Playoff Fever Mild - But Catching On

By Associated PressAugust 28, 2007, 4:00 pm
DeutscheBank Logo 2007NORTON, Mass. -- Playoff fever? No.
 
Despite glitzy banners on the grandstands and a large 'PGA TOUR Playoffs' logo painted in the grass on a slope beneath the 13th tee at Westchester, The Barclays looked and felt like any other golf tournament. It happened to be one of the most exciting tournaments of the year, if that counts for anything.
 
Playoff pressure?
 
Absolutely.
 
Not everyone felt it, least of all Tiger Woods, who didn't bother to show up for round one of the FedExCup finale.
 
Brett Quigley was at No. 118 in the standings, knowing that only the top 120 would advance to the second round outside Boston. He had no clue what kind of score would get him there, but it wasn't long before he found out.
 
As he bent slightly on an injured right knee to study his 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole, his eyes suddenly shifted to an electronic scoreboard behind the green that flashed the projected standings.
 
His name was at No. 121.
 
'That was the most nervous I've felt on TOUR,' Quigley said. 'I never felt that nervous trying to win a tournament.'
 
Turns out the leaderboard had faulty information, and he was not outside the 120 at that moment. Quigley didn't know that, however, and that's what made his next stroke so impressive. It was a slick putt over a bumpy green, and he rolled it into the heart of the cup.
 
Clearly relieved as he walked off the green, the leaderboard again flashed the projected standings. Quigley's caddie, John 'Cubbie' Burke, rushed over and held a towel in front of his face like a curtain. There was laughter all around, especially when Quigley hit a fairway metal onto the 18th green for a two-putt birdie to close with 67.
 
He wound up in a tie for 25th. All that work, and he only moved up to No. 115 in the standings.
 
'My thinking was if I made the cut, I would be OK,' he said.
 
Quigley narrowly made it to the Deutsche Bank Championship this week, but his season will be over if he finishes any lower than second. Ditto for Rich Beem, who had his best finish of the year (tie for seventh) and only got the promise of one more tournament.
 
It is senseless to judge the merits of the FedExCup until it ends at the TOUR Championship three weeks from now. But the first of four events shed some light on what this format is all about.
 
And it's not all bad.
 
For now, much of the attention is on the guys at the bottom of the food chain. It's almost as if the TOUR is telling them, 'These playoffs really are for the top 70, but we'll give you a chance for a week or two. After that, it's time for you to go home.'
 
They have no one to blame but themselves.
 
Players had all year to accumulate points. If anyone thought simply qualifying for the playoffs was enough -- not all that difficult with 144 players getting into the first event -- they learned at The Barclays just how well they had to play to advance.
 
It won't be much different in Boston, where only the top 70 out of 120 players will move on to Chicago. For 35 players at the bottom of the list, such as Retief Goosen and Mike Weir, a top 10 won't be good enough.
 
The second phase is the 70-man field at the BMW Championship in Chicago, where the top 30 advance to the TOUR Championship.
 
This is still the goal for a majority of the players. For years, these guys figured they had a successful year if they won a tournament or got into the TOUR Championship. Even with a $10 million prize, playing in the TOUR Championship remains their priority.
 
That's why Scott Verplank is not in Boston this week. The 43-year-old doesn't think he can play his best four weeks in a row, so he's taking one week off and gearing himself up for the tournament where he thinks he can win. He is at No. 15 and should be OK.
 
'If I'm beat up and dead tired going to Atlanta, on a course where I feel I can win, what good is that?' Verplank said before these playoffs started. 'I'm probably stupid, but I'd rather win the TOUR Championship than the FedExCup.'
 
No, he's not stupid. Just practical.
 
Of the top 30 who make it to East Lake, the best guess is that a dozen guys will have a chance to win the FedExCup. That's assuming, of course, that Woods doesn't win in Boston and Chicago. Only then will the focus shift to the $10 million prize.
 
How is this bad for golf?
 
If the tour had a mulligan, it should change its wording. When the FedExCup first was introduced in 2005, commissioner Tim Finchem referred to these final four events as the 'championship series.' A year later, they became the 'playoffs.'
 
Some international players who grew up with rugby and cricket don't have an appreciation for what playoffs are all about. Americans do, and that poses an even bigger misconception of the FedExCup.
 
Winning the playoffs means achieving the greatest thing in that sport -- the Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup. The greatest achievement in golf is winning one of the four majors. Although the PGA TOUR has never said the FedExCup is greater than a major, using the word 'playoffs' can make it sound that way.
 
Consider the FedExCup for what it is.
 
The majors are over. Everyone knows Woods is the best player who had the best year, winning the PGA Championship, two World Golf Championship stops and two strong PGA TOUR events. He is miles ahead of everyone else. Case closed.
 
Instead of playing out the string until the TOUR Championship -- which Woods skipped last year, by the way -- there are four good tournaments with the best players, a trophy available at each event. Whoever earns the most points wins something called the FedExCup.
 
It's not a green jacket. It's not a claret jug.
 
It's a new idea that just might be better than the old system.
 
Related Links:
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    Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

    The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

    Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

    Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

    Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

    Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

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    Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

    SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

    Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

    Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

    With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

    ''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

    Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    ''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

    Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

    Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

    He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

    Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

    "I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''

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    Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.


    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


    It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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    Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

    By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

    Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

    Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

    “I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

    “The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

    Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.