#AskLav: Looking ahead to PGA, playoffs


Apparently it’s an inescapable truth, a foregone conclusion, a concession that needn’t wait four more days. 

The most-discussed question this week isn’t whether Inbee Park will win the Women’s British Open but whether her inevitable feat will be called a Grand Slam or a Super Slam. That alone says as much about her recent Terminator stretch as it does the rest of the LPGA.

A word of caution, though: To hit a home run, you still have to make a powerful swing and clear the wall.

So let’s at least wait until Sunday afternoon before debating where Park’s 2013 season ranks all time. From her current form (two consecutive finishes outside the top 10) to the mounting pressure and myriad distractions to the vagaries of links golf, this seems like anything but a, ahem, Slam dunk. 

Here, your questions for this week’s #AskLav mailbag:

Its as demanding a major venue as youll find. Just look at the winning score for the past seven stroke-play events held at Oak Hill, dating to 1956: 7 over, 4 under, 2 under, 6 over, 6 under, 5 under, 1 under. So, depending on course conditions and weather, expect the winning score to be anywhere from 3 to 7 under. Several players have already mentioned how gnarly the rough is on the East Course, so driving it long and straight on the tree-lined course ' itll play as a beefy par 70 ' will be at a premium. Which is why my picks to win are a few guys in the top 15 in total driving: Adam Scott, Keegan Bradley and Henrik Stenson.

Tiger, simply because hes older and his drought is lengthier ' five-plus years as opposed to just eight months for Rory. One lost season in a 25-year career wont ruin McIlroy, still only 24. But Woods has built his entire professional life around his pursuit of 18 majors, and each Big One that passes ' now 0 for his last 17, and counting ' without a victory makes his climb up Mount Nicklaus even more daunting, especially at age 37 and with a brittle body.

Lets be clear that these season-ending playoffs are markedly better than what used to pass for the final, sleepy leg of the PGA Tour season, but there are still too many glaring weaknesses to ignore. For the sake of our word count here, well limit it two: 1.) The points system is confusing. Players dont understand it, and neither do fans. Understanding which player will take home the $11.44 million prize shouldnt require a Tour mathematician ' and certainly not Steve Sands violently scribbling at a dry-erase board. And 2.) The Tour still hasnt determined whether its product is a big-money free-for-all or a calculated way to determine the years best player. Its fine to choose the latter ' as long as there is an understanding that the best player wont always be named FedEx Cup champion (hello, 2012 Rory McIlroy) and that winning a playoff event isnt even in the same stratosphere as winning a major title.

So, what can be done? The Tour Championship needs some elements of match play. The #AskLav model would look like this: A five-day tournament (played at a different course each year) for the top 30 in points. The first three days are a stroke-play qualifier, from which the low eight advance. On Saturday, the quarters and semifinals. On Sunday, an 18-hole final with $11.44 million ' the biggest prize in golf ' on the line. Sure, match play is risky, because theres always the fear of a few duds in the final match. But the belief here is that the stroke-play qualifier would weed out some of the lighterweights. And given the alternative of another confusing Cup-clinching Sunday, its worth a one-year test run.

To win? Save your money. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about Westwood not only this week but also heading into the years final major. At the Open he putted as well as he ever has, proving to be a quick study under newly hired putting coach Ian Baker-Finch. But by the end of the final round it was abundantly clear that Westys ball-striking, not his oft-maligned short game, had kept him from the claret jug. Uncharacteristic, to be sure, but merely the product of his brief but ongoing work with swing coach Sean Foley. Hes had two solid weeks to hash things out. This week hell be in the mix again ' three top 10s in his last five starts at Firestone ' but its difficult to see him picking up win No. 1 this season in Ohio. Wait for the PGA to dole out your cash.