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.

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Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.