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?
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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  • Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

    By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

    Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

    Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

    Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

    Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

    It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

    The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

    Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

    Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

    ''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

    They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

    ''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

    Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

    ''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

    Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

    Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

    Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

    Getty Images

    Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

    Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

    Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

    Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

    Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

    The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

    Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

    By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

    JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

    Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

    Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.