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.

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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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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.