On PGA Tour, points can be worth more than money

By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2016, 7:17 pm

This marks the 10th season of the FedEx Cup era, and while playoffs and points and even split-calendar seasons – the latter of which came along in 2013 – have become the status quo on the PGA Tour there are still parts of the new math that require analysis.

Money lists, the standard for success for decades at the highest level, have been replaced by points lists for all manner of benchmarks – from the basic drive to keep one’s job (top 125) to qualifying for many of the game’s biggest events (top 30).

The last vestiges of cash will likely be benched for good following initial approval by the policy board of a proposal to nix exemptions for players who finish inside the top 125 in earnings but not points.

While points have become the norm among today’s Tour players, that doesn’t mean the system is perfect.

Although the Tour uses simple math to calculate the points breakdown each week, it’s not a perfect comparison to how cash is doled out.

Look at Gary Woodland’s run the past few weeks. After dropping to 84th on the points list when he missed the cut at Bay Hill, he tied for 33rd in Houston and yet remained 84th on the list. He then followed that with a tie for 20th that included a drop of 10 spots (to 94th on the list).

The next week at the Wells Fargo Championship he tied for 24th and moved up eight spots to 86th.

Go figure.

Essentially, the percentage of FedEx Cup points awarded to players is not the same as the percentage of money, with a tendency to reward middle-of-the-pack performances with points.

“If you get as golf sicko as I do sometimes, you can lay out the money list in one column and the FedEx Cup [points] list in another column and look at the difference,” Charles Howell III said. “Look, every player has to play under the same rules, I understand that, and every player can get benefit or hurt [from the differences].”

Consider the plight of Greg Owen, who currently holds down the 125th spot in earnings, but is 133rd on the points list. Jamie Donaldson is 124th in cash, 135th in points. Bud Cauley is 126th in money, 153rd on the FedEx Cup list.

You get the point – no pun intended – the lists are riddled with disparities.

Endless hours of studying the points list has brought Howell to the conclusion that to make the most of each start a player needs to finish around 35th place or better each week.

 “If you look at the points breakdown, after that it really falls off fast. If your floor is at 35th, 36th if you’re able to finish above that you’re able to move along well,” Howell said last week at TPC Four Seasons.

The distribution of money is weighted more toward top finishes. For example, based on 70 players making the cut and no ties, a 10th-place finish is worth 2.7 percent of the purse; while that same finish is worth just .021 percent of the available FedEx Cup points.

“It’s not a perfect system and I honestly don’t know how you would do it unless you went back to money, which, for my generation, we were all so used to seeing money,” Howell said. “I understand the FedEx Cup and I understand why they want to do it more based on equality than strength of purse, if you will, per tournament, I get all that.”

For Howell, his season is a portrait of how the system is tilted toward steady play if not a spectacular week. In 19 starts, he’s finished outside of that magic top-35 position just six times and ranks 24th on the FedEx Cup points list, yet his best finish is a tie for fourth at last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson.

The FedEx Cup system and how points are distributed – which officials are currently reviewing – is focused more on rewarding consistency while money is allotted with a focus on finishes within the top 10; and Howell explains he’s been on the wrong side of the FedEx Cup math before, like in 2012 when he finished 84th on the points list after making 20 of 29 cuts but posted just eight top-25 finishes.

He also points out that it’s hard to debate how the system measures the game’s elite.

“It does evaluate the best players. They are always going to be [Nos.] 1, 2, 3, 4, 5,” he said.

For Howell, the points list and how it differs from earnings is a study in perspectives, like most things in golf.

“I have a lot of things that go through my head about this game,” he laughs. “This game’s going to get us all eventually, right? We are all eventually headed to the same nut house.”

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

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Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 2:11 pm

The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...

Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy

McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.

McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.

Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.

“When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.

And that was an offseason event.

“They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.

As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.

So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.

“Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”

Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson

Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.

His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.

It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.

There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.

There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.

While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.

There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.

Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth

Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.

He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.

Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.

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CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.

Notables in the field

Phil Mickelson

* This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

* For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

* He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

* This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.

Jon Rahm

* Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

* In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

* Last year he finished T-34 in this event.

Adam Hadwin

* Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

* In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Brian Harman

* Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

* Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

* Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.

Brandt Snedeker

* Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

* This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

* Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.

Patrick Reed

* Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

* This is his first start of 2018.

* Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

(Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)