Water Cooler Fodder

By John HawkinsSeptember 16, 2010, 8:07 pm

The mathematics lied in 2008, at which point the buzzword/solution became “volatility.”

Despite winning the final two FedEx Cup playoff events that September, Camilo Villegas never had a shot at claiming the overall title, which Vijay Singh had locked up in Boston the week before. It didn’t seem right, didn’t seem fair, but most of all, it didn’t make good business sense. Why lead anyone to believe the Tour Championship was just another well-paid vacation?

So the PGA Tour tweaked its playoff system. Again. More leapfrogging, a lot more 'What Have You Done Out Here Lately,' with virtually no importance placed on what players did in the regular season. Anyone with a clear grasp of the competitive element could see the changes were overreactive and ill-advised, dangerously oblivious to the downside of theoretical possibility. Tiger Woods could win eight events in 16 starts, three of them majors, and have no better a chance of winning the overall crown than, say, Kevin Streelman. Talk about being careful what you wish for. If there are five great players, 25 really good players and 75 OK players, the OKs have the numbers, and therefore the power, to control all legislation not meted by the commissioner’s office.

That, in a half-cracked nutshell, is the problem with pro golf in the modern era. It caters to a bloated, over-compensated middle class – a contingent of guys who live off the fat of the land, excess generated by the superb play of a precious few. You don’t have to sing for your supper anymore. All you have to do is open your mouth.

Steve Stricker, a good man and an outstanding player who never complains about anything, wondered aloud about the balance of the playoff formula last week in Chicago. Stricker shows up at the weak-field tournaments, the ones Tiger never thinks about playing in. He’s a back-to-back winner of the John Deere Classic, which is held the week before the British Open, but here we are in September, and Stricker doesn’t see how that victory in July has any bearing on his position heading to Atlanta.

If you’re Charlie Hoffman, by the way, you owe Tim Finchem a Christmas card.

As for Streelman, the only thing he’s beating is the system. Having finished 102nd in the regular-season standings, Streelman qualified for the playoffs with but a few whiskers to spare and has just one top 40 in the postseason – a tie for third at the Barclays. Here he is, however, No. 29 and East Lake-bound, which translates into all kinds of super-duper bonus perks, most notably, a berth in the 2011 Masters.

Go ahead, ship me off to the funny farm, but I just don’t think a T-3 at Ridgewood should punch your ticket to Augusta National. Not when a victory at one of the Tour’s little-fish events doesn’t even get you a spot on the sidewalk next to Martha Burk. Camp Ponte Vedra wants the Tigers and Phils to play more, then throws out everything they’ve done for eight months so guys like Hoffman can afford a haircut?

Somebody get me a doctor.

Try as it might to get things right, the PGA Tour operates with an innate smugness that can be hard to rationalize when it comes to reaching the American public. The truth? This playoff thing isn’t working. It’s not making a splash – I challenge anyone to prove that more than a few drops of water have left the swimming pool. It’s not working because it’s not built correctly. It’s not built correctly because the wrong people are laying the bricks and hammering the nails.

It’s just four nice tournaments at the end of the summer. There is no connection between the plugged-in sports fan and the purpose of those four events, which makes the concept, at least to this point, an institutional failure. Another billboard for title sponsors, another paycheck for Sammie Softspikes. Another reason to thank Bobby Jones and Arnold Palmer for helping to clearly identify golf’s four major championships.

God bless, the doctor has arrived. His diagnosis isn’t grim, but the road to recuperation will take some effort.

– The top-3 finishers on the season-long money (or points) list automatically qualify for the Tour Championship. Never mind how many events they show up for – so what if the big boys don’t play Memphis? Tiger’s absence translates to Omar Uresti’s presence. The little fish have to eat, too.

– If you’re among the top 3, then skip a playoff event, you lose your free pass to Atlanta. That doesn’t mean you’re out – see the next proposal for clarification. Missing a postseason tournament is a bad thing, but it isn’t a felony. Let’s not forget that.

– Only the top 60 make the playoffs to begin with. That number is cut to 20 (including automatic qualifiers) for the Tour Championship. From there, the top 4 receive byes. The other 16 compete for four spots in a 54-hole, stroke-play format.

– Once we’ve determined the eight finalists, they are seeded and bracketed for a match-play showdown. In each match, the higher seed gets to decide whether the match goes 18 or 36 holes – golf’s equivalent of the home-field advantage so crucial in other sports.

I don’t care how much they play for. I don’t care about politics or petty contract clauses. I just want something people will talk about over the water cooler, even if somebody ends up kicking that water cooler to the curb.

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Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:19 am

IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.

Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.

Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.

Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.

Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."