Why the playoffs matter

By Jason SobelAugust 23, 2011, 11:01 pm

EDISON, N.J. ' So, you say the FedEx Cup playoffs will never be considered more important than a major championship? I say no doubt, although they were never supposed to anyway.

You say these events simply fatten the wallets of world’s richest golfers? I say there are 10 million reasons you’re absolutely right.

You say the points system is too contrived? I say amen.

You say the entire idea doesn’t even matter to the 125 players who qualified during the season? I say you’re dead wrong.

Say what you will about the PGA Tour’s annual end-of-season playoff series, approaching its fifth installment starting at this week’s Barclays tournament, but it’s inarguable that the competitors don’t care about their impending result over the next four weeks.

For the most elite players, such relevance stems from the tangible effects that can be gained from a few positive results. With a quartet of strong fields, there will be plenty of Official World Golf Ranking points available. Like last year, when Jim Furyk prevailed for the title, this season’s Player of the Year award is still very much up for grabs.

And, oh by the way, there’s a handsome little $10 million first-place prize that will come in handy to whoever finishes the Tour Championship with the highest point total.

While players at the top of the current standings obviously own a better chance to succeed than those further down the list, it’s the guys in the middle of the pack and beyond who may have the most to gain by playing well over the next month – or even just parts of the next month.

Exhibit A: Kevin Na.

Two years ago, Na entered the playoffs at No. 23 on the points list. He finished T-24, T-11 and T-8 in the first three events – enough to qualify for the festivities at East Lake, where he finished dead last in the 30-man field.

No matter, though, because his inclusion in that tournament alone got him entry into each of the next year’s four major championships and the WGC event at Doral.

In an ever-overlapping domino theory, Na parlayed made cuts in two of the four majors last year into 41st position on the points list prior to the playoffs. Once again, he got semi-hot at the right time, finishing T-36, T-33 and T-3 at the first three events to secure his place in the Tour Championship field, in turn qualifying for those five elite tournaments the next year, as well.

“If you don’t have a win and you get to the Tour Championship, you’ve had a good year,” said Na, who enters this year’s playoffs at 47th on the points list. “That’s the way I look at it. I did it the last two years and got into the majors. It’s great. You can set your schedule up. Once again, this year, that’s my goal.”

While most experts point to Heath Slocum, who entered the 2009 FedEx Cup playoffs at 124th on the points list before winning The Barclays, as the poster child for what playoff success can induce, the reality is that players need not win nor even seriously contend to dramatically affect their schedules over the next 12 months.

Exhibit B: Jason Dufner.

Three years ago, Dufner played so poorly that he needed to attend Q-School in order to retain his status for the upcoming season. That next year, he reached the playoffs, but missed the cut in the first round. On the verge of seeing his playoff bubble burst at the Deutsche Bank Championship, he posted a final-round 65 to finish in a share of second place, vaulting him into the Tour Championship a few weeks later.

Like Na, inclusion in the field also granted him inclusion into those five elite fields the next year. Dufner finished T-5 at the PGA Championship and – if you believe in the butterfly effect – could possibly trace his recent second-place result at this year’s edition of that event to that one great round at TPC-Boston which led to a world of experience he wouldn’t have otherwise received.

“For somebody in my position in 2009, I had a nice year, I had played pretty decent,” Dufner recalled, “but my schedule for the next year was still in limbo. Getting into that top-30 really set me up. So it’s a win-win.”

Exhibit C: Martin Laird.

When he agonizingly three-putted the final green at last year’s Barclays to fall into a playoff, then lost on the first extra hole to Matt Kuchar, the prevailing theme surrounding Laird’s calamity was one of sorrow.

Looking back, though, the second-place result got him into the Tour Championship – where much like Na one year earlier, he finished in last place, but still gained entrance into the elite fields for the next season. Using that same butterfly effect, his T-10 at Doral preceded a T-5 at the Transitions Championship and then a second career PGA Tour victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

“It definitely helped my year this year,” Laird said. “There are a lot of things riding on it. If a guy comes in at 125 and he plays good this week, he can pretty much guarantee he’ll be in the first three events. That’s going to help him on the money list with keeping his card and if he keeps playing good, he’ll get into the Tour Championship.”

Call it the power of the playoffs.

If a player fares well this time of year and continues advancing to subsequent events, not only will he find himself at East Lake for the finale, but at each of the important tourneys for the next season, too.

“Just like with any other sport,” Na explained, “you can have a so-so season, but if your team puts it together in the playoffs, you start weeding out the top seeds and you can make it.”

It may not be the perfect scenario in all aspects, but the FedEx Cup playoffs matter. Just ask the players.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.


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Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.


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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 12:30 pm