Behind the Scenes at The Barclays

By Kraig KannAugust 23, 2007, 4:00 pm
Truth be told, Im still trying to wrap my arms around this 'Cup.' And believe me, Im not alone. Enthusiastic about something new and the possibility that it could be great? Yes. Perplexed about 'points' and tournament withdrawls? Yes and yes.
On Wednesday at Westchester Country Club I hosted the awards luncheon for the folks at Barclays after the morning pro-am. Good fun and a happy bunch of competitors who had a chance to rub elbows with some of the biggest names in this weeks field.
Open Championship winner Padraig Harrington stopped in for lunch ' with no strings attached - which was impressive. Vijay Singh as well, who ' from my vantage point - looked to tell more than a few good stories and signed more than a couple autographs for youngsters with a strong will and a good Sharpie. And so, too, did Ian Poulter.
PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem was on hand for a short time, working the room, saying hello and chatting up the weeks first playoff event with those in attendance. He asked me if I was fired up for the event.
My response went something like this ' I actually am. It should be interesting to see how this thing works out.
It was as honest as I could be given some of the questions I have regarding the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup.
And as many questions as I have, there are also those who in the field who have questions. And plenty of them.
* Jim Furyk compared these playoffs to the NFL where only division winners and two wild cards from each conference make the playoffs as compared to golf where a whopping 144 make it. Do the percentages of the sports make-up of teams/players and golf suddenly seems strange. Hes right. 125 are exempt for next year but 144 make the playoffs? Just asking.
* Vijay Singh said in as many words at his news conference that he was a bit tired of all the hype about the FedExCup. And Im sure he didnt much enjoy the questions about Tigers whereabouts this week.
* Charlie Hoffman and D.J. Trahan were out at a restaurant early this week, sitting at their table and trying to figure out how the points worked and what each would have to do to get to the next event. Trahan is No. 115 and Hoffman is No. 46, which means Trahan needs a good week, and Hoffman will advance to next week regardless of whether he makes the cut. And given that the field is just 70 in Chicago for the BMW Championship in two weeks ' Hoffmans in good shape there, too.
Heres one for you: PGA TOUR models run before the season couldnt find a winner from outside No. 13 on the points list no matter how many times the computer tried to spit one out which doesnt bode well for guys like Hoffman and Trahan anyway - and players know it.
Heck, the St. Louis Cardinals got into the playoffs with the worst record among the playoff teams last year but won the World Series. So shouldnt number 144 in this playoff have a legitimate chance? (If he wins three in a row ' he might)
What I dont understand (yet) is why the fascination with points. Golf has always been about a money list. And why model it after NASCAR anyway? Im no NASCAR expert but in that sport Sunday payouts are quite different than golf. Drivers earn money for laps led and thus a guy who finishes 4th in a race could stand to make much less that a driver who a) won the pole or b) finished 20th but led far more laps than the winner of the race prior to a crash.
Tiger Woods should be rewarded for dominating the PGA TOUR all year. But as much as I see it being similar to a team like the Chicago Bears who ' because of the NFCs best record in 2006 - earned a first-round bye, I still have trouble with his absence. Woods may very well still win this thing.
In talking to players and media members ' who are all equally perplexed at this stage ' I cant help but wish it were just about the money.
So, thinking out loud, and having been bombarded with conversation this week in New York from players and media members and spectators, heres my early wish to tweak things for 2008 ' without this years first run having even reached the weekend.
1. Go ahead and re-set the MONEY after the regular season, giving the regular season money leader a bonus of $2.5 million for his efforts. But give him a head start on the rest of the playoff participants for the four playoff events with $500,000 going to his playoff money total. In other words, Tiger Woods starts at the Barclays with $500,000. To benefit the others in the Top 5 give them each $200,000 and everyone else starts at zero.
2. Top 144 on money list play the Barclays. Top 100 in money play the Deutsche Bank Championship. Top 70 play the BMW and Top 30 play the TOUR Championship. That head start combined with shear talent should allow for the TOURs biggest names to advance to the final event. Money is easier to figure out than points.
3. Player with most money earned after the TOUR Championship wins the FedExCup. Simple as that. But, as has been suggested, lets add some drama on the first tee of the TOUR Championship with a FedEx Ground Truck backing up to the tee and dropping off a stack of $10 million that goes to the winner.
My greatest concern is how Sunday at the TOUR Championship plays out. What if the leader of the FedExCup playoffs is in the 8th group of the tee on Sunday and nowhere near the lead of the tournament? Who gets the airtime? Whats more important ' winning the tournament or the FedExCup?
And what if it comes down to the last hole, and Jim Furyk needs a birdie 3 to win the golf tournament but just a 7 to win the FedExCup? Does he play to win or play not to lose the FedEx Cup?
Things you dont have to think about in the NFL, now do you.
As always, I welcome your thoughts.
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
Getty Images

G-Mac has Ryder Cup on mind with Genesis in grasp

By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 2:12 am

LOS ANGELES – Graeme McDowell is four years removed from his last start in a Ryder Cup and golf is more than seven months away from this year’s matches, but then it’s never too early to start daydreaming.

Following a third-round 70 that left him tied for third place and just two strokes off the lead at the Genesis Open, McDowell was asked if the matches are on his mind.

“I feel like I've got a lot of things to do between now and getting on that team,” he said. “Standing here right now it's probably not a realistic goal, but if I continue to play the way I'm playing for the next few months, it may start to become a realistic goal.”

Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

McDowell began his week at Riviera Country Club fresh off four consecutive missed cuts and has drifted to 219th in the Official World Golf Ranking. But his play this week has been encouraging and the Northern Irishman has always relished the opportunity to play for Europe.

“Deep down I know I'm good enough, but I've got to show, I've got to put some results on the board, I've got to take care of my business,” he said. “The greatest experience of my career bar none, and I would love to play another couple Ryder Cup matches before it's all said and done.”

McDowell does have a potential advantage this year having won the French Open twice at Le Golf National, site of this year’s matches.

Getty Images

Bubba on McGrady block: 'Just trying not to get hurt'

By Will GrayFebruary 18, 2018, 1:56 am

LOS ANGELES – A detour to the NBA Celebrity All-Star Game didn’t keep Bubba Watson from leading this week’s Genesis Open, although an on-court brush with Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady nearly derailed his chances for a third tournament win.

Watson enters the final round at Riviera with a one-shot lead over Patrick Cantlay after firing a 6-under 65 in the third round. The day before, the southpaw left the course around lunch time and headed across town to participate in the All-Star festivities, where during the celebrity game he tried to score 1-on-1 over McGrady.

Watson’s move into the lane went about as well as you’d expect given their five-inch height disparity, with McGrady easily blocking the ball into the stands. According to Watson, he had only one thought as McGrady came barreling towards him across the lane.

“When I saw him, all I saw was, ‘This is my moment to get hurt,’” Watson said. “This big tank is about to hit me, and I was like, ‘Just knock it into the stands. Just don’t touch me.’ So it worked out, he didn’t touch me so it was good.”

Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

Watson’s attempt went against his wife Angie’s advice to avoid the paint area, but it provided a fun moment for a player used to carving up fairways and greens – not to mention the guy who played 15 seasons in the NBA.

“Well, he’s got like just under 800 blocks for his career, so I gave him one more, you know?” Watson said. “It was just, it was a blast. I wanted to see how good he was, see if he could miss it. He hasn’t played in a while.”

Watson took some heat on Twitter from his PGA Tour peers for the rejection, but few were still laughing as he rocketed up the leaderboard Saturday with five birdies and an eagle. Now he has a chance to win this event for the third time since 2014 – even if he doesn’t plan to go toe-to-toe with McGrady again anytime soon.

“Some guys wanted to try to win MVP, so I was trying to pass it and let them have their fun and their moment,” Watson said. “I was just trying not to get hurt.”

Getty Images

Spieth on third-round 69: 'Putter saved me'

By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 1:37 am

LOS ANGELES – Jordan Spieth has spent the last few weeks talking about his putting for all the wrong reasons.

Two weeks ago when he missed the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open he lost 3.76 shots to the field in strokes-gained putting, and last week he wasn’t much better.

It looked like more of the same at the Genesis Open when he lost about a half stroke to the field on Day 1 with 29 putts, but since then his fortunes on the greens have gotten progressively better.

“I thought each day last week I progressed,” said Spieth, who needed just 24 putts on Friday and moved into a tie for 20th after taking 26 putts on Day 3.

Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

Spieth said he started to feel things turn around at Pebble Beach after working with his swing coach Cameron McCormick and Steve Stricker, who has become something of a putting sounding board for players on Tour.

“I got set up really nice. I got really comfortable on the greens even though they were very difficult to putt last week and this week,” said Spieth, who rolled in a birdie putt of 14 feet at No. 12 and a par putt of 35 feet at No. 14. “Any putt, I either made it or I left it just short today. It was one of those days that with the way I struck the ball, it was an off day, but that putter saved me and allowed me to shoot the lowest score so far this week.”

Spieth’s third-round 69 is his best of the week and moved him to within seven strokes of the lead, which is held by Bubba Watson.

Getty Images

Bouncing back: Watson seeks a third Riviera win

By Rex HoggardFebruary 18, 2018, 1:25 am

LOS ANGELES – Yeah, but can Tracy McGrady smoke a 7-iron from 203 yards to kick-in range for eagle on Riviera Country Club’s opening hole?

The way Bubba Watson’s mind drifts there’s no telling if, as he began his day at the Genesis Open, he revisited his play from Friday night at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. If he did, it would have been an apropos conclusion after McGrady sent his weak floater into the cheap seats midway through the second quarter.

Either way, Watson made it clear playtime was over on Saturday. The eagle at the opening par 4 ½ sent Watson on his way to a third-round 65 and the outright lead at the Left Coast event that’s starting to feel like a second home for the lefthander.

In 11 starts at Riviera, Watson already has two victories. A third on Sunday could get folks talking about renaming the layout Bubba’s Alley. Or not.

What is certain is that Watson has emerged from a funk that sent him tumbling outside the top 100 in the world ranking and he’s done it in quintessential Bubba style.

If Friday’s detour to the celebrity game received worldwide attention it was only a snapshot of Watson’s Tinseltown itinerary. He taped a segment for Jay Leno’s Garage show, visited with Ellen DeGeneres and watched a taping of The Big Bang Theory. You know, L.A. stuff.

Oh, and he’s curved and carved his way around Riviera with signature abandon.

“You've got to hit shots from every different angle, you've got to move it right to left and left to right, so it's just fun,” said Watson, who also led by one stroke when he won here in 2016, his last victory on the PGA Tour. “Then the greens are the equalizer so it makes me look like I putt as good as the other guys.”

Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

He “hammered” a 7-iron from 203 yards at the first to 1 ½ feet for his opening eagle, chipped in at the sixth to begin a run of four birdies in five holes and played the three par 5s in 3 under to move into a familiar spot after enduring his worst season on Tour in 2017 when he failed to advance past the second playoff event.

That he’s turned the tide in Los Angeles is as predictable as it is peculiar. Despite Watson’s record at the Genesis Open, Riviera wouldn’t seem to be the tonic for all that ails Bubba.

Ask a player - any player will do - the keys to playing Riviera and the answers range wildly from it being a bomber’s course to the need for ball-striking precision. But the word that comes up with regularity is "patience."

“Patience and pretty much just not being stupid, to be honest,” Justin Thomas said when asked the key to his third-round 67 that left him tied for eighth place. “Just stop trying to hit at pins with 5-irons and 6-irons, and when I hit in the rough, realize just try to make a par. When I get in places, when I'm out of position, realize that sometimes even bogey is what I need to make.”

While that thought dovetails with conventional wisdom, Watson’s not exactly known for his patience.

“Oh, for sure I do. Haven't you seen me in the last 12 years?” Watson laughed when asked if he had patience on the course. “The tougher the golf course, the more focus I have. The tougher the shot, I've been able to focus better. When I get my mind on something, I can focus and do pretty well at the game of golf.”

While Bubba drifts between artist and antagonist with ease, both on and off the golf course, his primary challenge on Sunday is the picture of thoughtful composure.

Patrick Cantlay, who returned to the Tour last season after struggling with back issues for years, began the third round with a share of the lead but quickly faded on the front nine. He rallied on the closing loop with birdies at Nos. 10, 11 and 18, where he capped his day with a 54-footer that assured him a spot in Sunday’s final threesome. Although he’s just 25 and playing his first full season on Tour, Cantlay’s approach to the game is patently different from Watson’s.

“I feel like if I can just engage and not worry about where I am on a particular hole or what's going on and I just engage and stay present in whatever I'm doing at that particular time, it all turns out better than what you would expect,” explained Cantlay, who attended nearby UCLA and played dozens of practice rounds at Riviera. “Making sure you stay present and having that confidence in yourself that if you just click in and focus, it all will be good and that's kind of the head space I'm in.”

It will be a clash of wildly contrasting styles on Sunday – Watson, who admitted he “(doesn’t) focus very well,” and Cantlay, whose approach to the mental side of the game borders on the clinical.

One player relishes the challenge of hyper-focus, the other is Bubba, but that’s not to say Watson is void of patience, only that he needs to be properly motivated.

“Like last night when Tracy McGrady was coming at me, I was focused on not getting hurt and I didn't, so it worked out,” Watson smiled.

And besides, T-Mac can’t bomb it like Bubba.