Finchem Optimistic for FedExCups Fall Finish

By Associated PressNovember 14, 2006, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)The PGA TOUR could not have created a better fall finish than Sunday afternoon in San Francisco.
Just more than a year ago, Tiger Woods and John Daly squared off in a sudden-death playoff at Harding Park, a refurbished public golf course along the shores of Lake Merced that staged a World Golf Championship. It sounded like a rock concert and felt like a major. And it delivered the kind of drama rarely seen this side of August.

They slugged it out down the stretch with an awesome display of power, a duel ultimately determined by a 3-foot putt Daly missed on the second extra hole to hand Woods his sixth and final PGA TOUR victory of the year.
'I don't think there are a lot of people watching NFL football right now,' Daly said, and the room erupted in laughter.
But the joke was on golf.
ABC Sports got only a 2.8 rating for that Sunday afternoon, and that was the second-highest rated golf tournament of the fall. The highest was a 3.0 at the Presidents Cup, which featured Woods, Phil Mickelson and a U.S. team trying to win for captain Jack Nicklaus.
All of which leads to an important question as the PGA TOUR looks ahead to 2007.
How can the FedExCup possibly top that?
PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem was looking to create interest in the end of the year when he came up with the FedExCup competition, a season-long points race that culminates with golf's version of the playoffs. The idea is for the top players to compete in three 'playoff' events starting Aug. 23 and ending Sept. 16 at the TOUR Championship, with $10 million going to the winner.
The concept has merit. Anyone who thinks this is a bad idea hasn't been paying attention to golf in the fall -- or maybe they're among the few who have been paying attention, because not many watch golf after the PGA Championship (or before football starts).
'If you're not going forward, you're going backward,' Finchem said. 'All the other sports are investing millions of dollars in being more competitive with each other and with us, and you have to continue to find ways to connect with the fan.'
The FedExCup is taking golf forward.
A year ago at the TOUR Championship, the rating was 1.9, and that was with Woods in the field (albeit six shots behind Bart Bryant). The rating plunged to a paltry 0.9 this year when Woods skipped for the first time in his career.
Next year can get only better.
If nothing else, this adds another element to the PGA TOUR season that will not be decided until the TOUR Championship, no matter how many majors or tournaments a player (Woods comes to mind) might win.
The PGA TOUR further helped itself Tuesday by deciding to reduce the field each week during the playoff tournaments. The playoffs will start with 144 players at the Barclays Classic, drop to 120 players for the Deutsche Bank Championship, and only 70 players will advance to the BMW Open in Chicago. The Tour Championship still gets the top 30 players chasing the $10 million prize.
What remains to be seen, however, is whether the FedExCup represents a baby step or a quantum leap.
One gets the impression from the marketing machine at the PGA TOUR that the FedExCup is the greatest concept in golf since Bobby Jones built a golf course on a former nursery in Augusta, Ga., and invited his friends to play a tournament each spring.
Realistically, it might be the best concept since the World Golf Championships began in 1999, and the novelty wore off about four years later. It was cool to have the top 50 or the top 64 players in the world competing against each other, but now they do that at least eight times a year. Add to that the FedExCup playoff series, and they could be competing against each other as often as 12 times a year.
What's important is to keep expectations at reasonable levels.
If two of the biggest draws in golf (Woods and Daly) produced only a 2.8 rating in a playoff, how is it going to get better with Woods, Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia trying to pile up points as they position themselves in the FedExCup? And that's assuming the stars play their best. The fear is that the FedExCup comes down to Zach Johnson and Troy Matteson.
Plus, it would be a mistake for TOUR officials to think that the FedExCup will determine the player of the year.
If someone were to win two majors (again, Woods come to mind since he has done that four times) and far more tournaments heading into the playoffs, it would be foolish to think he would not be voted player of the year.
Golf still is defined by the four majors.
Instead of comparing the FedExCup to NASCAR and its Nextel Cup, think of golf in the same terms as horse racing.
Fame is found at the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. And at the end of the year is the lucrative Breeders' Cup, a showcase of the best horses.
And during the Breeders' Cup, most people are watching football.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next 8-12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.

Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.

Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”