What We Learned: The Tour Championship

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 23, 2013, 12:36 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com offers thoughts on 'what we learned' from the world of golf. In this edition, our writers weigh in on the 'fatigue factor' and how it very likely will get worse next year; Henrik Stenson's remarkable career comeback and Tiger Woods' stamina.



If players were complaining of fatigue during this year’s FedEx Cup playoffs, just wait until 2014. That’s because for the first time since 2007, the four playoff events will be held consecutively, with no break, during a fall stretch that will strain even the most physically fit. Apparently, that was a trade-off between the PGA Tour and the PGA of America, in order to allow for an off-week before the Ryder Cup in Wales, but it likely will come at the expense of the Tour’s big-money, end-of-season series. Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson both skipped the playoff opener and still had a chance to win the $10 million bonus. Unless there’s a change to the points structure, expect even more players to miss The Barclays to avoid burnout during the condensed playoff portion of the ’14 schedule. – Ryan Lavner


Prior to this week’s Tour Championship, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem proudly mentioned that of the 975 opportunities for players to compete in FedEx Cup playoff events, 966 spots were filled. Moral of the story? Players are buying into the concept. I’ll be interested to see those numbers next year, though, when the four events will be played in consecutive weeks. You needed more than 10 fingers to count those at East Lake who admitted they were “tired” during the season finale, including a few who had a chance at the $10 million grand prize. Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk have already proven you can win the FedEx Cup without playing all four of 'em; Zach Johnson had a chance to mirror that this year. Add it all together and it should equate to a few depleted fields during next year’s playoffs, with more top players taking a week off to rest up. – Jason Sobel


The PGA Tour may not give out the Comeback Player of the Year award any longer, but if it did Henrik Stenson surely would have retired the honor. Less than 24 months ago the Swede had dropped to 230th in the world ranking. On Sunday, with his victory at the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup in tow, he’d climbed back to fourth in the world. A comeback by any definition. – Rex Hoggard


Tiger Woods doesn't have that jumbo-sized gas tank anymore. Yeah, at 37, he is still the best player in the game, but he doesn't have the seemingly limitless fuel reserves he could draw upon when he needed them most in the game's biggest events. The strength, energy and even motivation don't appear to be there  in ample reserves anymore. His body is aging, and you wonder if his mind is tiring, too. Tiger has whipped the game's best players for more than a decade. How long can you muster the desire week after week to keep winning like that? It's awe-inspiring how long he dominated, but it has to be exhausting trying to stay ahead of everyone all the time. It is human to have peaks and valleys. Tiger will still have his peaks, but we might be seeing more valleys when we expect his best. The gas is still good, there just doesn't seem to be as much high octane anymore.  Randall Mell


If players were complaining of fatigue during this year’s FedEx Cup playoffs, just wait until 2014. That’s because for the first time since 2007, the four playoff events will be held consecutively, with no break, during a fall stretch that will strain even the most physically fit. Apparently, that was a trade-off between the PGA Tour and the PGA of America, in order to allow for an off-week before the Ryder Cup in Wales, but it likely will come at the expense of the Tour’s big-money, end-of-season series. Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson both skipped the playoff opener and still had a chance to win the $10 million bonus. Unless there’s a change to the points structure, expect even more players to miss The Barclays to avoid burnout during the condensed playoff portion of the ’14 schedule. – Ryan Lavner

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Vogel Monday qualifies for eighth time this season

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:27 pm

The PGA Tour's regular season ended with another tally for the Monday King.

While Monday qualifiers are a notoriously difficult puzzle to solve, with dozens of decorated professionals vying for no more than four spots in a given tournament field, T.J. Vogel has turned them into his personal playground this season. That trend continued this week when he earned a spot into the season-ending Wyndham Championship, shooting a 5-under 66 and surviving a 4-for-3 playoff for the final spots.

It marks Vogel's eighth successful Monday qualification this season, extending the unofficial record he set when he earned start No. 7 last month at The Greenbrier. Patrick Reed earned the nickname "Mr. Monday" when he successfully qualified six different times during the 2012 season before securing full-time status.

There have been 24 different Monday qualifiers throughout the season, with Vogel impressively turning 19 qualifier starts into eight tournament appearances.

Vogel started the year with only conditional Web.com Tour status, and explained at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May that he devised his summer schedule based on his belief that it's easier to Monday qualify for a PGA Tour event than a Web.com tournament.


Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos


"The courses that the PGA Tour sets the qualifiers up, they're more difficult and sometimes they're not a full field whereas the Web, since there's no pre-qualifier, you have two full fields for six spots each and the courses aren't as tough," Vogel said. "So I feel like if you take a look at the numbers, a lot of the Web qualifiers you have to shoot 8-under."

Vogel has made three cuts in his previous seven starts this year, topping out with a T-16 finish at the Valspar Championship in March. The 27-year-old also played the weekend at the Nelson and the Wells Fargo Championship, missing the cut at The Greenbrier in addition to the RSM Classic, Honda Classic and FedEx St. Jude Classic.

While Vogel won't have another Monday qualifier opportunity until October, he has a chance to secure some 2019 status this week in Greensboro. His 51 non-member FedExCup points would currently slot him 205th in the season-long race, 13 points behind Rod Pampling at No. 200. If Vogel earns enough points to reach the equivalent of No. 200 after this week, he'd clinch a spot in the upcoming Web.com Tour Finals where he would have a chance to compete for a full PGA Tour card for the 2018-19 season.

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Woods adds BMW Championship to playoff schedule

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:01 pm

Tiger Woods is adding a trip to Philadelphia to his growing playoff itinerary.

Having already committed to both The Northern Trust and the Dell Technologies Championship, Woods' agent confirmed to GolfChannel.com that the 14-time major champ will also make an appearance next month at the BMW Championship. It will mark Woods' first start in the third leg of the FedExCup playoffs since 2013 when he tied for 11th at Conway Farms Golf Club outside of Chicago.

This year the Sept. 6-9 event is shifting to Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa., which is hosting the BMW for the first time. The course previously hosted the Quicken Loans National in both 2010 and 2011. Woods won the BMW en route to FedExCup titles in both 2007 and 2009 when it was held at Cog Hill in Illinois.


Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos


Woods was already in good position to make the 70-man BMW field, but his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship vaulted him from 49th to 20th in the season-long points race and assured that he'll make it to Aronimink regardless of his performance in the first two postseason events.

Woods' commitment also means a packed schedule will only get busier leading into the Ryder Cup, where he is expected to be added as a captain's pick. Woods' appearance at the BMW will cap a run of five events in six weeks, and should he tee it up in Paris it could be his seventh start in a nine-week stretch if he also qualifies for the 30-player Tour Championship.

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Handing out major grades: From A+ to F

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 5:00 pm

The Masters is 237 days away, which means these definitive major grades will hang on players like a scarlet letter for nearly eight months.

OK, maybe not.

Brooks Koepka, obviously, gets an A+. He won two majors, and became just the fourth player to take the U.S. Open and PGA in the same season, and did all of this while overcoming a career-threatening wrist injury at the beginning of the year. Very impressive.

Patrick Reed and Francesco Molinari – you passed with flying colors, too. Reed showed that he can access his best stuff in an event other than the Ryder Cup, while Molinari’s three-month heater culminated with him surviving a wild final day at Carnoustie to hoist the claret jug. Welcome to the major club, gents.

As for everybody else? Hey, you’ve now got plenty of time to recover, reassess and round into form in hopes of improved marks in ’19.


TIGER WOODS

Grade: A

Why: Sure, a few shots from his major season will linger for years – his too-cute pitch shot on Carnoustie’s 11th hole and his sliced drive on Bellerive’s 17th immediately come to mind – but let’s not forget how far we’ve come: Two years ago, Woods could barely walk because of debilitating back pain; at this time last year, he’d just exited a treatment facility for overusing his pain/sleep medications, following an embarrassing DUI arrest. Now, he’s top 30 in the world, with a pair of top-6s in the majors and undoubtedly the most stirring final round of the year, in any event, with his career-best Sunday 64 at the PGA. If you still think that Tiger doesn’t have what it takes to win another major, you’ve lost touch with reality.


JUSTIN ROSE

Grade: B+

Why: 

Why: He was one of only two players (Webb Simpson) who finished top 20 in all four majors, and he’ll probably look back at 2018 as a year in which he easily could have bagged a second title. At the U.S. Open he was only one shot off the lead after 54 holes but stumbled on the final day. A month later, he tied for second at The Open, but only after a weekend rally once he made the cut on the number. Across all four majors he had the best cumulative score to par of any player (12 under). This was a what-could-have-been year.


RICKIE FOWLER

Grade: B

Why: His 65-67 finish at the Masters left him one shot back of Reed, but it felt like the final obstacle had been cleared. Nothing was stopping Fowler now – he proved he could go low when it counted. Except then he imploded with an 84 in the third round of the U.S. Open and shot over par in both weekend rounds at The Open, before again getting into the mix at the PGA. Alas, battling an oblique strain, he regressed each round after an opening 65 and tied for 12th. Maybe next year …


JORDAN SPIETH

Grade: B

Why: Give him credit: He played better in the majors than he did the rest of the season. He shot an electric 64 on the final day at the Masters (though he’ll rue his tee shot on the 72nd hole) and grabbed a share of the 54-hole lead at The Open, despite not having his best stuff. That he shot a birdieless 76 on the final day was more a product of his form this year than succumbing to major pressure. Like Kopeka, he’s figured out how to perform when the lights are the brightest.


JON RAHM

Grade: B

Why: With the completeness of his game, it’s a little surprising that he hasn’t given himself better chances to break through. But he’s still only 23, and the chances will come in bunches before long. His fourth-place showings at the Masters and the PGA are steps in the right direction. 


Rory McIlroy on No. 18 on Saturday at the 2018 Masters.

RORY MCILROY

Grade: B-

Why: Asked Sunday how he’ll remember the major season, McIlroy replied bluntly: “Probably won’t. I don’t think there was anything all that memorable about it.” Of course, we’ll remember plenty, such as when he played his way into the final group at Augusta, only to fade over the course of the day, thus squandering another shot at capturing the career Grand Slam. And we’ll remember his tie for second at Carnoustie, where he eagled the 14th hole but then, with a chance to apply pressure on Molinari, couldn’t hit a wedge within 20 feet on the 18th green. He’s fallen into bad habits with that majestic swing, but there are holes in McIlroy’s game that need filling – holes that some of the other top players don’t have. And until he refines his wedge play and putting, that majorless drought (now four years and counting) will continue. 


JUSTIN THOMAS

Grade: C+

Why: No one has been better than Thomas over the past two seasons, but he’s likely frustrated by his major performance in 2018 – three top-25s, but only one realistic chance to win. Four shots off the lead heading into Sunday at the PGA, he had erased his deficit midway through the front nine but made critical mistakes on Nos. 14 and 16 to dash his hopes of defending his title. Of all the big-name players, he’s probably the best bet for a major rebound in 2019.


JASON DAY

Grade: C

Why: This has been a resurgent season for Day, with a pair of wins, but he didn’t bring it in the year’s biggest events. It’ll look good on paper, with three top-20s, but the only time he had a chance to win was the PGA, and he was one of the few to back up on the final day, carding a 1-over 71 when he sat just four shots off the lead.


DUSTIN JOHNSON

Grade: C-

Why: The floodgates were supposed to open after the 2016 U.S. Open, and it just hasn’t happened. Yet. He top-tenned at the Masters but was a non-factor, then jumped out to a four-shot lead halfway through the U.S. Open. He couldn’t make a putt during a Saturday 77, then got worked on the final day, head to head, against Koepka. He backed it up with a missed cut at The Open (where he blamed a lack of focus) and finished outside the top 25 at the PGA at a soft, straightforward course that suited plenty of other bombers. He can – and should – fare better.


PHIL MICKELSON

Grade: D-

Why: His series of lowlights at the U.S. Open – where he bizarrely whacked a moving ball on the green and then staunchly defended his actions – underscored that his window is all but closed at the majors. His major results since getting demoralized by Henrik Stenson at the 2016 Open: T33-T22-MC-MC-T36-T48-T24-MC. ’Nuff said.


SERGIO GARCIA

Grade: F

Why: No doubt, marriage and fatherhood are massive adjustments for everyone, but he’s missed the cut in his last five majors (and didn’t break par in any major round this year), plummeted down the world rankings (to 25th!) and put European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn in a difficult position of deciding whether to burn a pick on the slumping Spaniard. Memories of that breakthrough Masters victory are already drifting further and further away.

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Watch: Furyk throws out first pitch at Yankees-Mets

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 12:59 pm

As part of a a New York media tour to promote the Ryder Cup, U.S. captain Jim Furyk threw out the first pitch at Monday evening's game between the Yankees and Mets at Yankee Stadium.


Here's a look at some more photos from Captain Furyk's Ryder Cup Trophy tour.