Looking for dominance in an era of parity on PGA Tour

By Doug FergusonAugust 24, 2011, 12:28 am

EDISON, N.J. – If the PGA Tour really wanted to put a positive spin on the playoffs, it could claim that three of the four FedEx Cup champions were voted player of the year.

That would be accurate, although it would require an asterisk.

Tiger Woods was so dominant in 2007 and 2009 that he virtually was a lock for player of the year before the playoffs even started. He already had won five times going into the FedEx Cup both those years, and no one was close to him.

In this era of parity, however, such a statement would no longer be misleading.

For the second straight year, the FedEx Cup is likely to decide who will emerge as the favorite for PGA Tour player of the year. Last season, there were five players who had two wins (no majors) going into the playoffs, and Jim Furyk wound up winning the FedEx Cup and player of the year on the strength of his one-shot victory at the Tour Championship.

This time, it’s more wide open than ever.

Five players again have two wins at the start of the playoffs - Nick Watney, Steve Stricker, Keegan Bradley, Bubba Watson and Mark Wilson - and picking up a third trophy, especially the FedEx Cup, would seem to provide an edge.

Bradley would have settled for rookie of the year at the start of his season. He suddenly has much more at stake after his playoff win at the PGA Championship two weeks ago. No one has ever been voted best player and rookie in the same season.

“You only get one shot at rookie of the year, and I really wanted to win it,” Bradley said Tuesday. “I hope I’ve done enough but there have been a lot of great players. As far as player of the year, it’s just an honor to be even talked about in that category. I still feel like I have a little more to go to do that.”

He would seem to be a slam dunk for rookie of the year, unless Masters champion Charl Schwartzel were to win over the next month. That would give the South African a major and a win against one of the strongest fields of the year.

Not to be overlooked is Luke Donald, who happens to be No. 1 in the world.

Donald has won three times this year, but only once in a PGA Tour event -  the Match Play Championship. Then again, he leads the money list by about $120,000 over Watney, and he has a slim lead over Stricker in the Vardon Trophy race for lowest scoring average. Donald has finished out of the top 10 only four times in 14 starts on the PGA Tour.

Throw in a FedEx Cup playoffs win and it might be difficult to ignore him.

“I’ve been working very hard the past week, and it’s nice to have certain things to chase after and focus on,” said Donald, who also is in position to become the first player to win money titles on the PGA Tour and European Tour in the same season. “It makes everything a little bit more meaningful.”

So many possibilities. So many contenders.

And so little dominance.

Most of that can be attributed to the demise of Woods over the last two years.

Woods has nine seasons when he won at least five times on the PGA Tour. Only three other players - Vijay Singh, Nick Price and Tom Watson - have won at least five times in a season dating to 1980.

Unless someone gets hot over the next month, this will be the second straight year that no one has won at least four tournaments. That’s how it was in the era before Woods, when golf lacked a dominant player.

A year ago, as Woods was going through the first winless season of his PGA Tour career, 15 players won a tour event for the first time. Of those 15 players, only Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy won again this year.

There already have been 12 first-time tour winners this year, half of them rookies.

How many of them will win next year?

“It’s hard to be dominant,” Padraig Harrington said.

Harrington used the recent run in the majors as an example. This is the longest streak of first-time major champions - seven in a row dating to Phil Mickelson at the Masters last year. Harrington does not believe that’s unusual.

“Most people when they win a major, it is the first time win,” he said. “You can count - 125 people here - I’m sure you can count on one hand how many have won more than one.”

Of the 125 players who qualified for the FedEx Cup playoffs, 17 have won majors. But only five have won multiple majors - Mickelson, Harrington, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen.

“It is a rare occasion for a guy to win his second major,” Harrington said. “There’s a bunch of guys that are capable of winning, and they are winning. We will see more unheralded players win, but it’s not for their lack of ability. They are really talented, and you can see that going forward.”

What is a dominant player?

As usual, Woods set a standard that is close to impossible to match. Donald said as much when talking about his ranking. Perhaps one reason some people have an issue with Donald being No. 1 is that they expect all No. 1 players to look like Woods.

Harrington looks for dominance in opportunity - having a real chance to win on the back nine just about every week.

“And if you look at Tiger, four of the last 14 years, every major championship with nine holes to go … he had a chance of winning,” Harrington said. “That’s what dominating is to me.”

That’s what golf is lacking at the moment.

About the only thing this next month of golf will reveal is who wins the $10 million FedEx Cup, and who gets voted player of the year. But even in these times, that’s no gauge on the future.

It’s true that three of the last four FedEx Cup champions were voted PGA Tour player of the year.

It’s also worth noting that for now, the last three FedEx Cup champions - Singh, Woods and Furyk - failed to win a single tournament the following year.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.