Players can't afford to skip a playoff event ... or can they?

By Rex HoggardAugust 28, 2014, 10:00 pm

NORTON, Mass. – In 2007 Tiger Woods skipped The Barclays, the byproduct of a dramatically reworked and compact schedule. Three years later Jim Furyk also missed the first playoff event, the result of an alarm clock snafu that led to a baffling disqualification. Both players went on to win that season’s FedEx Cup.

Since then the PGA Tour has tinkered with the post-season formula in an attempt to reduce the chances players would manufacture their own “bye” week during this final run by restructuring the playoff points math and adding an “off” week.

Because of a deal that was struck between the Tour and the PGA of America this year, this season’s “off” week now comes after the Tour Championship to give players bound for the Ryder Cup in Scotland a breather and created a scenario where skipping an event is not just an option but a reality.

Seven players will skip this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship for a variety of reasons, including Graeme McDowell (child birth), Paul Casey (child birth), Tim Clark (injury), Jason Dufner (injury), Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia.

Perhaps even more concerning for the folks calling the shots in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., was the revelation on Thursday at TPC Boston that Rory McIlroy, who began the playoffs No. 1 on the FedEx Cup point list, considered briefly taking a week off.

“I was maybe (thinking of skipping) a little bit on Denver,” the world No. 1 said. “It did cross my mind skipping one of these events, but I want to give myself the best chance to win the FedEx Cup and the best chance to do that is by playing all these events.”

Without the “bye” week this year those who qualify for next week’s BMW Championship (the top 70 on the point list) will be forced to scramble from New England following Monday’s final round to Denver and play the third post-season event on short rest.

Add to that the possible implications of earning a spot on either the U.S. or European Ryder Cup team and it’s surprising that there haven’t been more no-shows during this year’s post-season.

Deutsche Bank Championship: Articles, videos and photos

Consider that when the dust finally settles after the Ryder Cup McIlroy will have played seven events in nine weeks and will start up again almost immediately as the European Tour begins its run up to that circuit’s post-season in October.

It’s been an even more hectic time for Brandt Snedeker. A combination of sponsor commitments and can’t-miss events have resulted in a dance card that now stands at six consecutive weeks and counting.

Snedeker has not had a week off since playing the RBC Canadian Open and if he qualifies for the BMW and Tour Championship, he’s currently 71st on the point list, and is selected by Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson to be one of the U.S. team’s three wildcard picks he will have played 10 events in 11 weeks.

“I knew this was going to be a big stretch for me and geared my schedule accordingly,” Snedeker said. “I didn’t play a lot in the summer time. I feel I did the best I could possibly do to be fresh.”

Still, when asked if he would ever consider skipping a playoff event the 2012 FedEx Cup champion didn’t hesitate, “No,” he said.

Put Hunter Mahan in that camp as well.

Mahan, who won last week’s Barclays to lock up his spot at the Tour Championship, is the only player to have participated in every post-season event and one of only three players (including Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker) to advance to East Lake every year since the season-long race began in 2007.

“I take great pride in that (streak),” Mahan said. “I’ve never really thought about taking a week off because I knew I was going to have a week off either before (the Tour Championship) or before the BMW Championship. This time of year I want to be playing.”

Although the bye week after the Deutsche Bank Championship returns next year, skipping a playoff event continues to be a growing possibility in part as a result of some of the Tour’s own tinkering.

Because of the pre-Tour Championship points reset, which negates the possibility of a player building an insurmountable lead before the finale like Vijay Singh did in 2008, it’s becoming more of a possibility that a player could opt for rest over reps given a certain set of circumstances.

In 2012, for example, McIlroy won the second and third playoff stops and had a 3,942-point advantage over Snedeker before the reset, which narrowed that gap to 900 points. The Northern Irishman finished tied for 10th at East Lake, Snedeker won the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup.

In theory, a player could win the first three playoff events and still not collect the $10 million lottery ticket, which puts the focus on simply landing a spot in the top 5, the magic number where players can control their own destiny with a victory at that finale, heading into East Lake.

Based on last year’s point breakdown, Mahan (who currently has 3,276 points) is close to locking up a spot in the top 5 heading into the Tour Championship. Considering that statistical reality, why would Mahan put himself through the rigors of a four-week stretch?

Perhaps the answer is obvious – to win. But as more players become familiar with the numerical nuances of the playoff format that question is going to be asked more and more.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.