Bunker Shots FedEx Cup hopes for finish to remember

By Randall MellSeptember 22, 2009, 5:52 pm

With the Tour Championship at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club, the course where Bobby Jones learned to play, we set the week’s storylines with the great one’s wisdom leading the way.

A FedEx Cup fiasco...

“Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course . . . the space between your ears.” Bobby Jones.

A doomsday scenario is in play at the FedEx Cup finish this week.

It’s possible the PGA Tour Playoffs go from anticlimactic conclusions their first two seasons to irrelevant in their third.

There are two players in the 30-man field who would be delighted to make the FedEx Cup irrelevant while taking home the $10 million jackpot that goes with it.

Jim Furyk and Padraig Harrington can finish second at the Tour Championship and win the FedEx Cup without having won a PGA Tour event all year.

Actually, a winless Furyk could finish third this week and still take home the FedEx Cup.

If that doesn’t doom the FedEx Cup’s credibility and make the Tour scrap the format and start all over, nothing will.

The Tour Championship may not finish that way, but it’s no farfetched reach it will.

The fact that it’s possible ought to scare the PGA Tour brass who devised this thing.

It’s a shame the FedEx Cup hasn’t worked better, because it’s a worthy idea.

Who doesn’t like the fact that this four-tournament finale gets the best players in the world to play more often against each other?

Who doesn’t see the value in creating a definitive ending to the season, a potential big-bang finish in a sport that never really had one?

The FedEx Cup makes the PGA Tour a better product achieving these aims.

The mistake was characterizing the idea as the PGA Tour Playoffs.

The playoff concept skews our expectations, disappoints us in failing to deliver what a playoff promises and irritates us because it feels so fraudulent.

The FedEx Cup Series or FedEx Cup Extravaganza wouldn’t particularly titillate as a title, but there’s nothing misleading in the name.

The FedEx Cup has a credibility problem because it aims to be something it cannot be.

If the Tour is really creating playoffs, doesn’t the winner of the Tour Championship have to win the FedEx Cup?

Nothing else makes sense and nothing else ever will.

Certainly, these two winless FedEx Cup champion scenarios don’t make sense:

– Furyk can finish second at the Tour Championship and win the FedEx Cup if Tiger Woods finishes fourth or worse while Steve Stricker finishes third or worse and the following players do not win: Zach Johnson, Heath Slocum, Padraig Harrington, Sean O’Hair and Scott Verplank.

– Harrington can finish second at the Tour Championship and win the FedEx Cup if Woods finishes 10th or worse while Stricker finishes fifth or worse, Furyk fourth or worse, Johnson and Slocum third or worse and the following players do not win: O’Hair, Verplank, Kenny Perry, Jason Dufner, Dustin Johnson, Nick Watney, Geoff Ogilvy, Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen.

A FedEx Cup finish to remember

“On the golf course, a man may be the dogged victim of inexorable fate, be struck down by an appalling stroke of tragedy, become the hero of unbelievable melodrama, or the clown in a side-splitting comedy.” Bobby Jones

The FedEx Cup desperately needs a defining moment.

Three years into the playoff format, and we’re still searching for a Tour Championship highlight that touches us in a way that endures.

Phil Mickelson may not make sense as the FedEx Cup champion, given his competitive slide since his wife, Amy, was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this season, but a Mickelson victory would be the feel-good story of the year, an emotionally fulfilling climax versus the unsatisfying finishes of the first two seasons.

Throw out his tie for second at the U.S Open, when it felt like practically all of New York was rooting for him, and Mickelson’s best finish since announcing Amy’s diagnosis in May is a tie for 27th. He hasn’t been very competitive with his heart committed elsewhere, but his play can turn around quickly with a hot putter.

To win the FedEx Cup, Mickelson has to win the Tour Championship and then hope Woods finishes ninth or worse while Stricker finishes fifth or worse, Furyk finishes fourth or worse and Zach Johnson and Heath Slocum finish third or worse.

Red, white and bruised...

“The object in golf is to beat someone. Make sure that someone is not yourself.” Bobby Jones.

Na Yeon Choi’s victory Sunday at the Samsung Championship extends the international winning streak on the LPGA.

We’re at 13 consecutive events and counting now.

That’s how many tournaments have passed since an American won an LPGA tournament.

It’s the longest American drought within any of the 60 seasons in LPGA history.

Do we need reminding with the tour headed to the CVS/Pharmacy LPGA Challenge in Danville, Calif.? Yes. Does it matter if Americans win? Absolutely.

Sure, the LPGA is a global tour, but it’s American founded and American based and American companies like investing in Americans. So as long as American businesses are needed as the tour’s foundation, and Americans comprise the largest audience, it’s good for business when Americans win. So, yeah, Bunker Shots is keeping track the way it keeps track of its favorite stocks. There’s nationalistic pride, for sure, just as there is in every nation. It’s why they keep a medal count in the Olympics.

Speaking of medal counts, make that nine LPGA victories for the South Koreans this year. They’re two away from their LPGA record. South Koreans won 11 in 2006.

Americans have claimed four LPGA titles this year. If they don’t win at least two of the final six LPGA events, this year will mark the fewest victories Americans have claimed since the tour was founded in 1950. The Americans won six in ’02.


Rich blood runs through pre-qualifiers

“One reason golf is such an exasperating game is that a thing we learned is so easily forgotten, and we find ourselves struggling year after year with faults we had discovered and corrected time and again.” Bobby Jones

Gary Nicklaus and Sam Saunders add some spice to the PGA Tour Q-School pre-qualifier that starts Tuesday at the Golf Club at Dallas.

Nicklaus, 40, the fourth of Jack Nicklaus’ five children, played the PGA Tour from 2000-02 before leaving the game to work in the family business. His best finish was at the 2000 BellSouth Classic, where he lost to Phil Mickelson in a playoff after the event was shortened to 54 holes because of rain. Nicklaus regained his amateur status in 2007 but is bidding to make one more run at fulfilling his professional dreams.

Saunders, 22, grandson to Arnold Palmer, turned pro last month with a year of eligibility left at Clemson. He won a Moonlight Tour event on a Florida mini-tour before missing the cut last week playing the Nationwide Tour’s Albertsons Boise Open on a sponsor’s exemption.

The event at Golf Club of Dallas is one of five pre-qualifiers before Q-School’s first-stage events begin next month. Phil Nevin, a former Major League Baseball player, is scheduled to tee it up Tuesday at the pre-qualifier at Black Horse Golf Club in Seaside, Calif. Nevin played with seven teams before retiring after the 2006 season. He made the National League All-Star team in 2001 as a third baseman.

Three of the five pre-qualifiers are already complete. Mike Van Sickle, a standout at Marquette and the son of Sports Illustrated golf writer Gary Van Sickle, won the event staged at Yankee Hill Country Club in Lincoln, Neb. Jeff Dennis of Jacksonville, Fla., won the pre-qualifier at Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club in Dade City, Fla., and Brent Witcher of Lawrenceville, Ga., won at East Valley Golf Club in Beaumont, Calif.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.