Cut Line: FedEx Cup Playoffs deliver, for the most part

By Rex HoggardOctober 2, 2015, 3:12 pm

Cut Line takes a final look back at this year’s postseason before moving on to a new calendar. Remember, “Opening Day” is just two weeks away at the Open.

Made Cut

Heir Jordan. Maybe Jordan Spieth had simply grown tired of the narrative. Maybe he realized, at the tender age of 22, that the first three playoffs stops are little more than appetizers to the Tour Championship entrée. Or maybe he just wanted to end this season the way he began it.

Either way, the FedEx Cup champion put an exclamation point on what was an already historic season, winning the Tour Championship by four strokes to secure the FedEx Cup, Player of the Year Award and every other postseason honor.

But as impressive as Spieth’s play was at the finale it may be his mind that impressed the most in this playoffs. As he explained last week East Lake, it’s difficult to maintain major championship intensity week in and week out and he dedicated himself to peaking at the Tour Championship.

“I would do it every week if it was possible and I wouldn’t get worn out,” said Spieth, who missed the cut in the first two playoff stops. “I knew that at this point I could sleep for two or three days and give it everything I had.”

Tiger Woods dominated for more than a decade with a single-minded focus to compete, and win, every week. As successful as that formula was, give young Jordan credit for understanding that may not be an option for everyone.

Tweet of the week:

Five wins, two majors, $12 million in earnings, $22 million in total income (counting the FedEx Cup bonus), yep . . . nice year.

Playoff payoff. Say what you will about the Tour’s contrived postseason but even the most hardened cynic would be challenged to find a reason to nitpick this year’s playoffs.

Your four playoff winners were Jason Day (Barclays), Rickie Fowler (Deutsche Bank Championship), Day (BMW Championship) and Jordan Spieth (Tour Championship), the year’s top three players be it regular- or postseason.

The playoffs are not perfect (see Garcia item below), but in nine years they have accomplished the primary goal of keeping the top players engaged and active after the PGA Championship in four major markets.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

English lesson. There are, however, still glitches in the playoff math as Harris English learned last week.

English – who narrowly advanced to the Tour Championship after coming up just short the last two seasons, finishing 32nd and 31st on the points list the last two years – was informed after Louis Oosthuizen withdrew with an injury that his FedEx Cup chances were headed out of town with the South African.

Oosthuizen’s withdrawal, along with Jim Furyk’s WD earlier in the week, reduced the field to 28 players. According to the Tour’s number crunchers, English had to win the Tour Championship and Day had to finish outside the top 29 for English to win the FedEx Cup.

“I knew a lot of stuff had to happen and I had to win so it wasn’t a huge surprise, but it was kind of weird when they told me,” English said.

So much for anything can happen at East Lake.

Schedule sea change. After trying, and failing, for decades to create some sort of regulation that would assure player participation across the schedule, Tour officials seem cautiously optimistic a new proposal will finally bridge the gap.

The proposal, which still must be approved by the Tour policy board, would require any player who finished inside the top 125 the past five years to play at least one event per season they hadn’t played in the previous five years.

“It doesn't require a player to play any particular event. But it's a requirement that you have to have some more movement in your schedule,” commissioner Tim Finchem said last week. “I should emphasize, it's under discussion.”

On this, the independent contractors have been very clear and the Tour’s attempt to mandate schedules, no matter how nuanced, is sure to be heavily scrutinized.

Missed Cut

El No-show. While the Tour examines ways to ensure greater participation, players like Sergio Garcia have made it clear there is virtually no amount of money that can inspire action.

Garcia’s decision to skip the first two playoff stops cost him a shot at winning the FedEx Cup and the $10 million bonus. Considering that on Aug. 16 after the PGA Championship the Spaniard was 31st on the points list, his decision to play just one more event (BMW Championship) was a clear statement of where the playoffs rank in his paradigm of importance.

“I’m not trying to prove anything,” Garcia said. “I’ve been out here for 16 years, and I’m not getting any younger. People don’t realize how much it takes out of you when you’re traveling as much as I do. If I just played the PGA Tour and I was living here in the U.S., it’s different. But when you’re going back and forth, it’s a lot of traveling and it takes a bit out of the body.”

Garcia may not have intended to make a statement, but considering he earned the same number of points as Spieth through the first two postseason starts, that would be zero, he certainly started a conversation.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.