FedEx Cup an imperfect system

By Jason SobelSeptember 18, 2012, 7:00 pm

ATLANTA – I promise this isn’t going to be another one of those “Death to the FedEx Cup!” columns.

I’m just going to state some facts and let you come to your own conclusion.

Here’s one fact: Louis Oosthuizen has enjoyed a very nice PGA Tour season. He owns five top-10 results, including runner-up finishes at the Masters and Deutsche Bank Championship.

Here’s another: Despite that very nice season, Oosthuizen is still seeking his first victory.

Here’s one more: At sixth on the FedEx Cup points reset entering the Tour Championship, Oosthuizen still has a chance to claim the FedEx Cup and its $10 million first-place prize at week’s end.

And one final fact: Oosthuizen can claim the FedEx Cup by finishing in second place this week, effectively securing the championship without ever securing a championship.

So … come to any conclusion yet?

I have. My conclusion is that the FedEx Cup is an imperfect system.

Just don’t confuse it for being a flawed system.

“I was in that same position,” Jim Furyk said of his 2009 contention when asked about Oosthuizen’s precarious placement in the points scenario. “I hadn’t won a tournament and yet there was still a way I could win. … Is it an imperfect system? I’m not sure when you’re dealing with points and when you’re dealing with a system, per se, I’m not sure there is anything that’s perfect.”

Therein lies both the greatest and worst reason for debate. There is no perfect system.

The idea for an end-of-season finale obviously beats the alternative. In the year before the FedEx Cup started, the Tour Championship was contested in November, with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson electing to skip it due to prolonged apathy. These days, though, it’s the source of plenty of conjecture, even though there is no correct answer.

One issue with the playoff series is just that – it’s both a playoff and a series, which are mutually exclusive. Public concern with the format often forms in the mentality. It is a season-long points race which doesn’t necessarily crown the best player of the entire season.

To wit: Last year, Bill Haas claimed the title by winning the Tour Championship from the 25th position on the list. Nothing wrong with that. To use an oft-worn Woods standby, “It is what it is.” Haas wasn’t the best player all year, nor was he even the best player all FedEx Cup, but he was the best player statistically when the points were totaled, which is evidently all that matters.

Hey, it beats 2008, when Vijay Singh won two FedEx Cup events and just had to remain upright at East Lake in order to claim the $10 million prize.

Since then, the format has been tweaked. Under the current points system, Rory McIlroy ’s two wins only puts him atop the reset, one of five players who will clinch the championship with a victory this week.

It raises the old NFL analogy. Back in 2007, the New England Patriots went 16-0 in the regular season, but got outscored in the Super Bowl and weren’t declared champion. Nobody claimed that was unfair, even within Foxborough city limits.

Using that same analogy, McIlroy’s wins at the last two FedEx Cup events is like a team breezing through its divisional playoff and conference championship games, only to falter in the Super Bowl. Once again, a very plausible predicament.

All of which leads to Oosthuizen, whose scenario underscores the imperfect in this imperfect system. While every competitor in this week’s field has a mathematical possibility to win the FedEx Cup, some are more possible than others. Scott Piercy, currently in 30th place, would require not just a win, but low finishes from the top players and the stars aligned perfectly.

In the case of Oosthuizen, though, a runner-up result must be backed only by a third-or-worse from Brandt Snedeker and Mickelson, fourth-or-worse from Nick Watney, fifth-or-worse from Woods and 10th-or-worse from McIlroy. A likely scenario? Maybe not, but certainly a very real possibility.

And that’s where things get weird. Under that NFL analogy, it’s like a team playing well but losing its divisional playoff and conference championship games before ultimately losing the Super Bowl, too – and still being rewarded with the Lombardi Trophy.

If it happens, the groundswell of outrage will reach an all-time high – not an easy task in the FedEx Cup era. And yet, it will only prove what we’ve already known: The system will always have some form of imperfection.

That doesn’t mean it’s flawed.

This year’s playoff series has undoubtedly been amongst the most successful, with McIlroy and Woods providing fireworks to keep the game relevant well into the post-major championship weeks. Anyone declaring, “Death to the FedEx Cup!” simply isn’t paying attention or they’re striving for perfection.

When it comes to the current format, perfection simply isn’t a valid option.

Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

Made Cut

The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

“I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

“The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.

For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

“I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”

Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

“Oh, yeah,” he told “Way by.”

Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.

Missed Cut

Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

“That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.

Trump playing 'quickly' with Tiger, DJ

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Updated at 11:14 a.m. ET

An Instagram user known as hwalks posted photos to her account that included images of Tiger Woods, President Trump and Dustin Johnson Friday at Trump National, as well as video of Woods' swing.

Here are some other social media posts that have surfaced:

Original story:

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.

Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong

By Associated PressNovember 24, 2017, 1:19 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.

''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''

Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open

Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.

Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.

''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''

Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).

''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.