Packing a punch

By John HawkinsAugust 30, 2011, 3:31 pm

As disappointed as I was with the decision to end The Barclays after 54 holes, nobody should be disillusioned when it comes to the FedEx Cup playoffs in general. The series is in its fifth year, still flawed in a world where perfect barely exists, so we should accept the postseason for what it is. Better than what we had before, obviously. A four-week stretch of premium-field events that should bring the year to a close but doesn’t.

But hey, no need to sweat the small stuff. The golf has been very good, the tournaments etched in suspense, several of them featuring down-the-stretch duels between top-shelf players. Last week’s Dustin Johnson-Matt Kuchar tilt might have happened a day early, but in this game, you take what you can get. From Steve Stricker’s triumph in the inaugural playoff gathering (Westchester, 2007) to Johnson’s hurricane-shortened victory at Plainfield, the only duds have come at a Tour Championship or two, mainly because the overall winner already had been determined.

Just two of the 17 tournament winners came out of nowhere: Heath Slocum over Tiger Woods at the 2009 Barclays and Charley Hoffman at last year's Deutsche Bank. After a couple of early no-shows by the superstars, attendance has been strong – and the best players have carried the product. Those two things had to happen for the playoffs to have any credibility, but until the PGA Tour makes the format sexier, only hardcore fans will understand the concept, much less embrace it.

That said, here are my top five postseason finishes – this list was no gimme despite the FedEx Cup's youth. It might not be a real “playoff” as much as it is a payoff, but if you love golf, the FedEx has, ahem, delivered.

5. 2008 Tour Championship (Villegas over Garcia): This one ranks because it involved two young stars in a sudden-death playoff, which ended on the first hole, but also because it exposed a huge problem in the postseason format. Villegas won the last two events but never had a chance to claim the overall crown because Vijay Singh had won the first two – so much for the crescendo effect.

You would think all that money would buy the Tour a decent mathematician, but Camp Ponte Vedra likes to do things their way. The points-allocation formula was soon overhauled to include a ton of back-end reward, but that doesn't change the fact that the wrong guy won in 2008.

4. 2009 Barclays (Slocum over Woods): The end of the Dynasty, although most would cite Tiger's loss to Y.E. Yang at the PGA Championship two weeks earlier as the official end. Regardless, Woods was beaten by a nobody in back-to-back starts – Slocum holed a 20-footer on Liberty National's 18th, starting the clock on his 15 minutes of fame. As for Red Shirt, he was about to become infamous, but he did win the BMW and his second FedEx title before losing to the fire hydrant.

3. 2010 Tour Championship (Furyk over Donald): Let's not get carried away here. Yes, Furyk had to get up and down from a greenside bunker on East Lake's 18th to edge Donald in a FedEx photo finish for all the marbles, but the two weren't paired together and the weather was absolutely miserable, which made it hard to watch. Still, the bunker shot was as clutch as it gets – it was the first time the season-long title came down to the final hole.

The problem was that Donald came within a whisker of that $10 million despite not winning a tournament all year. Sanity prevailed, however, and believe me, they don't get any saner than Jim Furyk.

2. 2008 Barclays (Singh over Garcia): A true overtime thriller at Woodbridge CC, which got the event after the Tour dumped longtime host Westchester – the 2008 media guide lists the deposed club as the tournament site. Sergio and Vijay holed bombs on the first extra hole, but if Garcia spent that summer running out of gas 50 feet before the checkered flag, this was a fitting sequel to the British Open and PGA losses to Padraig Harrington. Add the sudden-death loss to Villegas three weeks later, and it's no wonder Sergio has spent the last three years picking up the pieces of a broken heart.

Singh, meanwhile, trampled the field in Boston a week later, knocking in 40-footers like Chevy Chase in 'Caddyshack.' That appears to be his last hurrah, but the $10 million he picked up (instead of Villegas) will buy you a lot of good memories.

1. 2007 Deutsche Bank (Mickelson over Woods): One of the best final rounds I've ever covered – and that includes the majors. The electricity running through TPC Boston that Labor Day was off the meter, a current powered by two primary sources: New England sports-fan intensity and the Tiger-Phil pairing in the second-to-last group. Both guys played well, with Mickelson's 66 matching low round of the day, one better than Red Shirt. The W vaulted Philly Mick to the top of the FedEx standings, where Woods had resided before skipping The Barclays a week earlier.

As if to prove he's as open-minded as any superstar on the planet, Mickelson announced during his post-round TV interview that he wouldn't be playing the following week in Chicago. Tiger won there, then again by eight in Atlanta. Phil didn't like the way the playoffs were structured. Not that it mattered back then.

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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 GolfChannel.com.

Here is his unedited work, in all its glory:

By BRADY COFFIN

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.”

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Finau lifts team to opening 62 on improving ankle

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 6:24 pm

AVONDALE, La. – Tony Finau continues to thrive on his injured ankle.

Playing for the first time since the Masters, where he tied for 10th despite a high-ankle sprain, Finau matched partner Daniel Summerhays with six birdies to shoot a combined 10-under 62 in fourballs Thursday at the Zurich Classic.

Finau still isn’t 100 percent – he said he's closer to 70 percent – even after two weeks of rest and physical therapy. During that time he worked with doctors at the University of Utah Orthopedic Center and also the training staff with the Utah Jazz. Before the Zurich, he had played only nine holes.


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“Sometimes simplicity is huge in this game,” he said. “There is not a lot of thoughts in my swing in the first place, so there can’t be that many thoughts when you don’t practice. It served me well today.”

Partnering with Summerhays, his fellow Utah resident and a friend for more than a decade, they combined to make 12 birdies during an opening round that left them only two shots back of the early lead.

Asked afterward how his ankle felt, Finau said: “Feeling a lot better after that 62. A great remedy for something hurting is some good golf.”  

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Woods commits to Wells Fargo and The Players

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 26, 2018, 6:07 pm

Tiger Woods will tee it up each of the next two weeks, having officially committed to both the Wells Fargo Championship and The Players.

Woods' commitment to next week's event in Charlotte was confirmed by multiple Golf Channel sources and first reported during Thursday's "Golf Central."

The 42-year-old later took to Twitter to formally announce that he is ready for another back-to-back stretch:

Woods has not played since a T-32 finish earlier this month at the Masters. A winner at Quail Hollow in 2007, Woods has not made the cut there since a fourth-place showing in 2009 and has not played Wells Fargo since 2012. He missed last year's PGA Championship at Quail Hollow because of injury.

Woods' return to The Players will mark his first trip to TPC Sawgrass since 2015. He won on the Stadium Course in both 2001 and 2013. This will be Woods' second back-to-back of the season, having missed the cut at the Genesis Open before finishing 12th the following week at the Honda Classic.

After starting the year ranked No. 656 in the world, Woods is up to No. 91 in the latest world rankings. He recorded three straight top-12 finishes during the Florida swing, including a runner-up finish alongside Patrick Reed at the Valspar Championship and a T-5 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.