Volatility and uncertainty in FedEx, Ryder Cups
- By John Hawkins
- Aug 29, 2012 2:03 PM ET
OK, now I get it. You jog around the bases for six or seven months, pick up a few top-10s to cover that outrageous mortgage, then move straight to the top of the FedEx Cup standings because the guy playing beside you shot 75. That would be one way of assessing what happened last Sunday at Bethpage. Or you could throw on a pair of rose-colored glasses and wallow in the company brand.
Nick Watney is a very good player who didn’t have a very good year – not by his standards. He entered last week 49th in the race; his best regular-season finish was a solo eighth in Charlotte. He averaged just under $60,000 per start, as opposed to 2011, when he won twice, collected seven top-10s before the end of May and averaged $271,529.
It’s almost too easy to pick on the PGA Tour’s postseason format, which became an exercise in volatility after the loophole-filled finish in 2008: Camilo Villegas won the final two playoff events after Vijay Singh had clinched the overall title, robbing the concept of any common sense or suspense. Camp Ponte Vedra wants you on the edge of your seat come Tour Championship week, so the points-allocation process was totally restructured to allow big leaps and an everyone-has-a-chance scenario.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome your 2011 FedEx Cup champion…
(Master of ceremonies fumbles with the envelope)
We can debate the merits of hyper-activity vs. regular-season performance, then agree to disagree after we’re all out of breath. But one thing is pretty obvious, the first 7 1/2 months of the Tour schedule, at least in the context of the FedEx Cup, don’t mean a thing. As long as you’re making cuts and cashing enough paychecks to buy a new Mercedes every other week, your position in the standings is irrelevant.
If the number of playoff contestants was much smaller – the top 50 or 60 get in, everybody else gets a few weeks off – the theory of volatility would have a much better chance of producing handsome dividends. Someday, perhaps, the Tour will figure out that a star-driven enterprise doesn’t prosper without a considerable amount of exclusivity. Until then, we’re just posing without a purpose.
As I wrote here a couple of weeks ago, the jostling for an at-large berth on the U.S. Ryder Cup team was sure to get interesting – Davis Love III will announce his four captain’s picks Tuesday. The most obvious move upward has come from Brandt Snedeker, who finished runner-up at The Barclays. He was 13th in the final Ryder Cup standings, with the four non-qualifiers in front of him all being on the 2010 U.S. team, but would rank 10th if points were calculated the last two weeks.
“Experience is overrated,” former skipper Paul Azinger told me a couple weeks ago. “I had my best Ryder Cup when I was a rookie . I think too much is made of it.”
Maybe, but if a tie goes to the runner in baseball, the guy with battle scars is more likely to get the nod from a Ryder Cup captain – we’ve seen it time and time again. The what-you’ve-done-lately factor is important, however, so here’s a quick look at how each of the five lead candidates have performed, beginning with the British Open:
Mahan: Best finish is T-19 at British Open. Back-to-back MCs at PGA and Barclays. Average earnings: $46,194.
Stricker: T-2 at Firestone, T-7 at PGA. Has made all four cuts. Average earnings: $242,261.
Furyk: Lost in a playoff at Firestone. Two MCs in four other starts. Average earnings: $146,273.
Fowler: Best finish is T-24 (Barclays). Missed cut at PGA. Average earnings: $37,081.
Snedeker: Two top-threes, one MC. Average earnings: $240,454.
Experience or performance? Turning to my crystal ball, which has lied to me on numerous occasions before, Stricker and Furyk are locks. Both Mahan and Fowler need a strong week at TPC Boston. Otherwise, Snedeker knocks one of them – probably Fowler – off the squad.
Hawkins is a contributing writer with more than two decades of journalism experience.
- G-Mac wins Match Play | OWGR No. 7 | Scores
- Bae wins Byron Nelson | At a glance | Scores
- Johnson storms to first LPGA victory | Scores
- What We Learned: McDowell proves matchless
- Venturi dies at 82 | Twitter reaction | Photos
- Arnie, Jack recall Venturi | Nelson connection
- Week in review: Top Photos, Quotes of the Week
- Thanks, Jack: Guan accepts Memorial invite
- McDowell: McIlroy, Horizon split 'fairly amicable'
- Uihlein gets first pro win at Madeira | Scores
- Open qualifying: Men's local | Women's sectional
- Instruction: Stay stable in high winds like Bae