Golf playoffs make sense until the Tour Championship

By Doug FergusonSeptember 15, 2009, 7:56 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)LEMONT, Ill. – PGA Tour officials would like you to believe no trophy is tougher to win than the FedEx Cup.

They may be right.

The trick is not to mistake difficulty for significance. The most important trophies are handed out four times a year in the major championships, which define great players (Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods) and identify others (Jack Fleck, Shaun Micheel).

What makes the FedEx Cup so difficult to win?

Woods has been saying for the last dozen years that the key to winning majors is to peak at the right time, which means having your game come together for one week in April, June, July and August.

Playing the best golf in the final week of September at the Tour Championship to win the FedEx Cup isn’t necessarily enough.

Players first have to qualify for the 30-man field at East Lake, a process that could take all year (Woods, Steve Stricker), one month (Padraig Harrington, Marc Leishman) or one week (Heath Slocum).

Even with points worth quintuple value in the postseason, everyone at East Lake is inside the top 50 on the money list. Woods is the No. 1 player in the world and – at the moment – in the FedEx Cup. His six victories are twice as many as anyone else, the most recent win coming at Cog Hill in the third playoff event.

But if he doesn’t win the Tour Championship, there’s a chance someone else will be kissing the cup.

Is that fair?

About as fair as the New England Patriots going 18-0 and losing the Super Bowl. About as fair as the Cleveland Indians winning 111 games in 1954 for the highest winning percentage in American League history, and then getting swept in the World Series.

Woods hasn’t been perfect this year, although in some respects, he is undefeated. He has the most victories. He has won the most money. He has the best scoring average.

It was clear that Woods had not studied the points system when he arrived at The Barclays to begin the playoffs. He was deflated to learn he could win all three playoff events, finish second at the Tour Championship and lose the FedEx Cup. Even more disheartening was to hear that someone could capture the FedEx Cup without ever having won a tournament all year.

Mathematically possible, but logical? You be the judge.

Jim Furyk, who has not won in more than two years, could win the FedEx Cup by finishing third at East Lake. That would require Woods finishing eighth and Stricker fourth. It can happen.

And that would be the nightmare scenario for the PGA Tour.

Woods understands the analogy of the Patriots going undefeated and losing the Super Bowl. He also raises an important distinction.

“That’s their biggest prize,” he said.

Not so in golf.

Maybe that’s why too much time is spent on what the FedEx Cup is not, instead of considering what it is – a competition that brings together the best players on the PGA Tour when they otherwise might be home watching football like everyone else.

“There’s too much comparing going on,” Stewart Cink said.

Every shot counted the first nine months, and it counted even more the last three weeks. It counts the most at East Lake.

While it is easy to poke fun of the points system, this version worked beautifully. The eight players with multiple victories this year all qualified for Atlanta. So did the four major champions. And with an emphasis on the last three playoff events, seven players outside the top 30 when the playoffs began made it to the Tour Championship by playing great golf.

If there is a problem, it comes at the finish line.

The Tour Championship used to be a meaningful event only by accident. The last time was in 2003, when Woods and Vijay Singh were battling for the money title and campaigning for player of the year.

This one promises to be meaningful, but at what cost?

There is no guarantee the best player will win the FedEx Cup. Tour officials made sure of that by resetting the points after three playoff events so that all 30 players at East Lake have a mathematical chance. The top five need no help from anyone; they only have to win the Tour Championship to collect the prize.

Yet if the tour had left the system alone, there was a chance of the golf’s Super Bowl having as much interest as a preseason game.

“The whole idea of the playoffs was for us to get into the top five,” Woods said. “And now, it’s basically a sprint. It’s one tournament, a sprint, assuming one of the top five guys wins the tournament.”

The FedEx Cup pays out $10 million to the winner. The value of the trophy will depend on the name inscribed on it.

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm