGA Tour season when Brooks Koepka nearly beat grinder Jimmy Walker (can we change his name to "grinder Jimmy Walker"?) in the Frys.com Open.

After finishing T3, Koepka talked about what it meant for him to nearly win.

"This whole experience is kind of new, everything. Everything in the last year has been a bit crazy. No, I'm enjoying it."

That's good experience from a 23-year-old trying to become a future star on tour. Without golf's silly season, he likely wouldn't even have been in that tournament since he was playing on a sponsor exemption.

You've also seen solid play from guys like Hideki Matsuyama, Chesson Hadley and Matt Every. Mix these names in with the Dustin Johnsons and Webb Simpsons of the world during golf's silly season and you might just give them the confidence they need to compete when the season flips in January.

Who can relax over Christmas after getting in the Masters early

Nearly a dozen golfers have played five of the six PGA Tour tournaments in hopes of securing a Masters invite for 2014. So far only Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Jimmy Walker and Chris Kirk have done it.

Johnson, Simpson and Moore likely didn't need the win as they'll be invited in other ways, but Walker and Kirk will have an extra special Christmas this year now that Augusta is offering those invites from fall events (that's one good thing that has changed about silly season).

Both likely would have gotten in early next year anyway but there's nothing like sitting by a December fire dreaming of walking through Augusta's azaleas.

Where the money's coming from

This year, like it did last year, it was from Asia and Europe. You don't think Tiger Woods is just taking his jet over there to test the gas mileage, do you?

If reports are true, then Woods made more than half as much in appearance fees for two weeks in China and Turkey as he did all year on the PGA Tour.

Who's bored

People tend to say silly things during silly season because there's no good golf to watch. We got plenty of that with the Brandel Chamblee-Tiger Woods rift. That lasted about "however many days it lasted minus one" days longer than it should have and left everybody with a weird taste in their mouth.

The Rory McIlroy drama is ongoing as well. Given that earlier this week we found out he's refusing to endorse a book for which he wrote the foreword, I'm frightened to see what else we discover (from him or elsewhere) over the next six weeks.

What schedules will look like in 2014

It's interesting to me to learn about what the goals of different golfers are. Phil Mickelson has been candid about his desire to customize his schedule around the 2014 US Open.

Golfers like Scott Piercy (who's hurting at the moment), on the other hand, have said with the new wraparound schedule they're forced to play more tournaments than they would like to.

"There's just so many good tournaments, it's hard to say, 'I'm not going to play that one,'" Piercy said. "There's so much riding on every week and every shot; you can't really afford to sit on your couch, even if it's at the detriment of your arm."

Who wants to change golf

If you want to be critical of golf and get something off your chest, this is the time of year to do it. There aren't as many media at stateside tournaments and hardly any domestic media at global events.

There was Brandt Snedeker criticizing pace of play and there was Tiger Woods agreeing with him. There was Ernie Els being irate about the rules for the end of the European Tour. There was Charl Schwartzel threatening to leave the European Tour.

There was Matt Kuchar pontificating on a world tour.

There was Vijay Singh basically saying the PGA Tour is letting people cheat and turning a blind eye.

And last but not least there was me saying Jan. 1 can't come soon enough.

For more golf news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnGolf and @KylePorterCBS on Twitter or Google+ and like us on Facebook.

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