Majors most important, but playoffs pack excitement

By Rex HoggardAugust 26, 2015, 7:38 pm

EDISON, N.J. – The problem has always seemed to be an issue of semantics.

In a blatant attempt to draft off of the success enjoyed by other sports, the PGA Tour billed its four-event FedEx Cup as a “playoff,” which initially felt like a mixed metaphor, considering professional golf has always revolved around the four major championships.

Where other sports are defined by a postseason that begets championships, truly great seasons in golf are forged from April to August. That hasn’t changed.

“I put winning the FedEx Cup below a major championship. I don't think anybody holds it to the same level necessarily as far as players,” said Jordan Spieth, who enters the playoffs this week No. 1 on the season-long point list. “I don't know exactly where I put it. It's something that obviously everybody wants to win, there's no doubt about it.”

What has changed in the eight years since the Tour began the postseason experiment, however, is how closely these final four events resemble an actual playoff.

After a series of nip/tucks to the point structure and playoff format with varying degrees of success, the Tour introduced a dramatic points reset the week before the Tour Championship in 2009.

The resulting impact has been a simple and entirely familiar truth – win the Tour Championship and win the FedEx Cup.

The last five FedEx Cup champions have all completed their seasons with a victory at East Lake and while there are all number of scenarios that could shatter that status quo this season, history suggests that’s not likely.

It is the simplest of outcomes right along the lines of the famous Al Davis speech, “Just win, baby.”

Although often clouded by math, the playoffs follow the time-honored script so revered in other sports. The last team to win, whether it’s the Super Bowl or World Series, is the champion.

“You can have an OK season and all of a sudden you play good at the right time and be a FedEx Cup champion,” said Hunter Mahan. “It does feel like a late-season push here. You can kind of forget where you have been and you can really be right here because you know good play right now means a lot. It means a lot more than maybe a couple months ago when you were just kind of playing maybe preparing for a major.”

For the Tour, the challenge has been walking the fine line between rewarding season-long performance and maintaining, however contrived, a sense of postseason urgency that is such a big part of other sports.

While the reset was prompted by Vijay Singh’s postseason performance in 2008, when he won the first two playoff stops and arrived at East Lake needing to only finish 72 holes to collect the silver trophy, it manufactured some volatility with a new format that pays off regular-season play but allows for dramatic momentum swings.

Last year Billy Horschel began the playoffs 69th in the FedEx Cup ranking, finished second at the Deutsche Bank Championship and won the BMW Championship and Tour Championship to collect the $10 million payday. It’s worth pointing out that before the postseason, BillyHo had just two top-10 finishes in what was otherwise a forgettable season.

“I think they have got it tweaked just right,” said Davis Love III, who made an 11th-hour charge into the playoffs with his victory last week at the Wyndham Championship.

“It's exciting. The huge jump I made last week, the possibility, like Billy Horschel last year of coming from the middle of the pack all the way to the winner, it's very, very exciting.”

That’s not to say golf’s version of a postseason fits perfectly into the preconceived notion of a playoff, starting with essentially 100 percent participation (125 players) at this week’s Barclays.

The concept of the “bye” week has also been stretched in golf, with Nos. 9 (Rory McIlroy) and 31 (Sergio Garcia) taking a pass for this week’s Barclays.

“We have seen that with Tiger [Woods in 2007] or Jim Furyk [2010] accidentally; that you don't have to play all four,” Love said. “It puts you at a disadvantage, but you have to play really well in the other three.”

Just as it is in other sports, success in the postseason is all about timing. Victories in January and September are not created equal, which is how the FedEx Cup postseason has evolved into a playoff, or at least as close as golf may ever get to one.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry