Woods' five victories don't ensure FedEx Cup win

By Jason SobelSeptember 9, 2013, 7:30 pm

For a player who always contends that he owns a singular goal entering each tournament (“To get the W,” he’s said so frequently) and even had a marketing slogan written around that sentiment (“Winning takes care of everything,” Nike bellowed in advertisements earlier this year), the following choice of words produced a strange juxtaposition.

It was prior to The Barclays, the initial tournament in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, when Tiger Woods was questioned about the current format and what it would take for him to win the $10 million grand prize at the season-ending festivities.

“You're basically playing for the top-five positioning going into the Tour Championship,” he matter-of-factly stated without a hint of irony.

Cue the aphorisms.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Slow and steady wins the race.

They may be clichés, but when it comes to winning the FedEx Cup, they’re also truisms. You don’t need a whiteboard and a few dry-erase markers to understand the general tenet of Woods’ conclusion. Simple math – OK, maybe not-so-simple math – tells us that any player inside the top-five entering the finale can and will claim the overall title with a victory at East Lake Golf Club.

Brandt Snedeker proved that algorithm last year, parlaying his placement at No. 5 in the ranking after the first three events into a FedEx Cup championship when he also won the Tour Championship.

And so it’s important to remember that right now, at the midway point of this year’s edition of the PGA Tour playoffs, we are only at a checkpoint on the road to the game’s biggest payday. Success so far may be a means to an end, but it’s hardly the end.

With a victory at the Deutsche Bank Championship coupled with a T-65 from previous points leader Woods, Henrik Stenson took a 14-point advantage into the bye week, which is about as significant as an NBA squad owning a one-point lead at halftime of a playoff tilt.

The team sports analogies don’t end there, either.

Ask any member of the 2007 New England Patriots what it means to win ‘em all without winning the last one and you’ll likely hear a tale of woe more becoming a last-place also-ran. The same prospect faces the PGA Tour’s best golfers, though. Case in point: Stenson’s win was his first of the year and he now leads Woods, who has triumphed on five occasions.

“Theoretically, you can win every tournament of the year and not be the FedEx champion,” Woods acknowledged. “I mean, whoever is in the top-five, whoever wins that event, wins the FedEx Cup. So it will be interesting to see what happens.”

Interesting, but not completely unpredictable so far.

Trailing Stenson and Woods is an amalgam of elite-level players that includes Adam Scott (third), Matt Kuchar (fourth), Phil Mickelson (sixth), Justin Rose (seventh), Steve Stricker (eighth) and Snedeker (ninth). There may be a few notable surprises in Graham DeLaet (fifth) and Jordan Spieth (10th), but really, those should only be considered surprises to anyone who has never witnessed the acumen with which each of those players hit the ball.

Because of the format’s volatility, though, the list of candidates doesn’t end with those names. Two years ago, Bill Haas limped into the third playoff event on the heels of 24th- and 61st-place finishes at the first two. A share of 16th at the BMW Championship ensured he’d make the trip to East Lake, where a playoff win from the water led to an improbable daily double – whether he knew it at the time or not.

Therein lies an everlasting quandary for PGA Tour officials. They’d love to once again have the drama of a playoff for both the tournament title and the FedEx Cup win. But the entire system reeks of a novelty when one of those players doesn’t even know what’s at stake when he’s competing.

To employ that 2007 New England Patriots analogy again, those players may have lost the Super Bowl after an undefeated season, but at least they knew what they were playing for.

The latest FedEx Cup champion will be crowned two weeks from now, possibly even owning a keen awareness that he just won the FedEx Cup. This week, though, is all about positioning. After all, like the cliché states, this is a marathon, not a sprint. At the third playoff event, players will simply need to be in position to win while crossing the next checkpoint.

It’s just simple – OK, maybe not-so-simple – math.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.