Stenson's hot start leaves FedEx Cup options open

By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2015, 11:14 pm

ATLANTA – On Wednesday at East Lake, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, normally not the most effusive chief executive, leaned into his answer regarding the status of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

“I think the points on the FedEx Cup are in good shape right now. And the system is doing exactly what it's supposed to do when you look at the top five coming into Atlanta,” he said.

A day later, with the circuit on the brink of what may turn into the Bridesmaid Cup, things didn’t appear as flawless as the commissioner seemed to suggest.

Essentially, the margin of error within the FedEx Cup projections after Day 1 at the Tour Championship was enough to cause migraines back at Tour headquarters with Henrik Stenson, who already has his name engraved into the silver chalice, poised to deliver what might be the circuit’s “nuclear scenario.”

Stenson, who won the finale and season-long race in 2013, stormed out to a two-stroke lead on Thursday with an opening 63, a position that has him projected to win the FedEx Cup.

Where things get concerning for those who crunch the numbers in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., is if Stenson were to finish in second place on Sunday, which – given a wide range of variables – would also lead to the Swede claiming the cup and $10 million payday without having won a Tour event this season.

“There's no one that's playing great and is sky high on confidence and no one with a bunch of majors and no one hits it 330 [yards] off the tee, so it shouldn't be that hard,” Stenson said on Tuesday with his tongue firmly planted in cheek when asked about the anomaly.

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On Tuesday, Stenson’s not-so-subtle nod to Jason Day and Jordan Spieth, Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, on the points list, took much of the wind out of the conversation. On Thursday, his 7-under card brought that option back into focus.

The scenarios for a potential no win/win for Stenson are relatively straightforward. He can finish alone in second place and win the cup if Day finishes outside the top four (he’s currently tied for 11th), and no player inside the top 10 on the points list wins the Tour Championship.

This is not the first time the nuanced arithmetic of the playoffs has caused a collective double take. In fact, it’s not even the first time this week the algorithms have astonished.

When Harris English, who after narrowly failing to qualify for the finale the last two years, completed his round of 71 at East Lake officials informed him that because Louis Oosthuizen withdrew on Thursday with a muscle strain the field had been reduced to 28 players.

“I can’t win the FedEx Cup,” English responded, aware that his only chance of collecting the cool $10 million was if he won and Day finished 29th or worse.

So much for the running dialogue that contends “anything can happen” at the finale.

The possibility of a non-winner FedEx Cup champion has cropped up with regularity nearly every year since the Tour began its postseason experiment in 2007, including in 2010 when Paul Casey arrived at East Lake winless for the season but poised at fifth on the points list (Stenson is currently fourth on the list).

For Casey, it’s all part of a system that seems to defy understanding at times.

“At The Barclays I felt that it was a little unfair that Jason Day had already leapfrogged Jordan Spieth after the very first week,” Casey said. “Now, I actually think it’s slightly unfair that we can all overtake Day the way he’s played the last three weeks.”

There is no easy fix, no silver bullet that would keep the bridesmaid scenario from ever happening. If there were, people with much bigger brains than your scribe would have thought of it already. It’s simply the nature of playoff golf, which has always felt like the item on the page that doesn’t belong.

Nor does Stenson have any reason for reticence over the maddening math. You know the deal - don’t hate the player, hate the game.

“If I were to finish second [at East Lake] and win the FedEx Cup I’m pretty sure I’ll be smiling on Sunday,” said Stenson, who was in a similar position in 2013 at the European Tour’s Race to Dubai finale but won that last start to quiet any concerns.

The problem rests squarely in the particulars of playoff golf, which will always walk the fine line between the importance of season-long performance and the inherent one-and-done reality of what in every other sport is a true postseason.

At his current clip Stenson, who was 8 under through 12 holes on Thursday before a bogey at the 17th hole, could infuse a monsoon of reason into this race with his second victory at East Lake in three years.

That, however, wouldn’t change the narrative that a Bridesmaid Cup is an unacceptable option.

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McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.

The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.

McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.

McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.

''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''

Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.

''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''

McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.

''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.

''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''

The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.

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Pre-tourney caution be damned: Stenson rides camel

By Grill Room TeamJanuary 16, 2018, 3:29 pm

If you were under the impression Henrik Stenson's days of engaging in pre-tournament hijinks at HSBC-sponsored events were over, then you don't know the Swedish Superman.

Ahead of this week's HSBC Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, the 2016 champion golfer of the year decided to have some fun riding (and pretend-spanking) a camel:

If you can't imagine any reason Stenson wouldn't get on a camel, we will point you to the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, when Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Haotong Li and Hideki Matsuyama took place in this hire-wire act:

Two weeks later, Stenson revealed a rib injury, and a report from the U.K.'s Telegraph stated "that not only was the Shanghai caper to blame, but that Stenson is annoyed about being persuaded to do it in the first place."

Stenson brushed back at that report in this Instagram post, saying that his "comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal."

I’m disappointed to have to pre-emptively withdraw from the Nedbank Golf Challenge Hosted by Gary Player, I was looking forward to this important year-end event on the European Tour. At this point I am back home in Orlando waiting to do a scan on my ribs and get the necessary rest. I am still hoping for a quick recovery and have not ruled out playing in Dubai next week at this point. My comment about not being Superman was a sarcastic way of saying that I am susceptible to injury like any other athlete and sometimes these things happen when you least expect them. I was pleased to help promote the HSBC Champions and to continue my string of success at the event and I was never forced to do anything. HSBC is a great sponsor to golf worldwide and I am not happy to see them being made responsible for my withdrawal. The plan as of now will be to participate in the DP World Championship if my body is back to 100%. H

A post shared by Henrik Stenson (@henrikstenson) on

And it would appear he genuinely meant those comments, at least enough to get on a camel.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.