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Big Four turns into a big flop Ten newcomers to debut

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PGA Tour (75x100)LEMONT, Ill. – The “Big Four” in last year’s FedEx Cup delivered a big flop for an encore.

Vijay Singh won the first two playoff events and mathematically clinched the $10 million prize before the Tour Championship. All he had to do was finish four rounds at East Lake to win.

He didn’t make it out of the second round this year. Singh missed the cut a career-high six times, had only three top 10s and is 60th on the money list with just over $1.2 million. He did not reach the Tour Championship for the first time since 1994, when Nick Price was player of the year and Tiger Woods was a freshman at Stanford.

Singh indicated he will play some in the Fall Series as he tries to avoid going winless for the first time since 2001. Singh, 46, had knee surgery in January and never seriously contended.

“It wasn’t the season I was looking for,” Singh told Golfweek magazine. “A lot of mishaps along the way, and it ended up being a real crappy season. … I had a pretty ordinary year, to say the least, and I’m just going to go figure it out. There’s no other explanation.”

Camilo Villegas won the final two FedEx Cup playoff events in 2008 and was second to Singh in the standings. Villegas, who rose to No. 7 in the world ranking at the end of the year, hasn’t won since. The Colombian has slipped to No. 16 in the world and didn’t come close to making it to the Tour Championship.

Sergio Garcia lost in a playoff twice during the FedEx Cup postseason and finished third. He closed the year with two victories in Europe and five straight finishes in the top five to reach No. 2 in the world. Garcia had a chance to go to No. 1 in the world in March.

Garcia now is No. 7 in the world ranking and barely made it to the BMW Championship before he was eliminated.

And then there’s Anthony Kim, a two-time winner a year ago who finished No. 4 in the final standings. Kim had only three top-10s this year, missed four cuts and has slipped to No. 20 in the world.

“I’ve been struggling all year, haven’t gotten putts to fall,” Kim said. “It’s disappointing, but I’ll tell you what, I’ve worked real hard for the last month. I’m going to keep working hard and I’m going to be ready for next season.”

 


 

NEWCOMERS: Ten players will be making their Tour Championship debut next week at East Lake, meaning they all have a mathematical chance for the $10 million first prize. For most of them, winning the FedEx Cup is unrealistic.

Some of the perks that come with a spot at East Lake are very tangible, however – namely a spot in three majors, including the Masters. It will be the first trip to Augusta National for Kevin Na, Steve Marino, Brian Gay, Marc Leishman and Jason Dufner.

Gay had already qualified by winning (twice) on the PGA Tour this year.

Marino missed out on the Masters last year when he was 34th on the money list (the top 30 get in). He failed to qualify for the U.S. Open and got into the British Open as an alternate.

“I’m super excited,” he said. “I’ve never played in the Masters. I’ve played in two U.S. Opens, but I didn’t qualify this year. It’s going to be a huge relief not to have to worry about that going into next year.”

 


 

HOME ON THE RANGE: Padraig Harrington is peculiar about practice ranges.

Coming off a runner-up finish at The Barclays, the three-time major champion lost some confidence on the range at the Deutsche Bank Championship – not so much because of his swing, but the angle of the range.

“There was something about the angle of the range (at TPC Boston) that I didn’t like, and I hit a number of poor shots on the range,” he said. “And every day I went to the golf course, I wasn’t feeling good about my driving.”

He had no trouble with the angle or alignment at Cog Hill. It remains to be seen how East Lake works out for him, as long as he can get past the pond that covers the first 100 yards.

As for his ranges he enjoys? He likes the TPC Sawgrass and Muirfield Village, but his favorite is at the Masters.

“Augusta, by a long way,” he said. “And they’re changing it.”

 


 

FIRST TEE: The First Tee last week began offering its education and life skills program to children of military personnel at 50 installations, with 50 more military installations to start up in the spring.

The goal is to reach 87,000 military children within two years as part of an agreement with the Department of Defense.

The First Tee chapters located near military bases are providing curriculum, equipment and training for eligible kids from ages 5-18. The idea is create fun and safe learning environments that cause kids to get curious about golf and illustrate links between golf and its values used in everyday life.

“The program goes far beyond teaching fundamental golf skills,” said Joe Louis Barrow Jr., CEO of The First Tee.

The first 50 bases were in the United States. The First Tee also plans to go overseas to bases located in countries such as Cuba, Germany, Italy, Japan and Spain.

 


 

BABY CONFLICT: Former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy and his wife are expecting their third child early next year, right about the time for him to defend his title in the Accenture Match Play Championship.

The due date is Feb. 15, the Monday of the tournament outside Tucson, Ariz.

Ogilvy has considered his options, and said it’s possible he could be on the Dove Mountain course when Julie goes into labor, in which case he would head home. He lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., just under two hours away.

“Hopefully, if she’s on schedule, she’ll have the baby the week before,” he said. “I can stay at home when I don’t have the early times. There is the potential I’ll be on the golf course. I’ll be disappointed, but it is the birth of my child.”

Ogilvy is a two-time winner of Accenture Match Play with a career record of 17-2.

 


 

DIVOTS: Cog Hill became the fourth golf course were Tiger Woods has won at least five times. The others are Bay Hill, Firestone and Torrey Pines. He has won as many times (25) on those four courses as Johnny Miller in his PGA Tour career. … Padraig Harrington has made double bogey or worse in his last 13 events on the PGA Tour. … Six players have qualified for the Tour Championship all three years of the FedEx Cup – Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Hunter Mahan and Stewart Cink.

 


 

STAT OF THE WEEK: Lorena Ochoa is No. 1 in the women’s world ranking and No. 11 on the LPGA Tour money list.

 


 

FINAL WORD: “How could you not? Every day you wake up to a lifestyle like I have, playing professional golf. As I always say, I’d play this game for free. Just don’t tell anybody.”– Padraig Harrington, on keeping a positive outlook during his struggles this year.

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