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.

Getty Images

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?''

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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. 

Getty Images

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.