BMW Still in Suspense

By Rex HoggardSeptember 13, 2009, 4:34 am
BMW Championship 2007 LogoLEMONT, Ill. – They stopped handing out PGA Tour hardware on Saturday a few weeks back. Call it the Y.E. Yang exception. Or the Heath Slocum accord.

As automatic as Tiger Woods is with 54-hole leads, to say nothing of that cool touchdown head start he’ll enjoy to begin Round 3 at the BMW Championship, the year of Anything Can Happen has narrowed the list of life’s certainties to death and taxes.

That’s not to say we wouldn’t wager the GDP of a small Caribbean country on the world No. 1 landing his second BMW crown in three years, but recent history demands we go the whole 72 even when common sense and expediency screams for a slaughter rule.

Brandt Snedeker
Brandt Snedeker will play alongside Tiger Woods in the final round. (Getty Images)
No disrespect to Brandt Snedeker or Marc Leishman, the only players within the same area code as Woods entering the final lap at Cog Hill, but Woods’ third round may be the best 18-hole card he’s ever posted and the most compelling reason to date to reaffirm his status as sports' best closer.

“Maybe he could have a heart attack out there for me to have a chance,” said Snedeker, and he was serious as a heart attack. “Paul Goydos said it best, ‘He’s the most underrated player of all time.’”

No, Tour officials resisted the urge to dole out the big check early and get a jump on a scheduled bye week, but it wasn’t easy. Not after the “Monster of the Midway” blitzed the Rees-ed up Cog Hill layout to the tune of 9-under 62, a round Woods called his best – post-knee surgery division. Not when he’s converted at least a share of a 54-hole lead 47 times out of 51 attempts. Not when he manhandled the much-feared Dubsdread track on Saturday with a combination of power, precision and not a putt over 26 feet, and just three over 10 feet.

“I was just doing what I always do, and that's kind of plodding along and playing shot after shot,” said Woods, who only has three rounds on Tour better than his Saturday symphony.

“Certain rounds, if you can get off to a quick enough start and you see some easier holes coming up, you might entertain the fact that you might have an opportunity to go near 60 or somewhere near 50. But you've got to have the right golf course for that. This golf course is a little bit more difficult than that.”

If golf fans ever needed a “secondary event” to carry a storyline, Sunday is it.

Barring a heart attack or a traffic jam on Archer Avenue, a very real possibility that should keep Cog Hill officials awake all night, Woods should be on cruise control before the NFL pre-game shows come on.

That’s not to say, however, there will be no compelling TV coming out of the southside on Sunday.

Scoff at the convoluted points and playoff hype all you want, but the reality is there will be more than one player headed out of Chicago with a smile on their face.

According to the mathematicians, Luke Donald is headed for some Tour Championship redemption. The Chicago native via Hemel Hempstead, England, played his way into the top 30 with his Saturday 68.

Two years ago Donald closed with a 65 at Cog Hill but missed punching his East Lake ticket by one stroke. And the soft-spoken Northwestern grad knows how close he is. It’s impossible to miss.

“It’s hard not to watch the points,” said Donald, who began the week 32nd in points. “You make a bogey and they show you dropping to 34th. It seems every shot means a little more.”

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Matt Kuchar made a similar move, shooting a third-round 66 on the same layout he won the 1997 U.S. Amateur and the slide rule says he’s currently 26th and headed to his first Tour Championship on a course he grew fond of during his days at Georgia Tech.

And then there is Stewart Cink. The man who broke Scotland’s heart at Turnberry hasn’t broken 70 all week and needs a big finish to play at East Lake, where he is a member.

Ditto for Anthony Kim (projected 37th) and Mark Wilson (31st) and all manner of players who measure success by wins and how many Tour Championships they play.

It will not be the media or the Tour-driven hype that will give the playoffs legs. It will be the players, and if nervous glances and anxious faces are any indication, getting to East Lake counts.

“I am eyeing the computer every day,” said Kevin Na, whose Round 3 65 gave him reason to watch the proceedings carefully.

Woods will likely make Sunday’s final lap a formality, having gone 3-for-3 with at least a share of the 54-hole at the BMW, but the Bears-Packers tilt won’t be the only sporting news of note late Sunday. Not with a contrived reset of the FedEx Cup points waiting on Monday that will guarantee suspense at East Lake.

The playoffs aren’t perfect. May never be. But they’ve given us life where Woods has left only a scorched earth and little hope for a Hazeltine National-like rally from the rank-and-file, and that’s not easy to do.
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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.