FedEx Cup may be best possible end to season

By Doug FergusonSeptember 27, 2011, 7:54 pm

ATLANTA – This might have been the most compelling golf playoff that hardly anyone saw.

After all the mathematical possibilities had been exhausted, the Tour Championship - and the FedEx Cup - came down to a sudden-death playoff between Bill Haas and Hunter Mahan. The monetary difference between winning and losing was just under $10 million. Haas, with a recent history of folding, hit a shot into the bleachers on the first playoff hole and into the water on the second playoff hole.

He not only survived, he wound up winning.

It was great theater.

And yet the overnight rating on NBC Sports was 1.4, and that’s the kind of math everyone in the TV business understands. On a day filled with football, not many were watching golf.

Does that make the FedEx Cup a failure? By no means.

Players who act as if they don’t care about the FedEx Cup are usually the ones who either didn’t qualify for the playoffs or were eliminated early. Anyone else who thinks the FedEx Cup is contrived drama either is mistaking golf for a team sport or has forgotten what golf looked like before the PGA Tour created this postseason plan.

You think the Tour Championship was a tough sell in late September? How much were people paying attention in early November?

The overnight rating for the final round of Tour Championship on Nov. 5, 2006 - the year before the FedEx Cup came along - was 0.9. To be fair, neither Tiger Woods nor Phil Mickelson played that year, which is another problem the FedEx Cup tried to solve, and did.

The year before that, when Bart Bryant won by six shots over Woods, the TV rating was a 2.1. That would amount to roughly a 5 percent decline in ratings each of the last six years, which industry officials say is typical for all sports except the 900-pound gorilla known as the NFL.

No one ever said the FedEx Cup was perfect.

Trouble is, no one has come up with a better solution.

Match play for all the marbles only sounds good in theory, but it doesn’t work for television, it doesn’t work for the fans on site and it doesn’t work for sponsors (who pay the bills and use that week to entertain clients). It barely works once a year in Arizona.

The idea of making the playoffs all or nothing is impractical at best. To start with a clean slate for everyone, at the start of the postseason or after each playoff event, is to render meangingless the first eight months of the season.

Despite all the number-crunching involved at the end, the FedEx Cup is not that hard to understand.

The best players all year long (Luke Donald, Steve Stricker, Nick Watney) and those who win the playoff events (Webb Simpson, Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson) will have the best shot at the $10 million and are at least assured of getting to the Tour Championship.

Everyone at the Tour Championship still can win the FedEx Cup, but those at the bottom of the list (Haas was No. 25) need those at the top to have a bad week. Simpson, who was No. 1, finished 22nd. Johnson, who was No. 2, was another shot behind. They had bad weeks.

It would help if NBC Sports were not hung up on a math exhibition during the telecast. Yes, points are the measure. But it’s more about position in the tournament. Donald needed a two-way tie for third. You don’t need a chart or even an abacus to illustrate that. A standard leaderboard will suffice.

Haas didn’t help when he said he didn’t know the playoff would also decide the FedEx Cup. He either was being coy or had a short memory when he added, “I didn’t ask and nobody told me.” In fact, two PGA Tour officials informed him in the scoring trailer that if he got into a playoff, he would be playing for all the cash.

There were so many possibilities in the final hour that eight players were still in the running for the $10 million prize, six of them based on the shots they hit, two of them based on math.

Is it a farce that Simpson could finish 20th and still win the FedEx Cup? No more than when David Duval had to finish 24th at the Tour Championship in 1998 to win the PGA Tour money title, or when Vijay Singh had to finish in a two-way tie for third in 2003 to win the money title.

The Tour Championship never had much drama to begin with. Duval once referred to it as an All-Star game, and that’s about what it was. Most years, Woods had already wrapped up the money title before East Lake.

Now we have a FedEx Cup, which delivers four tournaments of all the best players in the month after the PGA Championship, compared with the old days - a calendar full of events that hardly any of the best played.

For golf fans, what’s not to like about that?

Two years ago, Woods won the FedEx Cup and Mickelson won the Tour Championship. Golf had its two biggest stars on the 18th green, both holding a trophy. A year ago, Jim Furyk got up-and-down from a bunker on the last hole to avoid a playoff with Donald and win both trophies.

This year featured a three-hole playoff, the richest overtime ever in golf.

It doesn’t determine the best player of the year. It’s not a major. And it’s not a Super Bowl. Golf can never be properly compared with other sports, especially team sports.

Tennis doesn’t have a Super Bowl, either.

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Like a tattoo: Ko shares early Mediheal lead

By Randall MellApril 26, 2018, 10:45 pm

Lydia Ko put herself in early position Thursday to try to extend her birthday celebration through Sunday at the LPGA Mediheal Championship.

Ko, who turned 21 on Tuesday, is off to a strong start at Lake Merced Golf Club, where she has a lot of good memories to draw upon as she seeks to regain the winning form that made her the greatest teen phenom in the history of the women’s game.

With a 4-under-par 68, Ko moved into a four-way tie for the lead among the morning wave in the first round. I.K. Kim, Jessica Korda and Caroline Hedwall also opened with 68s.

All Ko has to do is look at her right wrist to feel good about returning to San Francisco. That’s where she tattooed the date April 27, 2014, in Roman numerals. That’s how she commemorated her Swinging Skirts victory at Lake Merced, her first title as an LPGA member. She won there again the following year.

“This is a golf course where I've played well,” Ko said. “The fans have been amazing. They’ve been super supportive every single time I've come here, even since I played the U.S. Juniors here.”

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Ko made it to the semifinals of the U.S. Girls’ Junior at Lake Merced in 2012.

“It just brings back a lot of great memories,” she said.

Ko got this week off to a good start with friends from South Korea and New Zealand flying to California to surprise her on her birthday. She was born in South Korea and grew up in New Zealand.

“Turning 21 is a huge thing in the United States,” Ko cracked. “I’m legal now, and I can do some fun things.”

Ko is looking to claim her 15th LPGA title and end a 21-month winless spell. Her ball striking was sharp Thursday, as she continues to work on improvements under her swing coach, Ted Oh. She hit 11 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation.

“My ball striking's been getting better these last few weeks, which has been really nice,” Ko said at week’s start. “But then I've been struggling with putting, which was the aspect of the game that was going really well. I feel like the pieces are there, and just, sometimes, the hardest thing is to kind of put all those pieces together. Just have to stay patient, I know there are a lot of good things happening.”

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Watch: Rose drops trou despite gator danger

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 26, 2018, 10:12 pm

We all know how fashion-conscious pro golfers are, and sometimes that even trumps modesty.

Take Justin Rose, whose tee shot on the par-3 third hole in Thursday's opening round of the Zurich Classic found the water. But the ball was close enough to shore for Rose to try to play it. Not wanting to get his light-colored pants dirty - what is up with all the white pants on Tour these days, anyway? - he took them off to play the shot.

If there were any gators in the water hazard - and this being Louisiana, there almost certainly were - they showed no interest in the Englishman.

It was only appropriate that Rose should strip down for a shot, as his partner, Henrik Stenson, famously did the same thing (to an even greater degree) at Doral in 2009.

Finally, just to provide some closure, Rose failed to get up and down.

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Like father like son: Bring Your Child to Work Day

By Jay CoffinApril 26, 2018, 7:51 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – Today is Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day at Golf Channel, where everything is fun and games until your child promptly says something that embarrasses you beyond belief. It’s only happened six times today. So far.

My daughter, 12, is in middle school and feels like she’s too big for this sort of shindig. But my son Brady, 11, was all in. The deal was that he could spend the day with me, I’d take him to McDonald’s for lunch, but he had to write a golf story of some sort for

Here is his unedited work, in all its glory:


My name is Brady Coffin and I play golf. I started at the age of 4 years old. My two favorite golfers are Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods. They are really good golfers and every time I watch them they always give me tips.

My dad Jay Coffin is the best editor of Golf Channel and always gave me tips when I first put the golf club in my hand. I had my very first par in Hilton Head when I was 7 years old. I am on the Drive, Chip and Putt commercial and I was in a movie where I played a young Ben Hogan. My favorite golf course is Royal Blue in the Bahamas.

I have won many golf tournaments and I am going to play in another tournament next month. I have made a couple of birdies. I am going to play in the PGA Junior League this summer.

At the Golf Channel I get to meet new people and play many games. One of the amazing people I met was Mr. Damon Hack. He is on the Morning Drive show and was very nice to me. Damon has been playing golf for 25 years and his favorite golfer growing up was Tiger Woods.

He loves working at Golf Channel.

“It gives me the opportunity to talk and write about the sport that I love. It’s a sport that I can play with my boys. It’s a sport that I can watch on television. It’s a sport that teaches great life lessons. I couldn’t ask for a better job,” Damon said to me.

(P.S. I will be better than Jordan Spieth.)

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Not the 'prettiest' 65, but Duval, Furyk will take it

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 7:44 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Wearing a polo instead of a dress shirt, working with a caddie and not a producer, David Duval exited the scoring tent, walked toward the group of reporters waiting for him after their 65 and grumbled to teammate Jim Furyk, “The damn media.”

Duval was joking – we think – since he now is one of us on the dark side, a successful and respected TV analyst, after an injury-shortened career in which he battled Tiger Woods, rose to world No. 1, won a major and then experienced such a miserable slump that it drove him into an entirely new line of work.

Now 46, Duval doesn’t play much anymore, only 11 events in the past four years. His last made cut was in July 2015. Earlier this year, he teed it up at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but only because he and his wife, Susie, enjoy the vibe there. Competitively, he knew he didn’t stand a chance. He had moved back to Colorado, worked two out of the three weeks, and then couldn’t practice the other week because the weather didn’t cooperate. Not surprisingly, he shot three consecutive rounds of 76 or worse.

And that could have been the extent of his season (save for his annual appearance at The Open), but he was drawn to the idea of the team format at the Zurich, to the idea of playing with Jim Furyk, with whom he’s been friends for the past 32 years, dating to their days in junior golf. So Duval reached out, asking the U.S. Ryder Cup captain if he wanted to team up, for old times’ sake.

“This was about being with a friend, reuniting, having our wives together for a few days,” said Duval, who estimated that he’s played more than 100 practice rounds with Furyk over the years. “Expectation-wise, I don’t know what they are for me. I don’t get to participate out here and compete.”

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But Duval took this start seriously. He almost never travels with his clubs, but he brought them to the Masters, working with his old coach, Puggy Blackmon, between TV appearances and bouncing between Augusta Country Club and Augusta University’s practice facility.

Without any on-camera work since then, he’s spent the past two weeks grinding, even bringing Blackmon to New Orleans for a range session, just like most of the other pros in the field.

“It’s like a normal preparation,” he said. “Maybe not as much as it would be for a typical player, but a lot more than I’ve been able to do in the past.”

Duval has no intentions of diving back into competitive golf full-time, but working as an analyst has given him a new perspective on the game he loves.

“When you don’t play a lot and you don’t have that opportunity, you feel like you have to play perfectly,” he said. “Being on the other side of the desk, you see how many crappy golf shots really, truly get hit, and it’s like, look, you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to hit more good ones than bad ones and go from there.”

That also sums up his and Furyk’s opening round here at the Zurich.

Furyk joked before the event that they’re the rustiest team in the field, but playing best ball, they remained steady in a driving rainstorm, then ran off seven birdies to shoot 65 and sit in the top 10 when they finished their round.

“It wasn’t necessarily the prettiest,” Duval said, “but it was solid. It wasn’t like we had 36 looks at birdie.”

“We ham-and-egged it really good today,” Furyk added. “We got pretty much one of the best scores we could have out of the round.”

The second round could be a different story, of course, with alternate shot. It’s a more nerve-wracking format – especially for two aging warriors without many competitive reps this year – and they figure to find some unusual parts of TPC Louisiana.

But that’s a worry for Friday, because Duval was in the mood to savor his four birdies, his team score of 65 and his ideal start to a work week with his longtime friend.

“I think it was good,” he said, breaking into a wry smile, “especially for me.”