Picking a FedEx Cup Playoff winner and a long shot

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 21, 2013, 1:30 pm

The FedEx Cup Playoffs begin this week at The Barclays. Considering past playoffs haven't always gone according to script, GolfChannel.com writers pick their FedEx Cup champion plus a long shot who could take home the $10 million bonus.


Winner: Tiger Woods

The 2013 FedEx Cup is Tiger's to win or lose, and not just because of his 766-point lead heading into the post-season opener this week in New Jersey.

With five wins and top-10 finishes in more than half his starts this season (seven), the world No. 1 is the most dominant player in golf regardless of his record the last five years in major championships.

And while that massive lead in points will be mitigated by the PGA Tour’s built-in reset before the Tour Championship, Woods’ playoff history is almost as dominant as his regular-season play.

He finished second at The Barclays the last time it was played at Liberty National, hasn’t finished outside the top 11 at TPC Boston since 2006, has made a career winning events in Chicago (site of the BMW Championship), and in his last five starts at the Tour Championship has finished second, second, first, second and tied for eighth.

Long shot: Hunter Mahan

As for the longshot – remember Brandt Snedeker won the cup and a cool $10 million after beginning last year’s post-season 19th on the points list – Mahan (at No. 21 on the points list) is the most likely candidate.

Mahan has advanced to East Lake every year since the playoffs started in 2007 and finished runner-up there in 2011. 


Winner: Zach Johnson

This one doesn’t seem to make sense for a few different reasons. First, Johnson ranks only 18th on the points list entering the playoffs. And second, he’s skipping the first one to serve as best man at his brother’s wedding this weekend.


If we’ve learned anything about the system in recent years, it’s that a player doesn’t need to be ranked very high coming into the playoffs to still find success. As for missing the first one, that could light a bit of a fire under him, sort of like a player who bogeys the first few holes out of the gate and spends the remainder of the day playing aggressively. Hey, it worked for Jim Furyk a few years back.

Despite some great play as of late, Johnson still doesn’t have any hardware to show for it. But with some good courses coming up for him – including East Lake, where he once shot 60 – he may not only claim some hardware, but a few big-time paychecks, too.

Long shot: Luke Donald

You say Donald isn’t a great pick because he’s struggled at times this year. I say he is a great pick, because he’s too good to struggle for too long.

At 55th on the points list, behind the likes of David Lingmerth, Chris Stroud and David Hearn, the former world No. 1 hasn’t had a stellar season. Of course, that should speak more to his abilities than his results, because four top-10s in just 13 starts doesn’t exactly qualify as failure.

Donald also has a little ace up his sleeve. The third playoff event will be held at Conway Farms, which serves as his home course. Most other players in the BMW Championship field know little about the venue, if anything at all. That inside knowledge could prove valuable for Donald, who could parlay a big week at home into a big week at East Lake, where he’s finished in the top three each of the past three years.


Winner: Webb Simpson

It’s too easy to go with Tiger here, so we’ll go down the list and take Simpson, who is 17th in points and fits the mold of the last three good-but-not-great FedEx Cup winners. More than that, though, he enters the playoffs in good form, with three consecutive top-25 finishes. The last time The Barclays was held at Liberty National, in 2009, he led midway through the tournament before finishing solo eighth. Looking ahead, his last two starts at TPC Boston are promising (T-18 and win), most players are getting their first crack at Conway Farms, and Simpson was T-5 a year ago at East Lake, host of the Tour Championship. Remember, all it takes is one well-timed victory to win the FedEx Cup.

Long shot: Rory McIlroy

At No. 49 in the standings, Rory has work to do just to make it to East Lake for the Tour Championship. His T-8 at Oak Hill was his most encouraging performance since his runner-up in San Antonio in April. His stats this season are better than his position indicates – 22nd in adjusted scoring, T-23 in all-around – and he’ll have good vibes at both the Deutsche Bank, where he won last year, and the Tour Championship, where he shot three rounds in the 60s. Sure, there may have been swings-and-misses in the majors this season, but there’s still time to salvage his year.


Winner: Phil Mickelson

Mickelson has yet to win the FedEx Cup, but if he is ever going to do so, this is set up as the year.Yes, picking Lefty to consistently contend in four consecutive events is asking much, because he can run so hot and cold. But with all the tools that have come together for him this year, here’s betting that he runs hot through this FedEx Cup’s post season, to finally win the playoffs in his seventh try. He’s fourth in the FedEx Cup standings. Yes, he didn’t follow up his back-to-back victories at the Scottish Open and British Open with much last month, but the thinking here is that he’s rested up to make this the best year of his career with a major and a FedEx Cup title giving him his first PGA Tour Player of the Year award.

Long shot: Jonas Blixt

He is way down at No. 29 in the FedEx Cup standings, but the guy has won twice in the last year and is coming off a fourth-place finish at the PGA Championship.


Winner: Henrik Stenson 

As Rory McIlroy proved last year, the season’s best player does not necessarily win the FedEx Cup. So while he hasn’t lifted a trophy yet this year, Stenson has played some of the best golf this summer of anyone on the planet and is certainly capable of stealing the show in Atlanta. He enters the playoffs ranked ninth in points, on the heels of four consecutive top-three finishes worldwide and boasting a tee-to-green proficiency that is almost unrivaled this year. Just check the stat sheet – the Swede ranks second on Tour in GIR percentage this season, third in total driving and sixth in fairways hit. Stenson is in the midst of a meteoric return through the world rankings, a rise that will be further buoyed by a FedEx Cup title at season’s end.

Longshot: Lee Westwood

Westwood begins this week in 35th place in the FedEx Cup standings, a position determined more by his lack of starts than by poor play as the Englishman has made just six PGA Tour appearances since The Players Championship. A year ago, Westwood began his first career playoff run in 51st place and made it all the way to East Lake, finishing 10th in the final standings thanks to top-15 finishes in each of the first three events. With top-10 finishes this year at TPC Sawgrass and Augusta National to go along with his near-miss at the Open Championship, Westwood can still compete at a high level against the game’s best, a trend that should continue across the next four events.

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 23, 2018, 4:45 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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J. Korda fires flawless 62, leads by 4 in Thailand

By Associated PressFebruary 23, 2018, 12:48 pm

CHONBURI, Thailand – Jessica Korda shot a course-record 62 at the Honda LPGA Thailand on Friday to lead by four strokes after the second round.

Playing her first tournament since having jaw surgery, Korda made eight birdies and finished with an eagle to move to 16 under par at the halfway point, a 36-hole record for the event.

''That was a pretty good round, pretty special,'' she said. ''Just had a lot of fun doing it.''

Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand

Korda is the daughter of former tennis player Petr Korda. She leads from another American, Brittany Lincicome, who carded a 65 to go 12 under at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course.

Minjee Lee of Australia is third and a shot behind Linicome on 11 under after a 67. Lexi Thompson, the 2016 champion, is fourth and another shot behind Lee.

Korda is making her season debut in Thailand after the surgery and is playing with 27 screws holding her jaw in place.

She seized the outright lead with a birdie on No. 15, the third of four straight birdies she made on the back nine. Her eagle on the last meant she finished with a 29 on the back nine, putting her in prime position for a first tour win since 2015.

''The best part is I have had no headache for 11 weeks. So that's the biggest win for me,'' she said. ''Honestly I was just trying to get on the green, get myself a chance. I birdied four in a row and holed a long one (on 18). I wasn't expecting it at all. It was pretty cool.''

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Simpson, Noren share Honda lead after challenging Rd. 1

By Doug FergusonFebruary 23, 2018, 1:25 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Tiger Woods had what he called ''easily'' his best round hitting the ball, and he didn't even break par at the Honda Classic.

Alex Noren and Webb Simpson shared the lead at 4-under 66 in steady wind on a penal PGA National golf course, and felt as though they had to work hard for it. Both dropped only one shot Thursday, which might have been as great an accomplishment as any of their birdies.

''When you stand on certain tee boxes or certain approach shots, you remember that, 'Man, this is one of the hardest courses we play all year, including majors,''' said Simpson, who is playing the Honda Classic for the first time in seven years.

Only 20 players broke par, and just as many were at 76 or worse.

Woods had only one big blunder - a double bogey on the par-5 third hole when he missed the green and missed a 3-foot putt - in an otherwise stress-free round. He had one other bogey against three birdies, and was rarely out of position. Even one of his two wild drives, when his ball landed behind two carts that were selling frozen lemonade and soft pretzels, he still had a good angle to the green.

''It was very positive today,'' Woods said. ''It was a tough day out there for all of us, and even par is a good score.''

It was plenty tough for Adam Scott, who again stumbled his way through the closing stretch of holes that feature water, water and more water. Scott went into the water on the par-3 15th and made double bogey, and then hit into the water on the par-3 17th and made triple bogey. He shot 73.

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Rory McIlroy was at even par deep into the back nine when he figured his last chance at birdie would be the par-5 18th. Once he got there, he figured his best chance at birdie was to hit 3-wood on or near the green. Instead, he came up a yard short and into the water, made double bogey and shot 72.

Noren, who lost in a playoff at Torrey Pines last month, shot 31 on the front nine and finished with a 6-foot birdie on the ninth hole into a strong wind for his 66.

The Swede is a nine-time winner on the European Tour who is No. 16 in the world, though he has yet to make a connection among American golf fans - outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma, from his college days at Oklahoma State - from not having fared well at big events. Noren spends time in South Florida during the winter, so he's getting used to this variety of putting surfaces.

''I came over here to try to play some more American-style courses, get firmer greens, more rough, and to improve my driving and improve my long game,'' Noren said. ''So it's been great.''

PGA champion Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Morgan Hoffmann - who all live up the road in Jupiter - opened with a 67. There's not much of an advantage because hardly anyone plays PGA National the other 51 weeks of the year. It's a resort that gets plenty of traffic, and conditions aren't quite the same.

Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who now lives primarily in West Palm Beach, also came out to PGA National a few weeks ago to get a feel for the course. He was just like everyone else that day - carts on paths only. Not everyone can hole a bunker shot on the final hole at No. 9 for a 67. Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot his 67 with a bogey from a bunker on No. 9.

Woods, in his third PGA Tour event since returning from a fourth back surgery, appears to be making progress.

''One bad hole,'' he said. ''That's the way it goes.''

It came on the easiest hole on the course. Woods drove into a fairway bunker on the par-5 third, laid up and put his third shot in a bunker. He barely got it out to the collar, used the edge of his sand wedge to putt it down toward the hole and missed the 3-foot par putt.

He answered with a birdie and made pars the rest of the way.

''I'm trying to get better, more efficient at what I'm doing,'' Woods said. ''And also I'm actually doing it under the gun, under the pressure of having to hit golf shots, and this golf course is not forgiving whatsoever. I was very happy with the way I hit it today.''

Woods played with Patton Kizzire, who already has won twice on the PGA Tour season this year. Kizzire had never met Woods until Thursday, and he yanked his opening tee shot into a palmetto bush. No one could find it, so he had to return to the tee to play his third shot. Kizzire covered the 505 yards in three shots, an outstanding bogey considering the two-shot penalty.

Later, he laughed about the moment.

''I was so nervous,'' Kizzire said. ''I said to Tiger, 'Why did you have to make me so nervous?'''

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Players battle 'crusty' greens on Day 1 at Honda

By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 11:52 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods called the greens “scratchy” on PGA National’s Champion Course.

Rory McIlroy said there is “not a lot of grass on them.”

Morgan Hoffmann said they are “pretty dicey in spots, like a lot of dirt.”

The first round of the Honda Classic left players talking almost as much about the challenge of navigating the greens as they did the challenge of Florida’s blustery, winter winds.

“They looked more like Sunday greens than Thursday,” McIlroy said. “They are pretty crusty. They are going to have a job keeping a couple of them alive.”

The Champion Course always plays tough, ranking annually among the most challenging on the PGA Tour. With a very dry February, the course is firmer and faster than it typically plays.

“Today was not easy,” Woods said. “It's going to get more difficult because these greens are not the best . . . Some of these putts are a bit bouncy . . . There's no root structure. You hit shots and you see this big puff of sand on the greens, so that shows you there's not a lot of root structure.”

Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Brad Nelson, PGA National’s director of agronomy, said the Champion Course’s TifEagle Bermuda greens are 18 years old, and they are dealing with some contamination, in spots, of other strains of grasses.

“As it’s been so warm and dry, and as we are trying to get the greens so firm, those areas that are not a true Tifeagle variety anymore, they get unhappy,” Nelson said. “What I mean by unhappy is that they open up a little bit . . . It gives them the appearance of being a little bit thin in some areas.”

Nelson said the greens are scheduled for re-grassing in the summer of 2019. He said the greens do have a “crusty” quality, but . . .

“Our goal is to be really, really firm, and we feel like we are in a good place for where we want them to be going into the weekend,” he said.