Its all about the money at East Lake

By Doug FergusonSeptember 23, 2009, 1:41 am
 THE TOUR Championship by Coke 2007 Logo                                                                                                                                                                                              ATLANTA – On an East Lake course that might require a canoe, Padraig Harrington is looking for a wheelbarrow.

The Irishman is not the first player to suggest putting $10 million cash for winning the FedEx Cup on the 18th green to remind everyone what's at stake this week at the Tour Championship. He simply painted the most compelling picture.

'I do believe they should give out the cash on the 18th green,' Harrington said. 'Just sit it there, have a good look at it. We could take it in a wheelbarrow up to the clubhouse. Anything that falls out, it's the caddie's.'

For the moment, that's what the FedEx Cup is all about – money.

The value of the trophy remains a work in progress.

Does it reward the best year?

It did the inaugural season in 2007. Tiger Woods won five times before the playoffs began, skipped the opening playoff event and then turned the FedEx Cup into a coronation with a runner-up at the next tournament and victories in the last two.

That wasn’t the case a year ago, when Harrington had a magical summer by winning consecutive majors and was voted player of the year by every golf organization. Yet because of a volatile points system, he didn’t even make it to the Tour Championship. Vijay Singh got hot at the right time – August – won the first two playoff events and captured the FedEx Cup.

This year has it just about right – maybe.

The top two players are Woods and Steve Stricker, and rightly so. They have the most victories (Woods with six, Stricker with three), yet they only kept their spots at the top of the standings by winning a playoff event.

Next in line is Jim Furyk, steady as ever, although mysteriously winless over the last two years. Even so, he was consistent enough to start the playoffs at No. 16, and good enough when it counted the last three weeks to rise to No. 3. Zach Johnson is No. 4, courtesy of two victories during the regular season and one good week in the playoffs, when he finished fifth at the BMW Championship.

Heath Slocum is No. 5, whom the PGA Tour can tout forever when it says everyone has a chance. Slocum only qualified for the 125-man start of the playoffs by a mere two points, yet he finished atop a world-class leaderboard at The Barclays.

The top five have the best chance because all they have to do is win the Tour Championship to claim the FedEx Cup.

Mathematically, all 30 players East Lake have a chance. The lower they are in the standings, the longer the odds. Too much is made of the points system being confusing. It’s a safe bet that hardly anyone knows how much money Woods has won this year, only that it’s more than anyone else. The same principle applies.

Here’s the simple math:

  • The players who had the best regular season began the playoffs with the best odds of getting to the Tour Championship.
  •  The players who performed the best during the playoffs have the best shot at winning the FedEx Cup.

“It rewards you for playing well in the regular season, and even more for playing well in the playoffs,” Stewart Cink said. “Every tournament is meaningful. So I think it’s good. I think the skeleton that we have right now of the major part of the system will stay in place. There probably will be some major changes, but I think this year is closer to what the intent was when we first started out.”

The FedEx Cup will be decided on an East Lake course that could be more challenging than ever.

The Atlanta area has received about 2 feet of rain over the last week, including nearly 4 inches on Monday when it covered the first fairway with water and closed the course to the 30 players until noon Tuesday.

Salvation comes from a new drainage system and sub-air pumps on the greens that have left them in immaculate shape. Still, officials were still trying to get a lawn mower on the fairway, and it could be a while before they can clip the thick, wet rough. That could make East Lake and its 7,304 yards a beast of a par 70.

Whether the FedEx Cup can be seen as a universal success depends largely on the winner.

Woods’ name on the trophy gives it credibility. Ditto for Stricker, and a case could be made for Johnson, or even Geoff Ogilvy, Kenny Perry and Phil Mickelson, all of whom would have won three times this year. The worst-case scenario would be Furyk or Harrington, who could win the FedEx Cup without having won a single tournament this year.

The points have been reset for the Tour Championship to guarantee a compelling a finish. The only problem is that does not guarantee a winner who has played well all year.

Considering how meaningless the Tour Championship was the last two years, that’s not a bad trade.

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Van Rooyen holes putt after ball-marker ruling

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Erik van Rooyen was surveying his 10-footer for par, trying to get a feel for the putt, when his putter slipped out of his hand and dropped onto his ball marker.

The question, then, was whether that accident caused his coin to move.

The rules official looked at various camera angles but none showed definitively whether his coin moved. The ruling was made to continue from where his coin was now positioned, with no penalty.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

This was part of the recent rules changes, ensuring there is no penalty if the ball or ball maker is accidently moved by the player. The little-used rule drew attention in 2010, when Ian Poulter accidentally dropped his ball on his marker in Dubai and wound up losing more than $400,000 in bonus and prize money.

After the delay to sort out his ruling Friday, van Rooyen steadied himself and made the putt for par, capping a day in which he shot even-par 71 and kept himself in the mix at The Open. He was at 4-under 138, just two shots off the clubhouse lead.

“I wanted to get going and get this 10-footer to save par, but I think having maybe just a couple minutes to calm me down, and then I actually got a different read when I sat down and looked at it again,” he said. “Good putt. Happy to finish that way.”

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Lyle birdies last hole in likely his final Open start

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – If this was Sandy Lyle’s final Open appearance, he went out in style.

Playing on the final year of his automatic age exemption, the 60-year-old Scot buried a 30-foot birdie on the last hole. He missed the cut after shooting 9-over 151 over two rounds.

“I was very light-footed,” he said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. To make birdie was extra special.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Lyle, who also won the 1988 Masters, has missed the cut in his last eight majors, dating to 2014. He hasn’t been competitive in The Open since 1998, when he tied for 19th.

To continue playing in The Open, Lyle needed to finish in the top 10 here at Carnoustie. He’d earn a future exemption by winning the Senior British Open.

“More punishment,” he said.

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DJ, Thomas miss cut at Open; No. 1 up for grabs

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 3:35 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The top two players in the world both missed the cut at The Open, creating the possibility of a shakeup at the top of the rankings by the end of the weekend.

Dustin Johnson became the first world No. 1 since Luke Donald in 2011 to miss the cut at the year’s third major.

Johnson played solidly for all but the closing stretch. Over two rounds, he was 6 over par on the last three holes. He finished at 6-over 148.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Thomas added to what’s been a surprisingly poor Open record. Just like last year, when he struggled in the second round in the rain at Royal Birkdale, Thomas slumped to a 77 on Friday at Carnoustie, a round that included three consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 6-8. He finished at 4-over 146.

It’s Thomas' first missed cut since The Open last year. Indeed, in three Open appearances, he has two missed cuts and a tie for 53rd.  

With Johnson and Thomas out of the mix, the No. 1 spot in the rankings is up for grabs this weekend.

Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can reach No. 1 with a victory this week.

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TT Postscript: Woods (71) makes cut, has work to do

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 3:32 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods shot a second consecutive even-par 71 Friday in the second round. And yes, he made the cut:

• Tiger said all 71s are not created equal. On Thursday, he made three birdies and three bogeys. On Friday, he made four birdie and four bogeys. Which round was better? The first. His theory is that, despite the rain, conditions were easier in the second round and there were more scoring opportunities. He didn't take advantage.

• This is the first time since the 2013 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that Tiger shot par or better in each of the first two rounds of a major. That’s quite a long time ago.

• Stat line for the day: 11 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, 32 total putts. Tiger hit one driver and two 3-woods on Thursday and four drivers on Friday, only one which found the fairway. An errant drive at the second led to him sniping his next shot into the gallery


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

• In his own words: “I could have cleaned up the round just a little bit. I got off to not exactly the best start, being 2 over through three, but got it back. The golf course was a little bit softer today, obviously. It rains, and we were able to get the ball down a little bit further, control the ball on the ground a little bit easier today, which was nice.”

• At some point Tiger is going to have to be more aggressive. He will be quite a few shots off the lead by day’s end and he'll have a lot of ground to make up. Hitting irons off the tee is great for position golf, but it’s often leaving him more than 200 yards into the green. Not exactly a range for easy birdies.

• Sure, it’s too soon to say Tiger can’t win a fourth claret jug, but with so many big names ahead of him on the leaderboard, it’s unlikely. Keep in mind that a top-six finish would guarantee him a spot in the WGC: Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks. At The Players, he stated that this was a big goal.

• My Twitter account got suspended momentarily when Tiger was standing over a birdie putt on the 17th green. That was the most panicked I’ve been since Tiger was in contention at the Valspar.