FedEx Cup delivers four weeks of interesting golf

By Doug FergusonSeptember 29, 2009, 3:42 am

THE TOUR Championship by Coke 2007 Logo

ATLANTA – PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem camped out behind the first tee as the final round of the Tour Championship got under way at East Lake. From any direction, he couldn’t complain about the view.

In front of him was a procession of the game’s top players – Ernie Els, Steve Stricker, Padraig Harrington, Phil Mickelson, followed by Tiger Woods in the final pairing with Kenny Perry. Looking down the first fairway, both sides were lined with spectators.

“Record crowd for us here,” Finchem said, referring to an estimated crowd of 24,000. It was the most ever for a Sunday ticket at East Lake, and even more impressive considering the Atlanta Falcons game at New England was on TV.

And the day only got better.

When it was over, Finchem was flanked by golf’s two biggest stars – Mickelson, who closed with a bogey-free 65 to win the Tour Championship; and Woods, who captured the FedEx Cup and eliminated any discussion about the $10 million bonus going to the right guy.

PGA Tour officials will huddle over the next month for a post-mortem on the FedEx Cup, although these meetings should be short. The postseason boondoggle delivered everything they could have wanted: Four tournaments in five weeks featuring a world-class collection of players; some of the strongest leaderboards of the year.

After a year in which the four major champions were ranked outside the top 30, the final three playoff events were won by players who are Nos. 1-2-3 in the world – Woods, Mickelson and Stricker.

Not everyone understood the points system, although it wasn’t hard to figure out who was doing well.

Woods didn’t realize until The Barclays that he could have won the first three playoff events and still lost the FedEx Cup. Nor did he realize until the Tour Championship that he could have stayed home and showed up at East Lake as the No. 3 seed.

And while Mickelson joked about winning the tournament and getting the smaller check, he knew better.

“I didn’t play well the first three FedEx Cup events,” he said. “I don’t deserve to win the entire FedEx Cup just based on one tournament win. It’s got to be based on all four. So the way it worked out so far this year, it seems like it’s just. The best player won. The guy who played the best in all four events won.”

The star of the FedEx Cup was Woods. He had the best regular season (five victories), played the best in the playoffs (one victory, two runner-up finishes, his worst performance a tie for 11th), and finished the highest among the top five seeds at the Tour Championship.

What made the FedEx Cup interesting – which is all it should aspire to be – was Woods’ supporting cast:

– Heath Slocum. The Tour kept saying that everyone who made the 125-man field to start the playoffs would have a chance at the $10 million prize. Slocum faced some of the longest odds as the No. 124 seed (by two measly points). He wound up winning The Barclays over Stricker, Woods, Els and Harrington to ensure himself one of the top seeds.

Whether that was fair will be among the topics to discuss, maybe even tweaked. But it showed that anything is possible.

– Marc Leishman. He was the only rookie at the Tour Championship, and the Australian defined performance under pressure.

He needed an eagle on the final hole at the Deutsche Bank Championship to advance to the third round, drilled his approach to about 10 feet and made the putt. A week later, he needed to finish third to make it to East Lake. Playing in the final group with Woods – they had never even met – he went bogey-free in the final round and shot 69 to tie for second.

– Brandt Snedeker. One of the most compelling moments of the month was watching Snedeker try to finish off a remarkable rally to get to the Tour Championship, then succumbing to the pressure.

That’s when the FedEx Cup looked a lot like Q-school.

Knowing a bogey would be enough on the final hole at Cog Hill, his 12-foot par putt ran some 3 feet by the hole. He jabbed at the bogey putt and missed, then missed the next one and took triple bogey to end his FedEx Cup season.

The 30th spot instead went to John Senden, who earlier had a 90-yard wedge to the green and chunked it so badly that it didn’t even reach the front bunker. The payoff was huge for Senden. That 30th spot was worth exemptions to three majors next year and $407,500 (prize money and FedEx Cup bonus) at the Tour Championship.

– Steve Stricker. His victory at the TPC Boston, where he birdied the last two holes for a one-shot victory, showed the value of the FedEx Cup. The practice range was full of chatter about the PGA Tour Player of the Year, which is a vote by the players. Stricker had three victories, and the feeling was he might get the vote if he were to win the FedEx Cup.

Woods then won the BMW Championship by seven shots for his sixth victory, and that was that.

Even then, Woods wound up sharing the spotlight with Mickelson. They finished 1-2 at East Lake – the ninth time in their careers they have done that, with Mickelson a winner in five of those events – and each went home with a big trophy.

The FedEx Cup faces one tough encore.

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.

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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 GolfChannel.com 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.