Bunker Shots FedEx Cup hopes for finish to remember


With the Tour Championship at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club, the course where Bobby Jones learned to play, we set the week’s storylines with the great one’s wisdom leading the way.

A FedEx Cup fiasco...

“Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course . . . the space between your ears.” Bobby Jones.

A doomsday scenario is in play at the FedEx Cup finish this week.

It’s possible the PGA Tour Playoffs go from anticlimactic conclusions their first two seasons to irrelevant in their third.

There are two players in the 30-man field who would be delighted to make the FedEx Cup irrelevant while taking home the $10 million jackpot that goes with it.

Jim Furyk and Padraig Harrington can finish second at the Tour Championship and win the FedEx Cup without having won a PGA Tour event all year.

Actually, a winless Furyk could finish third this week and still take home the FedEx Cup.

If that doesn’t doom the FedEx Cup’s credibility and make the Tour scrap the format and start all over, nothing will.

The Tour Championship may not finish that way, but it’s no farfetched reach it will.

The fact that it’s possible ought to scare the PGA Tour brass who devised this thing.

It’s a shame the FedEx Cup hasn’t worked better, because it’s a worthy idea.

Who doesn’t like the fact that this four-tournament finale gets the best players in the world to play more often against each other?

Who doesn’t see the value in creating a definitive ending to the season, a potential big-bang finish in a sport that never really had one?

The FedEx Cup makes the PGA Tour a better product achieving these aims.

The mistake was characterizing the idea as the PGA Tour Playoffs.

The playoff concept skews our expectations, disappoints us in failing to deliver what a playoff promises and irritates us because it feels so fraudulent.

The FedEx Cup Series or FedEx Cup Extravaganza wouldn’t particularly titillate as a title, but there’s nothing misleading in the name.

The FedEx Cup has a credibility problem because it aims to be something it cannot be.

If the Tour is really creating playoffs, doesn’t the winner of the Tour Championship have to win the FedEx Cup?

Nothing else makes sense and nothing else ever will.

Certainly, these two winless FedEx Cup champion scenarios don’t make sense:

– Furyk can finish second at the Tour Championship and win the FedEx Cup if Tiger Woods finishes fourth or worse while Steve Stricker finishes third or worse and the following players do not win: Zach Johnson, Heath Slocum, Padraig Harrington, Sean O’Hair and Scott Verplank.

– Harrington can finish second at the Tour Championship and win the FedEx Cup if Woods finishes 10th or worse while Stricker finishes fifth or worse, Furyk fourth or worse, Johnson and Slocum third or worse and the following players do not win: O’Hair, Verplank, Kenny Perry, Jason Dufner, Dustin Johnson, Nick Watney, Geoff Ogilvy, Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen.

A FedEx Cup finish to remember

“On the golf course, a man may be the dogged victim of inexorable fate, be struck down by an appalling stroke of tragedy, become the hero of unbelievable melodrama, or the clown in a side-splitting comedy.” Bobby Jones

The FedEx Cup desperately needs a defining moment.

Three years into the playoff format, and we’re still searching for a Tour Championship highlight that touches us in a way that endures.

Phil Mickelson may not make sense as the FedEx Cup champion, given his competitive slide since his wife, Amy, was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this season, but a Mickelson victory would be the feel-good story of the year, an emotionally fulfilling climax versus the unsatisfying finishes of the first two seasons.

Throw out his tie for second at the U.S Open, when it felt like practically all of New York was rooting for him, and Mickelson’s best finish since announcing Amy’s diagnosis in May is a tie for 27th. He hasn’t been very competitive with his heart committed elsewhere, but his play can turn around quickly with a hot putter.

To win the FedEx Cup, Mickelson has to win the Tour Championship and then hope Woods finishes ninth or worse while Stricker finishes fifth or worse, Furyk finishes fourth or worse and Zach Johnson and Heath Slocum finish third or worse.

Red, white and bruised...

“The object in golf is to beat someone. Make sure that someone is not yourself.” Bobby Jones.

Na Yeon Choi’s victory Sunday at the Samsung Championship extends the international winning streak on the LPGA.

We’re at 13 consecutive events and counting now.

That’s how many tournaments have passed since an American won an LPGA tournament.

It’s the longest American drought within any of the 60 seasons in LPGA history.

Do we need reminding with the tour headed to the CVS/Pharmacy LPGA Challenge in Danville, Calif.? Yes. Does it matter if Americans win? Absolutely.

Sure, the LPGA is a global tour, but it’s American founded and American based and American companies like investing in Americans. So as long as American businesses are needed as the tour’s foundation, and Americans comprise the largest audience, it’s good for business when Americans win. So, yeah, Bunker Shots is keeping track the way it keeps track of its favorite stocks. There’s nationalistic pride, for sure, just as there is in every nation. It’s why they keep a medal count in the Olympics.

Speaking of medal counts, make that nine LPGA victories for the South Koreans this year. They’re two away from their LPGA record. South Koreans won 11 in 2006.

Americans have claimed four LPGA titles this year. If they don’t win at least two of the final six LPGA events, this year will mark the fewest victories Americans have claimed since the tour was founded in 1950. The Americans won six in ’02.


Rich blood runs through pre-qualifiers

“One reason golf is such an exasperating game is that a thing we learned is so easily forgotten, and we find ourselves struggling year after year with faults we had discovered and corrected time and again.” Bobby Jones

Gary Nicklaus and Sam Saunders add some spice to the PGA Tour Q-School pre-qualifier that starts Tuesday at the Golf Club at Dallas.

Nicklaus, 40, the fourth of Jack Nicklaus’ five children, played the PGA Tour from 2000-02 before leaving the game to work in the family business. His best finish was at the 2000 BellSouth Classic, where he lost to Phil Mickelson in a playoff after the event was shortened to 54 holes because of rain. Nicklaus regained his amateur status in 2007 but is bidding to make one more run at fulfilling his professional dreams.

Saunders, 22, grandson to Arnold Palmer, turned pro last month with a year of eligibility left at Clemson. He won a Moonlight Tour event on a Florida mini-tour before missing the cut last week playing the Nationwide Tour’s Albertsons Boise Open on a sponsor’s exemption.

The event at Golf Club of Dallas is one of five pre-qualifiers before Q-School’s first-stage events begin next month. Phil Nevin, a former Major League Baseball player, is scheduled to tee it up Tuesday at the pre-qualifier at Black Horse Golf Club in Seaside, Calif. Nevin played with seven teams before retiring after the 2006 season. He made the National League All-Star team in 2001 as a third baseman.

Three of the five pre-qualifiers are already complete. Mike Van Sickle, a standout at Marquette and the son of Sports Illustrated golf writer Gary Van Sickle, won the event staged at Yankee Hill Country Club in Lincoln, Neb. Jeff Dennis of Jacksonville, Fla., won the pre-qualifier at Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club in Dade City, Fla., and Brent Witcher of Lawrenceville, Ga., won at East Valley Golf Club in Beaumont, Calif.