FedExCup Basks in Tigers Glow

By Brian HewittSeptember 17, 2007, 4:00 pm
The inaugural FedExCup is now in the record books and, forevermore, the name at the top of its list of past winners will be Tiger Woods.
 
The whole idea of the thing was to capture the publics imagination with a golfing version of playoffs. And, for the most part, the FedExCup succeeded. Playoffs in any sport, after all, are designed to identify the best team or player.
 
And of this there can be no debate: Tiger Woods is the best player in the game. He won two of the three Playoff events he entered; he won $10 million dollars in deferred money and $1.26 million dollars now for finishing first in Sundays Playoff-ending TOUR Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.
 
If, on the other hand, say Robert Allenby had won the FedExCup, there would have been a collective howl from the critics. And make no mistake: the FedExCup had grill rooms full of critics from the outset.
 
Nothing against Allenby. I just picked his name at random from the list of 30 players who made it to East Lake and who are not household names outside of the sport Woods dominates.
 
So once again Tiger saved golf from the slings and arrows of the people who probably wouldnt have been as skeptical if theyd been paying a little closer attention.
 
In Week 1 of the Playoffs too many of those people were focused on the absence of Woods from the field. Too few appreciated the rebirth of Steve Strickers game. When Stricker won at The Barclays he was suddenly, at 40 years of age, golfs feel-good story.
 
The following week Woods showed up and wound up with the same tee time of world No. 2 Phil Mickelson for three of the four rounds. This was by design. Players at the top of the point standings were meant to be going head-to-head.
 
And when Mickelson outdueled Tiger and beat him down the stretch Sunday at the Deutsche Bank Championship, the Playoffs actually felt like, well, playoffs.
 
Almost immediately there was another mini-controversy when Mickelson announced he wouldnt be showing up for the third Playoff weeks event in Chicago, the BMW Championship. Mickelson also dropped hints that he was unhappy with PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem for, in Mickelsons opinion, Finchems failure to listen to Mickelsons FedExCup suggestions.
 
And it was all good.
 
Where once people were talking about the FedExCup only in pro shops, they were now beginning to talk about golf playoffs in barber shops and bars and on sports talk radio. The quality of play on the fairways and greens remained high. Woods went low at Cog Hill and grabbed first place in the point standings. But not before having to come from behind on the back nine Sunday to run down Stricker and an improved young Aussie named Aaron Baddeley.
 
Great, Finchem said with masked glee when asked about the quality of the golf and the amount of public dialogue the FedExCup had generated.
 
GreensGate greeted the players when they got to East Lake. An Atlanta heat wave had nearly killed the putting surfaces and officials had no choice but to keep the greens soft. The result was low scores in bunches.
 
Woods needed 64, 63 and 64 in his first three rounds. He played the last six holes of his front nine Friday in 7 under for an outward 28. Zach Johnson parlayed eight birdies and an eagle Saturday into a sizzling 60 that might have been 59 if his approach on the last hadnt found a bunker. Geoff Ogilvy made 10 birdies, shot 62 Saturday and barely got a mention.
 
Sunday was little more than a victory lap for Woods. Tiger won the TOUR Championship by a pile of shots. But you cant blame the Playoffs creators for that.
 
So the FedExCup, which will surely be liberally tweaked in the years to come, is off to a surprisingly quick start. The doomsayers who warned the point standings might be settled before the final 30 got to Atlanta are silent now.
 
Its full speed ahead for golfs new playoffs. And as long as Tiger Woods is at the wheel, there isnt a cop in the sporting world who will ticket them over for going too fast.
 
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    Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

    According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

    Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.


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    Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

    Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

    And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

    Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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    Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

    The Monday morning headline will be …

    REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

    RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

    MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

    JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.



    Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

    HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

    LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

    BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

    COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.



    Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

    HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

    LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

    BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

    COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.



    What will be the winning score?

    HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

    LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

    BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

    COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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    Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

    Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

    Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

    This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

    While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

    Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

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    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.