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Talking Playoffs With the Players at the Airport Bar

Without fail, any Sunday afternoon at the airport gathering areas (otherwise known as the bar) is a great place to be if you’re a fan of the PGA Tour. Sunday was priceless.
First, I ran into Rocco Mediate at the Delta counter and we made our way to the pizzeria/tavern to kill a couple hours before our flights departed. We watched the final round of the Wyndham Championship on TV with the sound on, not that it mattered because when you spend time with Rocco barely a moment goes by before he’s on to the next thought. So after arguing, discussing, and laughing about subjects ranging from golf swing, course design, family life and a variety of other topics, I came to the conclusion that Rocco has no gray area in his life, everything is black and white. Oh how I love a person with conviction. Secondly, I concluded that between us, we had just about every answer to any problem we discussed. Lastly, I decided that I want the movie rights to his life story. I’m not sure under what genre the movie would fall, but it’s guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time.
Jeff Quinney
Jeff Quinney missed qualifying for the FedEx Cup playoffs by one shot. (Getty Images)
Soon, the place started to fill up with more tournament people – players, caddies and various others that lead the same nomadic life for most of the year.
I was sitting next to PGA Tour sophomore Michael Connell and two of the traveling physical therapists from the fitness trailer when to my left sat down Jeff Quinney.
“What happened to you?” I asked noticing a mostly-healed strawberry on the right cheek of his face. “Slipped in the pool,” Jeff said while also showing me his left forearm complete with a trail of scrapes in an arched pattern that looked moderately painful.
“How are you doing?” I asked as a general question having not known how he ended up in the final round. “Not Good,” he responded in a more dejected tone than I’m use to hearing from the normally happy-go-lucky guy. Now comes the difficult part – do I let that breathe for a while of do I follow up?

“How so?” I continued.

“126 – by 2 points,” Jeff said, “Scott Piercy beat me out of the playoffs by 2 points – or one shot. One shot today, or one shot yesterday, or one shot anywhere else in the entire year.” Now it was definitely time to let it breathe for a while when suddenly a voice from the end of the bar summed it up perfectly while simultaneously lightening the mood of the now somber room. “That sucks.”
I’m not sure if it was Lumpy, who was now two seats down, or one of the trainers, but there was no need to add anything at that point.
Then Quinney looked at his phone and said, “Oh great, now I’m getting sympathy texts. How do you respond to those,” Jeff asked in a playful manner to which quite a few colorful ideas came immediately from the group of commiserating friends.  Even the bartender couldn’t help but double-over in laughter to some of the suggestions.
Not too long after that exchange, John Mallinger came walking in also looking worse for the wear after a long week. We knew that he played well in the final round, but as we watched Arjun trying to win coming down the stretch, we never really paid attention to the bubble of the top 125 in FedEx points.
Somebody asked how it ended up for John and he responded, “If David Toms doesn’t make the 30-footer at 18, I’m in.” He informed us that Toms’ birdie broke a logjam at second place that included him. The tie for third wasn’t good enough.
As if on cue, from the back of the bar and a different voice, came the perfect words once again:  “That sucks.”
When I took my seat on the plane headed home for a couple of days I couldn’t help but think about how much all those guys would love to be going to The Barclays, my next stop. With ever shrinking fields for four weeks and large purses, anything is possible. And now they’re left with four weeks off (many will play a Nationwide event or two) and five smaller-purse Fall Series events remaining to try and climb into the top 125 on the money list and avoid the fall classic.

Everybody who was gathered around seemed very happy for Arjun Atwal as he’s a well-liked player on Tour, and they’re also happy that he now gets to avoid that very same reality that they’ll spend the next month thinking about – the potential for another trip to Q School.
There was some discussion that the rule that’s keeping Arjun Atwal out of the Playoffs needs to be amended immediately as it wasn’t ever intended to keep out someone who started the year as a member of the Tour. To add to the absurdity, I let them know that as of Sunday evening, Arjun was the fourth alternate to get into this weeks Nationwide Tour event in Knoxville.
So this week, the Playoffs begin without Arjun, or Quinney, or Lumpy, Mallinger, Connell, or Rocco, but if you ever doubt the relevance or importance of the Playoffs to the players themselves, spend Sunday evening in the Greensboro airport next year.