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Bunker Shots Playoff Time

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Blasting into the week ahead, from the FedEx Cup playoffs cumulatively weighing like a major to the LPGA’s ongoing battle for No. 1 ...

PGA TOUR

PGA Tour (75x100)

The Barclays

A season searching for meaning beyond Tiger Woods’ swoon crashes at the door of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

The PGA Tour’s postseason creation has never opened to more head-spinning or head-scratching possibilities.

At 112th in the FedEx Cup standings, Woods could get bounced quickly from these playoffs with an unspectacular showing at The Barclays, the first of the four playoff events. The top 125 in points will get trimmed to the top 100 for next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston. The winner of 14 major championships is under pressure to show he’s better than a journeyman this year.

But there’s also the possibility Woods magically finds his mojo and starts a spectacular late run at winning his 11th PGA Tour Player of the Year award. With nobody else staking a serious claim so far, just about anyone is still eligible with three of the four major championship winners not even in the playoffs.

What if Dustin Johnson rebounds from his PGA Championship debacle with a couple of playoff victories and hoists the FedEx Cup? You know a legion of his peers would be eager to give him the award in a vote.

Then again, we could have four first-time winners claim playoff titles and leave us feeling like this was a season that nobody stood out as Player of the Year.

In the year of Woods’ swoon, where his competition’s been unable to take the No. 1 world ranking from him despite his offering it up on a platter, maybe that’s the overriding theme of 2010.

Bunker shot: It’s a hideous thought for those who hold the FedEx Cup playoffs in low regard, but as a whole they look like they’ll mean as much or more than any major in the equation that decides who is this year’s best player.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Steve Stricker. Contender – Paul Casey. Dark horse – Kevin Streelman.

  • Course: Ridgewood Country Club, Paramus, N.J.
  • Purse: $7.5 million (winner’s share, $1,350,000).
  • TV times: Thursday-Friday – Golf Channel, 3-6 p.m. (ET). Saturday – Golf Channel, 1-2:30 p.m. (ET); CBS, 3-6 p.m. (ET). Sunday – Golf Channel, noon-1:30 p.m. (ET); CBS, 2-6 p.m. (ET).
  • Last year: Heath Slocum holed a 21-foot putt for par to win by a shot over Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington and Steve Stricker.

LPGA TOUR

LPGA Tour _new

CN Canadian Women’s Open

Ai Miyazato bids to win her sixth LPGA event this season after prevailing in the Safeway Classic last weekend.

If Miyazato pulls it off, she’ll be in Hall-of-Fame company. Nobody who has won six or more LPGA events in a single season has failed to go on and qualify for the tour’s Hall of Fame.

Here’s the select group of players who have won at least six LPGA events in a season: Babe Zaharias, Mickey Wright, Kathy Whitworth, Betsy Rawls, Louise Suggs, Patty Berg, Nancy Lopez, Marlene Hagge, Carol Mann, JoAnne Carner, Sandra Haynie, Betsy King, Beth Daniel, Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and Lorena Ochoa.

The top 15 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings are all in this week’s field in Winnipeg.

Bunker shot: Suzann Pettersen is due. She’s been knocking hard on the door to victory all season despite a bad hip. She hasn’t won an LPGA event since winning the CN Canadian Women’s Open last year. She has done everything but win this season. Eight times she’s finished fifth or better, four times she’s been runner-up. That run of contention has her at No. 3 in the women’s world rankings, a victory away from becoming the fourth player to ascend atop those rankings this year.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Suzann Pettersen. Contender – Song Hee Kim. Darkhorse – Vicky Hurst.

  • Course: St. Charles Country Club, Winnipeg, Canada.
  • Purse: $2.25 million (winner’s share, $337,500).
  • TV times: Thursday-Friday – Golf Channel, noon-2 p.m. (ET); CBC, 4- 7 p.m. (ET). Saturday – Golf Channel, 3-6 p.m. (ET); CBC, 2-6 (ET). Sunday – Golf Channel, 2-6 p.m. (ET); CBC, 2-6 p.m. (ET).
  • Last year: Suzann Pettersen won in a five-stroke romp.

CHAMPIONS TOUR

Champions Tour

Boeing Classic

What? No major on the Champions Tour this week?

After three majors in a five-week spell, the over-50 circuit settles back into its regular rhythm.

Bunker shot: Mark Calcavecchia is 0 for 6 in his bid to win since joining the Champions Tour, but he’s got to like the raise in pay he’s getting. Calcavecchia’s made $439,496 so far this season. That’s almost four times what he made in his 15 PGA Tour starts earlier this year. With a second-place finish and a T-4 in his last two Champions Tour starts, Calcavecchia looks ready to win his first Champions Tour title.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Mark Calcavecchia. Contender – Mark O’Meara. Darkhorse – Hal Sutton.

  • Course: TPC Snoqualmie Ridge, Snoqualmie, Wash.
  • Purse: $1.9 million (winner’s share, $270,000).
  • TV times: Golf Channel – Friday, 6:30-8:30 p.m. (ET). Saturday – 6:30-9:30 p.m. (ET). Sunday – 7-9:30 p.m. (ET).
  • Last year: Loren Roberts made birdies at the final two holes to win by a shot over runner-up Mark O’Meara.

NATIONWIDE TOUR

Nationwide Tour

Knoxville News Sentinel Open

The season’s nearing its stretch run.

Ten events remain before the top 25 money winners earn PGA Tour promotions.

Bunker shot: Tommy Gainey and Martin Piller won’t have to wait until season’s end to earn PGA Tour promotions if they win this week. They’re both looking for their third titles of the season, a magic number that is supposed to earn instant promotion. But with the FedEx Cup beginning this week, there won’t be any room for them until the Fall Series. Even then, there’s no guarantee they’ll actually get to play with the priority ranking so low Michael Sim struggled to get into fall events after he won three Nationwide Tour events a year ago.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Tommy Gainey. Contender – Martin Piller. Darkhorse – Bradley Iles.

  • Course: Fox Den Country Club, Farragut, Tenn.
  • Purse: $500,000 (winner’s share, $94,500).
  • TV times: No TV.
  • Last year: Kevin Johnson birdied the second extra hole to defeat Bradley Iles in a playoff.