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Notes: Champs. Tour considering changes to playoffs

By Doug FergusonFebruary 14, 2018, 3:02 am

LOS ANGELES - The problem with a postseason bonus program in golf is making the system volatile enough to come down to the final tournament while rewarding the player with the best season. The PGA Tour Champions might have a solution for the Charles Schwab Cup.

The tour is considering a proposal that would eliminate the reset going into the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, according to two people with knowledge of the plan. They spoke on condition of anonymity because it is still in the process of being approved.

Bernhard Langer last year won seven times, including two majors and the first two playoff events. Kevin Sutherland won the final tournament, which enabled him to capture the Schwab Cup and the $1 million bonus. It was Sutherland's first victory on the PGA Tour Champions.

Much like the FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour, points are reset going into the last event so that all 36 players in the field have a mathematical chance to win the Cup, and the top five only have to win the tournament to claim the big bonus.

But this wasn't a response to Sutherland winning.

What made officials rethink the playoff points system was that two players, Paul Goydos and Lee Janzen, had a reasonable chance on the last day to win the Schwab Cup even though they were outside the top 20 in the standings. That would have looked even more awkward in light of Langer's big season.

Tour officials pored through various models and proposed a system that would put greater emphasis on the playoffs and still keep the finale in doubt. The proposal is for points (each point is worth $1 in earnings) to be double for the first two playoff events, and points would be triple the value in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.

Langer, who tied for 12th in the final event last year, would have won the cup under that proposal. Langer's season was so stellar that he would have won in just about any model that was considered.

Under the proposal, it's still possible that a player can wrap up the Schwab Cup before the final event. But looking over the last 10 years, it would be rare.

The plan still has to be discussed among the players and go before the Player Advisory Council. The hope is to have the full board vote on it as early as next month.

STRICKER'S SCHEDULE: Steve Stricker played in the penultimate group at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, three shots out of the lead until he was done in by consecutive double bogeys on the front nine. He closed with a 76 and finished 10 shots behind.

He still can contend at age 50. He is a past champion at Riviera.

And he has gone to Florida for the week to make his debut on the PGA Tour Champions.

But he'll be back. Stricker hopes to play as many as 15 times on the PGA Tour this year provided he can get into a major or two, even if he has to qualify. So much for that semi-retirement he talked about in 2013.

''The challenge is age more than anything,'' he said. ''I still feel like I'm getting it out there. Some of the scoring clubs, I'm not as good as I used to be. I feel good. The body feels good. The back feels good.''

Stricker said one reason he cut back was that his older daughter, Bobbi Maria, was in her final years of high school. It was the right time for him to be home. Plus, he didn't want to burn out on golf before turning 50 and becoming eligible for the PGA Tour Champions.

So it worked. Bobbi Maria is a sophomore at Wisconsin. His younger daughter and wife are traveling more. And he's excited to play.

''The biggest thing is I want to be out here,'' he said. ''I didn't want to be like, 'I've got to go play again' and have it be a downer to be on the road. I wanted to be excited each and every time. And I am. When you're excited to play, it shows up in your game.''

CANTLAY'S PROGRESS: Patrick Cantlay returned to golf last year at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am after being gone for three years with a back injury. He tied for 48th and finished 16 shots out of the lead. One year later, he is a PGA Tour winner and among the top 40 players in the world rankings.

But that's not how he measures progress.

''It's just feeling healthy all the time,'' Cantlay said. ''In the last year, I can still see an upward tick in how I feel all the time, how strong I feel. I don't get tired in the middle of rounds anymore. I feel good all the time. I didn't know if I was going to get back to a spot like that.''

Cantlay said it took him until last summer to get through a tournament where he wasn't losing energy and a little focus. The back was fine, but the routine of tournament golf required some adjustments.

''I just wasn't used to being engaged for six hours, walking, the whole deal,'' he said. ''It's something that you can get out of touch with if you're taking as much time off as I did.''

Any surprises?

Winning in Vegas wasn't one. Confidence has never been an issue with Cantlay.

''It's just nice to wake up every day and feel like I can go out and do my best,'' he said.

DIVOTS: Ted Potter Jr. is nowhere to be found in the Ryder Cup standings, even though he earned 1,332 points for his victory at Pebble Beach. That should place him 10th in the standings. The reason? He is not a PGA of America member. Potter was out of golf for two years with a broken ankle and was on the Tour last year. It's not unusual for PGA Tour players to forget to rejoin the PGA of America, and Potter's points will be given retroactively when he joins. ... Abraham Ancer had his best finish (tie for 9th) at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, and now he can bank on another return to his native country. Ancer is No. 253 in the world, making him the highest-ranked player from Mexico. That will get him a spot in Mexico Championship next month. It will be his first World Golf Championship. ... Tiger Woods still doesn't know if he's playing the Honda Classic next week. Woods said his feet were sore after Torrey Pines, and he wants to be sure if he can go at it as hard as he wants after only three days off between the Genesis Open and Honda Classic.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Dustin Johnson and Jason Day each played their first full year on the PGA Tour in 2008. Last week at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Johnson became the fifth player to surpass $50 million in career earnings. Day became the 15th player to go over $40 million.

FINAL WORD: ''I love the golf course. I love the layout. It fits my eye. And I play awful. It's very simple.'' - Tiger Woods on Riviera, the course he has played the most times on the PGA Tour without winning.

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Watch: Guy does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”