Punch Shot: Best way to crown a season champion?

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 12, 2014, 3:00 pm

Is the best way to crown a season-long champion the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs, the European Tour's Race to Dubai, the Race to the CME Globe, some combination of the three or a totally new idea? GolfChannel.com writers debate how they'd like to see a season-long race settled.


The FedEx Cup playoffs have set a solid foundation. The best players compete (virtually) every week. The fields get smaller the deeper we get into the postseason. The tournaments are held on strong venues. The system falls apart, however, with the points structure and reset at the final stage. The finale is not climactic. It’s confusing.

The playoff structure – from 125 players to 100 to 70 to 30 – is fine, but at the very least spice up the Tour Championship. Start it on Wednesday, the first of three stroke-play qualifying days. After 54 holes, cut to the low eight players and send them off in quarterfinal matches beginning Saturday. The semifinals would be held Sunday, with a two-man, winner-take-all, $10 million championship match on Sunday afternoon.

Yes, there is still a chance that the final match would be a dud, but the stroke-play qualifier should ensure that many of the best players advance. In a finale that is currently bogged down by points and projections, what is easier to understand than head-to-head match play with everything on the line?


The PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs work brilliantly in how they get the best players in the world to play against each other in a meaningful, high-stakes series of events at season’s end. The system would work better if the playoff winner wasn’t decided by points. It’s so counter intuitive to golf, where par and money are the customary measuring sticks. This is, after all, the points system that was so head scratching Bill Haas didn’t even know he won the cup until it was practically handed to him in 2011.

Keep the FedEx Cup playoffs, but tweak the standings. Use money to get us to the playoffs, and then go to cumulative par, so we all know exactly where the competition for the $10 million payday really stands, right through the final round of the playoffs. Using par instead of points takes a baffling, confounding dynamic out of the finish. Of course, the challenge then becomes keeping the drama intact through the Tour Championship, so nobody’s taking a 15-shot lead into the final round. You do that making every round feel like it’s “do or die” at the Tour Championship. You make Friday, Saturday and Sunday elimination rounds at East Lake. After a Friday cut, you make players begin with clean slates on Saturday and clean slates again on Sunday. You boil the giant payday down to 16 players on Saturday and eight players in the final round. It’s dramatic, it’s easy to follow and it feels like a playoff, where a great season merely guarantees a chance to win a championship. It might not seem fair to a player who dominated the regular season, but that’s what makes it the playoffs. 


The central flaw for all of golf’s post-season races is the concept that the ancient game needed some sort of “playoff.” Golf, even at the professional level, doesn’t lend itself to the urgency of what one would associate with a true playoff.

“If I'm going to call it a playoff and 125 guys keep their card, I'd say 62 max should make the playoffs,” Jim Furyk said at September’s Tour Championship. “Half the league is too much in the NBA. Half is too much in hockey. They do it for money. But football and baseball you've got to earn it to get in the playoffs.”

To Furyk’s point, a true season-long race is predicated on the idea that once you’ve earned a spot in the post-season everything starts over.

Golf is largely missing that one-and-done mentality enjoyed in other sports, which is why Furyk’s idea makes sense. Allow the top 64 players from the regular season to advance to the playoff, and from there – with a player’s seeding based on where he finished the year – let a single match play event decide the champion.

Imagine the drama of two players dueling for the $10 million FedEx Cup on Sunday at East Lake. It’s still not a true playoff, but it’s closer than what the PGA Tour has now.


Getcha hate mail-typin’ fingers ready, because what I’m about to say should inspire an entire inbox of expletive-filled venom: I like the FedEx Cup.

Not everything about it, mind you. I think fewer players should reach the playoffs and I think it should be three tournaments instead of four and I think it should end on Labor Day rather than trespassing into football season. But I like the fact that it rewards the best player over a specific late-season period of time, not the best player over the entirety of the year.

This newsflash just in: Rory McIlroy was the best PGA Tour player during the 2013-14 season. No kidding. If the goal of the FedEx Cup was to identify the best player, we could save everyone a lot of frequent flier miles and determine this ahead of time. But he didn’t play as well as Billy Horschel during the playoffs, so he didn’t win it all. Simple as that.

By contrast, the European Tour’s season-long race rewards the year’s best player. Which sounds good on paper – until the current scenario takes place, when it’s likely that McIlroy will clinch without ever having to hit a shot.

Give me the FedEx Cup instead. It’s far from perfect, but it still beats the alternative.

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.