Polar opposites: Tour Championship, Ryder Cup

By Doug FergusonSeptember 18, 2012, 9:37 pm

ATLANTA – Two big weeks in golf could not be more different.

East Lake has the top 30 players on the PGA Tour. Medinah will have 24 of the top 35 players in the world.

One pays $10 million to the winner. The other doesn't pay a dime.

If there's a similarity between the Tour Championship and the Ryder Cup, it's the value players place on winning them.

''One is monetary, the other is pride,'' Steve Stricker said Tuesday. ''This is playing for your year. You can do a lot of good things, and you're playing for a lot of money. Next week you're playing for something totally different. You're playing for your country, with teammates. You have partners. You can see it across every guy's face. You go through the whole gamut of emotions.

''But if you talk to any player, I guarantee they would want to win either one. It would mean a lot.''

The flag-waving, foot-stomping crowd that has waited two years for the most exciting three days in golf might find this hard to believe, but the players gathered at East Lake for the FedEx Cup finale are thinking only of winning the Tour Championship.

Because that's all they can win this week.

Tiger Woods was roasted by the British press in 2002 when a World Golf Championship was staged at Mount Juliet in Ireland the week before the Ryder Cup. After taking a one-shot lead after the opening round, Woods was asked which was more important for him to win. He chose the WGC event and its $1 million purse – that was back when $1 million meant something in golf – over taking a 17-inch gold trophy home on the team plane.

''Why? I can think of a million reasons,'' Woods said, a tongue-in-cheek remark that backfired.

Oddly enough, just about every Ryder Cup player at Mount Juliet felt the same way. One week they are playing for themselves, another week they are playing for a flag. Two different tournaments. Two important weeks. One at a time.

Justin Rose was working on his bunker play at East Lake when the rain finally gave way to patchy skies. He walked over to chat with Keegan Bradley, who was chipping out of the deep Bermuda rough. Rose is playing in his second Ryder Cup. Bradley will be making his debut next week.

The topic?

Rose was commiserating with Bradley over the New England Patriots losing at home on Sunday.

The Ryder Cup will get here soon enough.

For now, the focus is on the final event of the FedEx Cup that comes with a $10 million bonus and a five-year exemption on Tour.

The FedEx Cup is still in its infancy, and there remains plenty of debate that someone could win the FedEx Cup without winning a tournament all year. This is the fourth straight year such a scenario could happen, but it hasn't yet. The list of FedEx Cup champions includes Woods (twice), Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk. The lone fluke was Bill Haas last year, who was No. 45 in the world. The fluke was that he won the $10 million despite being the No. 25 seed.

More than a fluke, that should serve as inspiration that anyone at East Lake still has a chance.

''It's an individual game, and that's how ultimately you're going to be remembered in this game,'' Rose said. ''You can win the Ryder Cup and lose three of four matches, and it will be an amazing week. But I don't think you come out of it a better player. You win this week, in this scenario, you come out of it a better player.''

Rose doesn't want to think about the Ryder Cup until he holes out his final putt at East Lake on Sunday.

''I've been having a hard time getting super excited about the Ryder Cup because I've been slightly overwhelmed with the playing schedule since Akron, really,'' he said. ''I'm doing my best to stay into each week. As soon as I putt out on Sunday, I think the juices will start to fly. Or when I get on that plane in Orlando with (Ian) Poulter and some of the guys, yes, amazing. It's the week we've been waiting for.

''But now, I can't get invested in it,'' he said. ''I've got to do myself justice for this week.''

It's still a point of consternation for the Tour.

This is the big conclusion they envisioned for the FedEx Cup, especially with this lineup of stars who occupy the top five seeds and only have to win the Tour Championship to capture the $10 million prize – Rory McIlroy, Woods, Nick Watney, Phil Mickelson, and Brandt Snedeker. The three playoff events leading up to the Tour Championship have been nothing short of blockbuster, with all the top names on the leaderboard week after week.

One of the ideas behind the FedEx Cup was to give the Tour season a definitive ending. Trouble is, every two years the end of the season is followed by an exhibition that happens to be the second-biggest event in golf behind The Masters.

The 10 million-pound elephant in the room is the Ryder Cup.

It could be worse. The last time the Ryder Cup was played in America, it was held the week before the Tour Championship. The Americans won at Valhalla, and they staggered down to Atlanta to cap off the FedEx Cup season. It didn't help that Vijay Singh only had to stay upright through four rounds to win the $10 million. And it didn't help when Kentucky native Kenny Perry said, ''It's ruined my greatest week in my life, coming here.''

And he went home with a $250,000 bonus.

Watch: Fleetwood gets emotional with family after Race to Dubai win

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 5:30 pm

Tommy Fleetwood took home the season-long Race to Dubai title on Sunday after a T-21 finish at the DP World Tour Championship.

He was, understandably, emotional after learning his fate while sitting with his wife and baby following a career year in which he won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship and the French Open and finished fourth at the U.S. Open.

Luckily for us, cameras were rolling:

Matsuyama after Koepka rout: 'Huge gap between us'

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 4:22 pm

Hideki Matsuyama offered a blunt assessment after finishing 10 shots behind Brooks Koepka at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix event.

Koepka waxed the field en route to successfully defending his title in Japan, shooting a 20-under par total that left him nine shots clear of a runner-up group that included PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele. Koepka's score was one shot off the tournament record, and his margin for victory eclipsed Tiger Woods' eight-shot romp in 2004.

Matsuyama appeared set to make a final-round charge after a birdie on No. 2 was followed by an ace on the par-3 third hole. But he played the next eight holes in 3 over and eventually finished alone in fifth place following a 2-under 69. Afterwards, he stacked his game up against that of Koepka in a telling comment to the Japan Times.

"I feel there's a huge gap between us," Matsuyama said.

The Japanese phenom entered the week ranked No. 4 in the world, though he will be passed in the next rankings by Jon Rahm following the Spaniard's win in Dubai. Matsuyama won twice this year on the PGA Tour, including the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but he has largely struggled since missing out on a maiden major title at the PGA Championship, where he tied for fifth.

Matsuyama was a runner-up to Koepka at the U.S. Open earlier this summer, and the 25-year-old seems headed back to the drawing board before defending his title at the Hero World Challenge in two weeks.

"I don't know whether it's a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well," Matsuyama said. "It seems there are many issues to address."

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.

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With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."