McIlroy, Woods have shot at Tour Champ. and $10 million

By Rex HoggardSeptember 22, 2012, 11:03 pm

ATLANTA – Bless Steve Sands’ heart and his magic Sharpie, but Sunday at East Lake will not be about math.

It never is. Truth is it can’t be.

“You don’t really know what’s going on because there are so many variables,” said Matt Kuchar, who should know. He’s arrived at East Lake, a home game for the Georgia Tech alum, the last two years with all manner of mathematical possibilities.

It’s not that Tour types don’t care about the FedEx Cup, as if 10 million reasons to pine for something wasn’t enough, as much as it is an inability to comprehend what needs to be done. Those computations are best left to MIT grads and super computers.

In one breath Rory McIlroy, your projected points leader and one of four players within three strokes of the lead, gushed – “It’s probably going to be one of the most exciting Sundays of the year.”

In the next beat he put the season-long scramble in context – “This is nothing compared to going into the final round of a major with the lead.”

The projections are so arcane that last year’s champion Bill Haas asked during the 2011 awards ceremony why both trophies, the Tour Championship crystal and FedEx Cup silver, were awaiting him, unaware his playoff victory over Hunter Mahan had delivered both chalices.

On Sunday at the Tour Championship it will be the talking heads and Tour tacticians who will feverishly dissect the litany of scenarios, not the players. In their defense good golf and endless deliberations are very much mutually exclusive.

In short form the possibilities are rather straightforward. If McIlroy, Tiger Woods or Brandt Snedeker – who are all inside the top 10 through 54 – win the Tour Championship, the cup and cash are theirs.

Anything beyond that is long division.

Consider that for Justin Rose, who is tied with Snedeker for the lead at 8 under par, to win the cup McIlroy must finish worse than 15th, Woods must be outside the top five, Snedeker in a three-way tie for second or worse and Phil Mickelson needs to be no better than a tie for third . . . stop me when it hurts.

By comparison the BCS formula of yesteryear was coloring by numbers.

“All the money and awards come from winning championships,” Woods said simply. The only two-time winner of the $10 million lottery ticket speaks from experience, which would explain what could only be called a rebound round on a gusty Saturday.

It was 67 the hard way for Woods, plenty of missed greens and missed opportunities but when he signed his card he found himself wedged center stage. And that’s the beauty of golf’s faux postseason.

All the projections in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., add up to one truth – the playoffs have again delivered interest where before there was none. The confounding calculations mean little to those who crisscrossed East Lake on Saturday. All that mattered to the masses was that the game’s top players are participating in meaningful golf past Labor Day.

Beyond the math the general ideas were simple enough. McIlroy wins and he wraps up the Player of the Year trophy and further solidifies his spot as the new top dog, not to mention adding an extra level of intrigue to next week’s Ryder Cup.

Woods wins and he matches McIlroy’s haul of four Tour titles and wrests the Player of the Year voting out of foregone-conclusion territory, not to mention sending an unmistakable message to Greg Norman, who opined earlier this week that the former world No. 1 was “intimidated” by the current world No. 1 (McIlroy).

For Rose it’s another high-profile bottlecap on a burgeoning resume, and a Snedeker victory would be a fitting exclamation point after an injury-riddled few seasons as well as an emotional tribute to Tucker Anderson, the son of Snedeker’s longtime swing coach, who is recovering in an Atlanta-area hospital following a near-fatal car crash two weeks ago.

In fact, it was Snedeker who admitted that all of the potential Sunday scenarios would likely lead to a “restless night.”

Not to mention the possibility of a possible preview to a potential uber-match between Woods and McIlroy next Sunday at Medinah.

Or a sudden-death playoff, for the Tour Championship or FedEx Cup – yes, it can happen with the likes of Jim Furyk, the 2010 FedEx champion who rinsed his tee shot on No. 17 on Saturday for a triple bogey to fall out of the lead, still looming just three strokes back.

Straightforward, uncontrived, uncalculated drama that is usually the domain of majors and Ryder Cups, not limited-field gatherings in the early fall. It’s all there: no math, just meaningful golf.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.