As Good as It Gets

By Rex HoggardSeptember 6, 2010, 3:11 am

DeutscheBank Logo 2007NORTON, Mass. – Here in the shadow of Foxboro they know a thing or two about playoffs, if not semantics (Would someone please settle the score between Foxboro and Foxborough).

Storied Fenway Park is just up the interstate, a bastion of October glory. It may no longer be the “Garden,” but the Celtics don’t seem to mind. And the Patriots, well what can one say of the Pats that head coach Bill Belichick hasn’t already coined?

It is a reality that makes this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship, the second of four FedEx Cup “playoff” events, seem like an infant in an ancient world.

Deutsche Bank Championship
Fans attend Sunday's third round of the Deutsche Bank Championship. (Getty Images)
Four years into PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem’s grand postseason experiment and fans still struggle with the concept, players still offer lukewarm accolades and the media continues to hold the entire affair at laptop's length.

To be fair, the watered-down initial version that begat the wildly volatile 2008 edition which begat something in between the last two years appears to have at last taken root.

Maybe the biggest problem with the entire shebang is a matter of semantics, golf is no more adaptable to the vagaries of a true playoff than football is to the concepts of self-policing and competitive integrity.

From the outset, the word “playoff” never fit Finchem’s grand plan, but then “a $10 million money grab to make the Tour Championship mean something” doesn’t really move the marketing needle.

But if one can get past the title, what the Tour has created is better than the alternative, which was a Tour Championship that rarely held any drama and a competitive calendar that faded into the darkness of football season.

Last year, with Tiger Woods hoisting the FedEx Cup and Phil Mickelson taking the consolation prize at the Tour Championship, is as good as it ever may get for the playoffs. But that’s not to say the Ponte Vedra Beach math and minutia is without sin.

Geoff Ogilvy for one is a fan, albeit a fan with a footnote.

“If you want them to be a playoff they are really good,” says Ogilvy, one of the circuit’s most thoughtful types.

To prove his point, Ogilvy explains that Matt Kuchar, who won the first postseason event in New Jersey, could win this week at the Deutsche Bank Championship, he is currently tied for 13th place, and next week in Chicago and still not win the FedEx Cup.

“The whole deal is that if you’re in the top 5 going into East Lake and win (the Tour Championship) you will be (the FedEx Cup champion),” he says.

Such is the mathematical tinkering the Tour instituted two years ago following Vijay Singh’s waltz to the cup in 2008, when the Fijian needed to only remain upright for four days in Atlanta to cash the $10 million lottery ticket.

“I don’t think that’s quite right,” says Ogilvy before quickly conceding, “For the most part the right guy has won it three years in a row. Vijay won it before he went to East Lake and that can’t be right either. This is about as good as you can get it.”

Six frat brothers played their way into the top 100 and onto the first tee at TPC Boston with solid week’s at The Barclays, a formula that is largely considered a cozy middle ground between the sleepy first year and the explosive second try.

But if Ogilvy’s support seems couched, he’s not alone.

Jason Bohn considered the question on Sunday for a long moment before pointing out that the current playoff system seems to reward too generously for good, but not great, finishes. Exhibit A: Martin Laird began the playoffs 95th on the points list, finished runner-up last week at Ridgewood and vaulted to third on the list.

“Someone can finish second at a playoff event and lock themselves into the Tour Championship,” Bohn says. “There are too many perks to play the Tour Championship. You get in all the majors and all the invitationals. I think they over-value second place.”

With that the Atlanta-area native paused to consider the other options. If the Tour wants the four playoff events to be considered in a similar light to the majors, a wildly lofty yet understandable goal, maybe the current system isn’t that bad.

“That’s tough. Maybe they have it right,” says Bohn, who was a member of the Player Advisory Council when the Tour was tinkering with the FedEx Cup format.

By comparison, quantum physics suddenly seems remedial. Without a stake in any of the game’s Grand Slam gatherings, the Tour made the most with what they had – four deep fields in major markets and something to talk about in September.

It’s not perfect. It’s not even a playoff. But all things considered, it’s better than the alternative.

Rose (62) sets blistering pace in Indonesia

By Associated PressDecember 14, 2017, 3:06 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Justin Rose shot a 10-under 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, starting on the back nine at Royale Jakarta Golf Club, had five birdies to go out in 31, then birdied four of five holes midway through his final nine and another birdie on his last hole in the $750,000 tournament.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Gunn Charoenkul (64) was in second place and Kim Giwhan and Phachara Khongwatmai (both 65) were tied for third.

Brandt Snedeker shot 72. Ranked 51st in the world, the American is aiming for a strong finish in Jakarta to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

Getty Images

LaCava: Woods wouldn't talk after H.O.R.S.E. match

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 2:27 pm

The competitive streak within Tiger Woods knows no bounds - even on the basketball court, according to caddie Joe LaCava.

LaCava has been on Woods' bag since 2011, and he recently shared a story on "Inside the Ropes" on Sirius/XM PGA Tour Radio about a clash between the two men over a seemingly friendly game of H.O.R.S.E. Actually, it turned into nine straight games (and nine straight wins) for LaCava, who exploited a weakness in Woods' on-court strategy while leaning on a mid-length jumper of his own:

"The thing with him was if I missed a shot, which I missed plenty of shots, but if I missed the shot he'd go back down to the 3 (point line) because he liked to make the 3," LaCava said. "But it's harder obviously to make a 3, and I'd go right back to the baseline 12-footer, and he couldn't make it."

It's a short list of people who have beaten Woods nine times in any athletic pursuit, let alone in a row. But for LaCava, the fallout from his afternoon of on-court dominance was less than subtle.

"He did not talk to me the rest of the day," LaCava explained. "I didn't even get the old text, 'Dinner is ready,' because I stay across at the beach house. I didn't even get that text that night. I had to get take-out. He didn't announce he wasn't (talking), he just did it. I'm telling you, nine games in a row. Like I said, he's so competitive, even at something like that."

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 3, Tiger Woods

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:45 pm

After returning to competition at the Hero World Challenge in December 2016, Woods started the new year with an ambitious slate of tournament starts as he eyed his first full season since 2013. But he made it only three rounds, looking rusty en route to a missed cut at Torrey Pines before withdrawing abruptly in Dubai.

The “spasms” that led to that withdrawal turned out to be something far more serious, as Woods underwent his fourth and most invasive back surgery in April, a lumbar fusion. It brought with it an extensive rehabilitation, and at the Presidents Cup in September Woods humored the prospect that he might never again play competitive golf.

At Liberty National he also faced some scrutiny for an off-course incident from months prior. In May he was arrested for suspicion of DUI, an incident that produced a startling roadside video of an intoxicated Woods struggling to follow instructions from the arresting officer after driving erratically.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

While he was not drinking at the time, Woods was found to have a mix of several prescription medications in his system, including multiple painkillers. He checked himself into a private drug treatment program in July to address his dependency issues, and in October he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving.

But the incident was barely a memory when Woods again made a return to competition in the Bahamas at the tournament he hosts. This time around he exceeded nearly every expectation, twice shooting 4-under 68 while tying for ninth among the 18-man field. Having re-tooled his swing following fusion surgery, Woods appeared relaxed, happy and healthy while briefly taking the lead during the tournament’s second round.

What lies ahead for Woods in 2018 remains uncertain, as the stop-and-start nature of this past season serves as a cautionary tale. But after a harrowing arrest and another serious surgery, he seems once again focused on his game, intent on chasing down a new crop of elite talent, some of whom are barely more than half his age.

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Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

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Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

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Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:30 pm