Dont Hold Your Breath for FedExCup Changes

By Associated PressSeptember 18, 2007, 4:00 pm
ATLANTA -- The $10 million had not been deposited into Tiger Woods' retirement account when PGA TOUR officials huddled at headquarters to begin a review of the inaugural FedExCup.
 
Don't hold your breath waiting for changes.
 
The big announcement coming out of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., this week is a drug policy that will begin in 2008, although the tour is moving with great caution. This is something it has to get right the first time.
 
There was always room for error with the FedExCup.
 
Even before K.J. Choi struck the first tee shot of the season at Kapalua, TOUR officials conceded they probably would have to make a few changes that wouldn't be obvious until the FedExCup ran its course.
 
For the most part, they got it right.
 
They wanted the first eight months of the season to be significant, and one only has to look at Rich Beem for the answer. He played some of his best golf when the PGA TOUR Playoffs began, but because he virtually went AWOL from January to the middle of August, he started too far down in the standings to last more than two weeks.
 
They wanted to define a season champion, and Woods won by a mile. Any questions?
 
PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem was over the top when he first described the final four events of the FedExCup as 'the most impactful series of events in the history of the sport.'
 
But it showed there was room for compelling golf after the majors, and it was some of the most entertaining golf of the year.
 
Steve Stricker winning at The Barclays might have been the most sentimental victory this year. Boston brought together Woods and Phil Mickelson for three of four rounds, including the final round on Labor Day, with Lefty scoring a rare victory that he considered the most significant this side of a green jacket or Wanamaker Trophy.
 
Woods owned the last two events, shattering scoring records at Cog Hill and East Lake. He played them in a combined 45 under par and sent everyone home wondering -- perhaps dreading -- if his best golf is still to come.
 
Best of all, the meaningful part of the season ended four days before autumn. That's one promise the FedExCup delivered.
 
But that doesn't mean it was perfect.
 
Rory Sabbatini and Mark Calcavecchia were among those who thought everyone should compete in all four playoff events. A top-ranked player skipped each playoff event (Woods, Choi, Mickelson) until the TOUR Championship, when all 30 made their tee times.
 
Woods and Jim Furyk lobbied for starting the playoffs with fewer players.
 
And there was a universal cry for more volatility in the standings each week. Only three players had a realistic chance of winning the FedExCup at the TOUR Championship, and only four guys who started the playoffs in the top 30 didn't make it to East Lake.
 
If those are flaws, they seem easy enough to fix.
 
But each solution carries a potential problem:
 
1. Make everyone play all four events.
 
When asked two years ago about all the stars playing four straight weeks, Finchem said, 'There aren't any guarantees.' There never are in golf, where players set their own schedules. Golf is not about an endurance test. The reason some players go four weeks in a row is because they want to (Vijay Singh) or have to if they want to make up ground for the $10 million prize.
 
Don't get hung up on who's not there. Woods, Mickelson, Choi, Padraig Harrington, Scott Verplank and Ernie Els played three out of four. Everyone else played four times. Find a field that strong after the majors are over.
 
To mandate that everyone should be at all four events is to guarantee Woods goes on a really long vacation.
 
2. Start with fewer players.
 
Furyk offered the most comical assessment by noting that 125 players keep their cards, but 144 players start the playoffs. But the season began with 225 exempt players, so actually only 64 percent made the playoffs.
 
The biggest problem with this solution is that short fields make for dull tournaments and a lousy experience for the fans. Consider the 70-man field at Cog Hill, where an entire day of golf was over in six hours. There has to be consideration given to the tournament and its fan base. Plus, it's harder to win against a larger field.
 
3. More volatility in the standings.
 
Expect this area to be tweaked, mainly by how points are distributed.
 
Some thought anyone who finishes in the top 10, no matter where they are ranked, should advance to the next week. Just about everyone cited Beem, who tied for seventh at Westchester and had to finish no worse than second at Boston to keep going. Was that asking too much? No, because Beem had more than seven months to earn a higher seeding.
 
Even so, the lack of movement took some of the drama away.
 
Arron Oberholser made the biggest move, starting at No. 72 and finishing at No. 34. He tied for 21st at Barclays and tied for second at the Deutsche Bank Championship, then withdrew from Chicago with injury.
 
Camilo Villegas went from No. 52 to No. 24 with a record of T21-T9-T7-T9. Brett Wetterich had only one good week, tying for second in Boston, and that carried him from No. 50 to No. 27.
 
Sabbatini, meanwhile, was the only player to finish in the top 10 in every playoff event. All that did was move him from No. 6. to No. 4. Why so little movement? Because Woods and Mickelson each won, and Stricker moved past him with a victory and a third-place finish.
 
In other words, the best players in golf played some of their best golf in the playoffs.
 
And there's nothing wrong with that.
 
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    Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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    Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

    Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

    While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.


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    “It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

    Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

    “I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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    Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

    McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

    “I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”


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    The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

    “There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

    He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

    “I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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    Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

    Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

    Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.


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    It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

    “If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

    Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

    “It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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    Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

    Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

    Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

    “It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”


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    Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

    “I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

    Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

    “If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”