Clock for FedExCup Change Ticking

By Brian HewittSeptember 26, 2007, 4:00 pm
Let the tweaking begin.
Up until now, the needed adjustments to the FedExCup have been like the proverbial clich about the weather. Everybodys talked about them. But nobodys done anything.
Thing is, the 2008 season is less than four months away. And the PGA TOUR is acutely aware that it must research, develop and implement changes in a window of time that is closing as we speak.
The TOUR isnt talking publicly about the tweaks under consideration. Commissioner Tim Finchem is in Montreal for the Presidents Cup and wont turn his full attention to the 2008 FedExCup until he returns to the TOURs Florida headquarters next week.
But what Im hearing is that an important date on the timetable will be the final 2007 Policy Board meeting scheduled for Nov. 12-13 at Ponte Vedra Beach.
Tiger Woods, who always commands the TOURs attention when he speaks on any issue, recently talked about the need for more breathing room in the FedExCup Playoffs schedule.
Im told we can expect that subject to come up, front and center, when the Policy Board convenes. Specifically we can expect there will be discussion about the 2008 scheduling logjam that has the Ryder Cup matches beginning just five days after the conclusion of the TOUR Championship and the FedExCup Playoffs.
American Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger already is on record as wishing for different dates. I would like to think that the TOUR would have had a week off between the four or five events in a row that the guys have to play and the Ryder Cup, Azinger said not long ago. But they (the TOUR) didnt ask. Its just one of those things.
One tournament director told me the PGA of America, which owns and operates the Ryder Cup, was white hot when it first saw the 2008 schedule and the proximity of the Ryder Cup to the TOUR Championship.
But there has been a slight cooling off period. For starters, Azinger can take some solace from the fact that most, if not all, of his team will be in the field at East Lake in Atlanta for the TOUR Championship. That means his players wont be showing up for the Ryder Cup Matches in nearby Kentucky coming off a long layoff.
I think it could end up being very positive, Azinger said. Our guys will be playing their way right in.
One thing Finchem cant do'barring a last minute sleight of scheduling hand that would make David Copperfield blush'is put more space in the 2008 schedule between the TOUR Championship and the Ryder Cup. Too many title sponsors already have the dates on their calendars. And then theres the matter of the Ryder Cup not being a TOUR run event.
Meanwhile Henry Hughes, the TOURs point man on player relations, will be actively involved in outreaching to the players between now and the end of the year. Its interesting to note any point system tweaks will have to be in place by Jan. 1. But changes to the four-week playoff system could, if approved, be implemented after the 2008 season begins but before The Playoffs start.
Meanwhile, the UKs Observer is reporting that European Tour boss George OGrady is already talking about an answer to the FedExCup Playoffs.
It would involve a bonus points system. It would be lucrative. And it would require Europes top players to invest more of their time on that tour to be eligible for the financial carrot at the end of the stick.
In money terms, the PGA TOUR in America remains the Holy Grail for the pro golfer, OGrady told The Observer. But while there are always people going over there to try their luck there is also a steady stream of players coming back here.
The bonus system, as currently envisioned, would not include a bonus system per se. But it would incent players to play European Tour events in October, November and December at a time when they would be competing with the post-FedExCup Fall Series events in the U.S.
The system could be in place as early as 2009. And the weather problems could be solved by concentrating the venues in the Far East, especially China where golf continues to boom. The European Tour has never been bashful about staging big events outside the geographical boundaries of Europe proper.
Actually there was no phone call at all from International team captain Gary Player to inform Australias Aaron Baddeley that he wouldnt be a captains pick for the team that will take on the Americans in Montreal this week. The call came instead from countryman Ian Baker-Finch.
Baddeley probably played himself off of Players short list when he blew to a final-round 80 at the U.S. Open in June after sleeping on the lead Saturday night.
But since then Baddeley has recovered quite nicely. And his current position in the world rankings (No. 20) puts him ahead of three members (Stuart Appleby, Nick OHern and Mike Weir) on Players team.
Aaron never expected anything other than to make the team on the points, said his manager, Jens Beck. In hindsight now, Gary Player probably would have picked him.
Most impressive was the way Baddeley stood up to Woods on the final day of the BMW Championship, shooting a Sunday 66 but finishing second when Woods came up with the goods and a closing 63.
Beck said Baddeley took positives away from Oakmont rather than negatives. Specifically, leading after 54 holes at the U.S. Open told Baddeley he was good enough to compete against big time fields on big time golf courses.
Meanwhile Baddeley, who continues to refine his game under the tutelage of stack and tilt teachers Andy Plummer and Mike Bennett, says he fully expects to make the International side for the 2009 Presidents Cup.
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    Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call

    By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 3:06 am

    PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.

    At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.

    “The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”

    Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

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    Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.

    Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.

    “Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

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    Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

    By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

    ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

    The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

    “Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

    And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

    After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

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    Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

    “Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”

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    Rory almost channels Tiger with 72nd-hole celebration

    By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:11 am

    ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy’s final putt at the Arnold Palmer Invitational felt awfully familiar.

    He rolled in the 25-footer for birdie and wildly pumped his fist, immediately calling to mind Woods’ heroics on Bay Hill’s 18th green.

    Three times Woods holed a putt on the final green to win this event by a stroke.

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    McIlroy was just happy to provide a little extra cushion as the final group played the finishing hole.

    “I’ve seen Tiger do that enough times to know what it does,” McIlroy said. “So I just wanted to try and emulate that. I didn’t quite give it the hat toss – I was thinking about doing that. But to be able to create my own little bit of history on the 18th green here is pretty special.”

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    A performance fit for a King

    By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:08 am

    ORLANDO, Fla. – Five hundred and 40 days had passed since Rory McIlroy last won, and since golf lost one of its most iconic players.

    So much has transpired in McIlroy’s life since then – marriage, injury, adversity – but even now he vividly recalls the awkward end to the 2016 Tour Championship. He had just captured the FedExCup and $11 million bonus, but afterward, in the scrum, he was asked instead to reflect on the passing earlier that day of Arnold Palmer, at age 87.

    “Obviously I had a great win and it was a great day for me, but in the big scheme of things, that didn’t matter,” he said. “The game of golf had lost an icon, a legend, an inspiration to so many of us. I probably wasn’t as ecstatic as maybe I would have been if Arnie hadn’t passed away.”

    But there was McIlroy on Sunday at Bay Hill, at Arnie’s Florida home, summoning the kind of charge that would have made the King proud. With five birdies in his last six holes, he broke away from a stacked leaderboard to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational for his first victory on Tour in 18 months, since that bittersweet evening at East Lake.

    “Kind of ironic,” he said Sunday.

    But the connection between McIlroy and Palmer runs deeper than that.

    Palmer and McIlroy’s wife, Erica, shared a birthday – Sept. 10.

    Palmer wrote letters to McIlroy after each of his many victories.

    Palmer had lobbied for years to get McIlroy to play this event, even threatening him. “If he doesn’t come and play Bay Hill,” Palmer said in 2012, “he might have a broken arm and he won’t have to worry about where he’s going to play next.”

    McIlroy kept all of his limbs intact but didn’t add the event until 2015, when Palmer’s health was beginning to deteriorate. That week he sat for a two-hour dinner with Palmer in the Bay Hill clubhouse, and the memories still bring a smile to his face.

    “I was mesmerized,” McIlroy said.

    And entertained, of course.

    Palmer ordered fish for dinner. “And I remember him asking the server, ‘Can I get some A.1. Sauce?’” McIlroy said.

    “And the server said, ‘For your fish, Mr. Palmer?’ And he said, ‘No, for me!’"

    McIlroy chuckled at the exchange, then added somberly: “I was very fortunate to spend that time with him.”

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    McIlroy has been telling anyone who will listen that he’s close to playing his best golf, but even he was surprised by the drastic turn of events over the past 10 days.

    During that 18-month winless drought, he endured an onslaught of questions about his wedge play, his putting, his health and his motivation. Burnt out by the intense spotlight, and needing to rehab a nagging rib injury, he shut it down for four months last fall, a mental and physical reset.

    But after an encouraging start to his 2018 campaign in the Middle East, McIlroy was a non-factor in each of his first four Tour starts. That included a missed cut last week in Tampa, where he was admittedly searching.

    “The best missed cut I’ve ever had,” he said.

    McIlroy grinded all last weekend, stumbling upon a swing thought, a feeling, like he was making a three-quarter swing. Then he met for a few hours Monday in South Florida with former PGA Tour winner and putting savant Brad Faxon. They focused on being more instinctive and reactionary over the ball.

    “He just freed me up,” McIlroy said.

    Freed up his stroke, which had gotten too rigid.

    And freed up his mind, which was bogged down with technical thoughts and self-doubt.

    “The objective is to get the ball in the hole,” he said, “and I think I lost sight of that a little bit.”

    All McIlroy did at Bay Hill was produce the best putting week of his career.  

    Starting the final round two shots back of Henrik Stenson, McIlroy made the turn in 33 and then grabbed a share of the lead on the 11th hole.

    Tiger Woods was making a run, moving within a shot of the lead, but McIlroy answered with a charge of his own, rattling off four consecutive birdies – a 16-footer on 13, a 21-footer on 14, a chip-in on 15 and a two-putt birdie after a 373-yard drive on 16 – that left Woods and everyone else in the dust.

    Then McIlroy finished it off in style, rolling in a 25-footer on the last that was eerily similar to the putt that Woods has holed so many times at his personal playground.

    “I know what the putt does,” McIlroy said, “so it was nice to make my own little bit of history.”

    Justin Rose has played plenty of meaningful golf with McIlroy over the years, but he’d never seen him roll it like he did Sunday.

    “He turned on the burners on the back nine,” he said. “He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

    It’s little wonder McIlroy pulled ahead of a star-studded leaderboard, closing with a bogey-free 64 and winning by three shots at 18-under 270 – he led the field in driving distance, proximity to the hole, scrambling and strokes gained-putting.

    “It’s so nice that everything finally came together,” he said.

    Over the next two weeks, there figures to be plenty of conversation about whether McIlroy can channel that fearlessness into the major he covets most. The Masters is the only piece missing from a career Grand Slam, and now, thanks to Faxon’s tips, he’s never been in a better position.

    But after a turbulent 18 months, McIlroy needed no reminder to savor a victory that felt like a long time coming.

    There was a hug for his parents, Gerry and Rosie.

    A kiss for his wife, Erica.

    A handshake for Palmer’s grandson, Sam Saunders, and then a fitting into the champion’s alpaca cardigan.

    The only thing missing was the King himself, waiting atop the hill behind 18 with his huge smile and vice-grip handshake.

    “Hopefully he’s up there smiling,” McIlroy said, “and hopefully he’s proud of me with the way I played that back nine.”