Playoffs Week 1 A Solid B

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These days it just seems it isnt a golf tournament if it doesnt have a hot topic attached to it. And Im good with that.
 
Heat in golf is mostly a good thing'unless of course its coming from the oral cavity of Rory Sabbatini on a Saturday night and the subject is Tiger Woods. More on that a few paragraphs down in this column.
 
One of the obvious hot topics after The Barclays was this: Assign a letter grade to the first week of the FedExCup playoffs.
 
Ever since Rich Lerner anointed me Professor Hewitt of FedExCup-ology on 'Golf Central' last week, I take these matters very seriously.
 
So put the The Barclays down for a solid B.
 
Why not an A?
 
Tiger wasnt there. And too many people, at least partly because they werent inclined to do their homework, didnt know how this FedExCup thing worked.
 
Why not a C or a D?
 
Several reasons:
 
  • Westchester is a terrific golf course that got extremely tough around the green complexes Sunday.
     
  • The field, even without Woods, was loaded.
     
  • The tournament within the tournament'seeing which players ranked between 120 and 145 would play their way into next weeks second playoff event near Boston.
     
  • And then there was the Sabbatini watching. And the Stricker watching on Sunday.
     
    First, the tournament within the tournament: The winners were Rich Beem and Doug LaBelle. Beem wound up tied for seventh at The Barclays which jumped him from 134th to 113th and advanced him to Deutsche Bank which starts Friday and concludes on Labor Day Monday. One of the story lines that played out during the week was every players desire to stay alive in the playoffs. Most of them are longshots for the $10 million first prize in deferred money that will be credited to the account of the winner after the fourth playoff week.
     
    But these guys are not only good, they have pride. None of them likes to be told they cant play next week. Only 120 advanced from The Barclays. No. 121 at the start of the week was LaBelle, who needed a birdie on his 72nd hole to move up 120. Jason Dufner needed a 6-foot putt for birdie on his last hole Sunday to stay alive in the playoffs. He missed.
     
    Stricker birdied four of his final five holes, including the last three to beat out second-place finisher K. J. Choi and third-place finisher Sabbatini. It was Strickers first win in the States since 1996 and it moved him past Woods and into first place in the latest FedExCup point standings. Choi is now second, Sabbatini third.
     
    It was hard, but it was a lot of fun, Stricker said when it was over. I never knew if I was going to win again. Ill tell you what, this is sweet.
     
    Numbers 4, 5 and 6, respectively, in the FedExCup point standings are now Woods, Mickelson and Singh which means those three will be playing in the same group the first two days at Deutsche Bank. How often do you get that? Can I raise my grade to a B+?
     
    Sabbatini, The Mouth That Rory-ed, had made an early statement Thursday with an 8-under 63 that was one of the best rounds on the PGA TOUR all year. Then he slowly fell back until he found himself four shots back of Strickers third-round lead.
     
    Not a problem, Sabbatini roared out the blocks Sunday with five birdies on the front nine. At that point he was tied with Stricker for the lead.
     
    Meanwhile, the FedExCup projection guys were reminding us that we could have had Woods and Sabbatini together in the same group the first two days at Deutsche Bank. Sabbatini sabotaged that notion by making three bogeys on his inward half. Stupid golf, Sabbatini called it.
     
    To be sure, as stated earlier, Woods wasnt in New York this time. But how could you not root for another round of Woods vs. Sabbatini (with all due respect for the likable Stricker)? Once again, this was a case not of rooting against somebody but, rather, rooting for the story.
     
    So instead we get two days of Tiger and Phil and Vijay, who by the way, missed the cut at The Barclays. Whats up with that? The answer depends on who you ask and is just one more interesting story line as golfs playoffs move into Week 2.
     
    There has been so much criticism of the FedExCup all summer long. A solid B grade, at the moment looks pretty good. Plus, theres still time to pull the overall grade up to an A.
     
    Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
     
    Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - The Barclays