Volatile FedExCup has the players attention

By Associated PressAugust 27, 2008, 4:00 pm
DeutscheBank Logo 2007NORTON, Mass. ' Padraig Harrington has won the last two majors and is considered the favorite to be voted Player of the Year on the PGA TOUR. But if he doesnt play well the next two weeks, he might not even make it to the Tour Championship.
 
Then theres Kevin Sutherland, who hasnt won in more than six years and has never made it to the TOUR Championship in his 13 years on tour. But he will tee off Friday in the Deutsche Bank Championship at No. 3 in the FedEx Cup standings.
 
The Tour wanted more volatility in the second year of its playoff system.
 
But this much?
 
Its definitely created some excitement among the players, Brett Quigley said Wednesday at the TPC Boston, site of the second round of the PGA TOUR Playoffs.
 
He later was asked for a different description than excitement, and Quigley smiled.
 
Concern interest, he said. I think last year they didnt have the points system quite right with guys not being able to move enough, a la Rich Beem. And this year, it seems like the players think its a little too much movement. But certainly, theyve created some drama. Some guys are going to be thinking about just making the cut this week; guys wouldnt probably be thinking about that normally.
 
A year ago, Beem tied for seventh at The Barclays and barely advanced to the second round, moving from No. 134 to No. 113. Under this years points system, Beem would have moved up to No. 70.
 
The top 120 made it to the Deutsche Bank Championship, and only the top 70 after this week advance to the third round in St. Louis. There are only 115 players at the TPC Boston because of injuries (Tiger Woods, Luke Donald, Alex Cejka) and two Europeans who are playing in Scotland this week (Lee Westwood, Justin Rose).
 
Kenny Perry, who effectively began this postseason as the No. 1 seed with Woods out for the year, already began complaining about having three victories and not making it to the TOUR Championship. But he tied for 48th and slipped only to No. 7.
 
The one who should worry is Harrington, the British Open and PGA champion, who missed the cut last week at The Barclays and plunged all the way from No. 4 to No. 23. Another missed cut at Boston and hell be out of the top 30.
 
But the Irishman isnt worried at all. He actually likes the wild shifts in the standings.
 
I think its a fair reflection that I dropped about 20 spots by missing the cut, Harrington said. I think it should be very volatile. Thats what a playoff system should be like. Youve got to go produce.
 
If he could change one thing, Harrington would make it even more combustible by awarding big points to the top 10 finishers in a tournament, minimal points for those barely making the cut.
 
Either way, he came to one conclusion in Year 2 of this system.
 
I think the FedExCup is working, he said. Its got more players out here playing, more players interested at this time of the year. Its creating a bit of a buzz. If players arent exactly happy with the system at the moment no press is bad press. Something like that. People are talking about it, and thats the main thing.
 
Vijay Singh won The Barclays last week in a playoff over Sergio Garcia and Sutherland, and they now are Nos. 1-2-3 and will be in the same group the first two rounds on the TPC Boston.
 
Perhaps the biggest surprise ' and the poster boy for how quickly the standings can change ' is Martin Laird. The rookie from Scotland was at No. 164 going into the last tournament before the playoffs, then tied for fourth in Greensboro to barely qualify at No. 128. Laird then tied for seventh at The Barclays and moved all the way up to No. 67.
 
I was thinking of going home to Scotland probably for 10 days or so over those first two tournaments, seeing the family, taking a break, recharging and coming back, Laird said. But those plans changed.
 
Count him among the proponents of change.
 
Obviously, I love it, he said. And Im sure theres a few guys that dont love it. But you know, its the playoffs. Its like any sport. You play to get there, and when you get there, its whoever is playing best at that time that comes out on top.
 
But there was another wrinkle that some grad students over at MIT might what to calculate.
 
Two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen was the 144th and final player to qualify for the postseason. He tied for 48th last week, moving up to No. 119 to barely get into the Deutsche Bank. Say he finishes 10th the next two weeks and narrowly makes it to the TOUR Championship, where he finishes last.
 
Is it possible that Janzen could qualify for the TOUR Championship, but still not earn enough money at the end of the year to finish in the top 125 and keep his card? Quigley said.
 

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    Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

    New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

    The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

    "Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

    It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

    Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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    Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

    By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

    SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

    Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

    He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

    Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

    Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.



    The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

    ''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

    Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

    He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

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

    Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

    ''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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    13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

    Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

    Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

    “An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”



    Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

    Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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    McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

    It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

    Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

    Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    “I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

    Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

    “Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

    This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.