Par 5: Hating Rees' pieces


Setting the agenda for the week ahead with five questions for tournament golf at large ...

Can Phil Mickelson win on a golf course built by a designer whose work he disdains?

Jack Nicklaus liked to say when he heard players complaining about the golf course, he’d scratch their names off the list of foes he thought he’d have to beat.

Following that logic, we would be scratching Mickelson’s name off the list of FedEx Cup favorites at the BMW Championship this week.

Mickelson doesn’t like the redesign work architect Rees Jones did to Cog Hill’s Dubsdread Course. He made that clear last year. Mickelson struggles to hide his disdain for much of Jones’ work.

“This is an example again of how modern architecture is killing the participation of the sport,” Mickelson said of Jones’ redesign work at the Atlanta Athletic Club during the PGA Championship last month.

Of course, Mickelson is not alone in his scorn for the changes at Cog Hill. Nicklaus would be scratching a lot of names off his list in a week like this.

“It’s tricked up,” Steve Stricker said of Cog Hill’s makeover.

“It’s a wreck,” Stewart Cink said.

When Tour nice guys Stricker and Cink speak out, there’s a problem for the history-rich event formerly known as the Western Open.

The Western Open got its start in Chicago in 1899. Cog Hill’s been home to the tournament since 1991, but the site’s future as host hangs in the balance. This could be the last PGA Tour event played there. The Western Golf Association is holding off until after the tournament to address the matter. With the Ryder Cup at Medinah next year, the BMW’s scheduled for Crooked Stick in Indianapolis. The 2014 event’s set for Cherry Hills in Denver. The 2013 event's home has yet to be named.

Still, despite Mickelson’s feelings about Jones’ work, he shouldn’t be dismissed this week, not after shooting 10 under par on the weekend with his new belly putter at the Deutsche Bank Championship in his last start. Despite some sluggish play this year, Mickelson is still 10th in FedEx Cup points. Also, Mickelson has won on Jones’ work before. The lefthander has played 41 PGA Tour events on courses redesigned by Jones and won four times: 2000 and ’09 Tour Championships at East Lake; ‘05 PGA Championship at Baltusrol and this year’s Shell Houston Open at Redstone.

Will Webb Simpson hold onto the No. 1 spot in the FedEx Cup points standings?

Simpson’s victory at the Deutsche Bank Championship in the last FedEx Cup event was his second title in his last three starts. He’s on fire with a 66.45 scoring average in those three events, 46 under par in that run.

But halfway through the FedEx Cup playoffs, Simpson isn’t necessarily the man to beat.

Since the playoffs began in 2007, Vijay Singh’s the only halfway leader to close the deal. He won the first two playoff events in ’08 and held on to take the big prize despite Camilo Villegas’ bold finish winning the last two playoff tilts.

In the four previous FedEx Cups, Jim Furyk’s come from farthest back over the final two playoff events to win the ultimate prize. Last year, he was 11th in the standings going to the BMW Championship and still 11th going to the Tour Championship. Every other winner’s come from within the top three in the standings halfway through the playoffs.

Just how potentially volatile are the playoffs?

Chris Stroud barely squeezed into the top 70 to make it to the BMW Championship, but it’s possible he could surge all the way to No. 3 in the Fed Ex Cup points standings with a victory at Cog Hill.

Still, nobody outside the top seven has a chance to overtake Simpson for the No. 1 spot in points this week.

Who is going to be PGA Tour Player of the Year?

There are six two-time winners this year, and you’d have to rank them all as frontrunners.

Simpson, Stricker, Keegan Bradley, Nick Watney, Bubba Watson and Mark Wilson have all won twice this season. A third title might win one of them the FedEx Cup and Player-of-the-Year honors.

If we're ranking those six, Bradley would have to top the list as the only one with a major among his two titles.

How dominant is Yani Tseng becoming?

After winning the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship last weekend, Tseng heads to the Navistar Classic this week looking to claim her sixth LPGA title this season.

Tseng’s dominance is also revealed statistically. She leads the LPGA in scoring (69.59), money winnings ($2,116,051), driving distance (268.4 yards), greens in regulation (75.1 percent) and birdies (4.61 per round). If she led in putting, she’d hold the top spot in all the most meaningful statistical categories. She’s third in that department.