Punch Shot: Who will win the FedEx Cup?

The 2014 PGA Tour season will reach its end this week in Atlanta. So who will leave East Lake with the Tour Championship - and maybe even the FedEx Cup? Our writers weigh in:

By RYAN LAVNER

Based on recent results he may need (at least) a four-shot lead heading into Sunday, but Jim Furyk is due for a victory – and returning to East Lake, site of his most recent title, certainly can’t hurt. Furyk doesn’t have off weeks anymore – he’s finished outside the top 25 just once since March – and he’s one of the few players who has a solid record at East Lake. Of the 29 players in the field, he has the best average finish (8.6) of any player who has teed it up there at least twice.

Like any good story, the FedEx Cup needs a finale that puts a bow on both the playoffs and the season. A victory by Furyk – who has come so close so often for so many years – would be a fitting finale.


By REX HOGGARD

In three short weeks Rory McIlroy has drifted from first on the FedEx Cup points list to fourth, some 579 points behind No. 1 Chris Kirk. During that same period, the Northern Irishman’s lead in the Official World Golf Ranking has gone from just over two average ranking points to 2.12.

The point?

Despite claims by the PGA Tour that the FedEx Cup is a season-long race, it is very much reactionary and ignores sustained play, a reality that has reduced McIlroy to an afterthought at this week’s finale at East Lake.

The FedEx Cup math seems to ignore the fact that McIlroy finished in the top 10 at two of the three playoff stops, with a tie for eighth at the BMW Championship and a tie for fifth at the Deutsche Bank Championship, and he didn’t exactly mail in his performance at the post-season opener in New Jersey (T-22).

The arithmetic also misses the fact that just two of his 12 post-season rounds have been over par and that, with two majors and a World Golf Championship on his resume this year, he’s the clear front-runner in the Player of the Year race.

McIlroy will win the Tour Championship and the What Have You Done for Me Lately Cup that eluded him in 2012 because he is still the best player in world, if not on the Tour.



By WILL GRAY

Give me Billy Horschel.

Give me the guy playing with sky-high confidence at the right time, coming off a bounce-back win at the BMW Championship. Give me the guy who has been solid tee-to-green all year, ranks fourth in GIR percentage, and is finally heating up on the greens as he heads to a course where tee-to-green consistency will be rewarded. Give me the guy who tied for seventh at East Lake a year ago in his Tour Championship debut, and give me the guy who, when he lifts both trophies on Sunday, will make Tom Watson wish that he had a Ryder Cup mulligan.


By JASON SOBEL

I'll take Jim Furyk to win the FedEx Cup this week. In a season where "been there, done that" has meant virtually nothing as far as predicting results, I'm playing one final hunch at East Lake.

If you've listened to players over the past week, you've heard grumbling about how tired they are after the recent grueling schedule.

So it makes some sense that I'll take a guy who never seems to wear out (supply your own 5-Hour Energy joke here) and still after 16 career wins has something to prove (no titles since winning this event four years ago will do that to a guy).

On the heels of Billy Horschel's redemption story of last week, Furyk picking up another $10 million check would be a redemption of his own. That motivation might be enough to give him the edge.


By RANDALL MELL

Billy Horschel calls himself a “momentum” player. He also likes to “stick it” to the critics who called him a choker at the Deutsche Bank. With “fatigue” a factor in this stretch run, nobody heads to Atlanta full of more momentum and gumption than Horschel. He’s coming off a T-2 and a win in these playoffs. He’s riding a hot putter and hot game. He was No. 1 in strokes gained putting winning the BMW Championship while also ranking No. 3 in hitting greens in regulation and No. 3 in scrambling. I like all of that leading Horschel to the FedEx Cup jackpot.

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.