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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Wie has hand surgery, out for rest of 2018

By Randall MellOctober 18, 2018, 9:43 pm

Michelle Wie will miss the rest of this season after undergoing surgery Thursday to fix injuries that have plagued her right hand in the second half of this year.

Wie announced in an Instagram post that three ailments have been causing the pain in her hand: an avulsion fracture, bone spurs and nerve entrapment.

An avulsion fracture is an injury to the bone where it attaches to a ligament or tendon.

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I think John Mayer once said, “Someday, everything will make perfect sense. So for now, laugh at the confusion, smile through the tears, be strong and keep reminding yourself that everything happens for a reason.” A lot of people have been asking me what’s been going on with my hand and I haven’t shared much, because I wasn’t sure what was going on myself. After countless MRI’s, X-rays, CT scans, and doctor consultations, I was diagnosed with having a small Avulsion Fracture, bone spurring, and nerve entrapment in my right hand. After 3 cortisone injections and some rest following the British Open, we were hoping it was going to be enough to grind through the rest of the season, but it just wasn’t enough to get me through. So I made the decision after Hana Bank to withdraw from the rest of the season, come back to the states, and get surgery to fix these issues. It’s been disheartening dealing with pain in my hand all year but hopefully I am finally on the path to being and STAYING pain free! Happy to announce that surgery was a success today and I cannot wait to start my rehab so that I can come back stronger and healthier than ever. Huge thank you to Dr. Weiland’s team at HSS for taking great care of me throughout this process and to all my fans for your unwavering support. It truly means the world to me. I’ll be back soon guys!!!! Promise

A post shared by Michelle Wie (@themichellewie) on

Dr. Andrew Weiland, an attending orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed the procedure.

“It’s been disheartening dealing with pain in my hand all year, but, hopefully, I am finally on the path to being and staying pain free,” Wie wrote.

Wie withdrew during the first round of the Ricoh Women’s British Open with the hand injury on Aug. 2 and didn’t play again until teeing it up at the UL International Crown two weeks ago and the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week. She played those events with what she hoped was a new “pain-free swing,” one modeled after Steve Stricker, with more passive hands and wrists. She went 1-3 at the UL Crown and tied for 59th in the limited field Hana Bank.

“After 3 cortisone injections and some rest following the British Open, we were hoping it was going to be enough to grind through the rest of the season, but it just wasn’t enough to get me through,” she wrote.

Wie, who just turned 29 last week, started the year saying her top goal was to try to stay injury free. She won the HSBC Women’s World Championship in March, but her goal seemed doomed with a diagnosis of arthritis in both wrists before the year even started.

Over the last few years, Wie has dealt with neck, back, hip, knee and ankle injuries. Plus, there was an emergency appendectomy that knocked her out of action for more than a month late last season. Her wrists have been an issue going back to early in her career.

“I don’t think there is one joint or bone in her body that hasn’t had some sort of injury or issue,” Wie’s long-time swing coach, David Leadbetter, said earlier this year.

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Woods receives his Tour Championship trophy

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 8:57 pm

We all know the feeling of giddily anticipating something in the mail. But it's doubtful that any of us ever received anything as cool as what recently showed up at Tiger Woods' Florida digs.

This was Woods' prize for winning the Tour Championship. It's a replica of "Calamity Jane," Bobby Jones' famous putter. Do we even need to point out that the Tour Championship is played at East Lake, the Atlanta course where Jones was introduced to the game.

Woods broke a victory drought of more than five years by winning the Tour Championhip. It was his 80th PGA Tour win, leaving him just two shy of Sam Snead's all-time record.

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Garcia 2 back in storm-halted Andalucia Masters

By Associated PressOctober 18, 2018, 7:08 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Ashley Chesters was leading on 5-under 66 at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters when play was suspended because of darkness with 60 golfers yet to complete their weather-hit first rounds on Thursday.

More than four hours was lost as play was twice suspended because of stormy conditions and the threat of lightning at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

English journeyman Chesters collected six birdies and one bogey to take a one-shot lead over Gregory Bourdy of France. Tournament host and defending champion Sergio Garcia was on 68 along with fellow Spaniards Alvaro Quiros and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, and Australia's Jason Scrivener.

''It's a shame I can't keep going because the last few holes were the best I played all day. Considering all the delays and everything, I'm very happy with 5 under,'' Chesters said. ''The forecast for the rest of the week is not very good either so I thought I'll just make as many birdies as I can and get in.''

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Caddies drop lawsuit; Tour increases healthcare stipend

By Rex HoggardOctober 18, 2018, 3:33 pm

After nearly four years of litigation, a group of PGA Tour caddies have dropped their lawsuit against the circuit.

The lawsuit, which was filed in California in early 2015, centered on the bibs caddies wear during tournaments and ongoing attempts by the caddies to improve their healthcare and retirement options.

The caddies lost their class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court and an appeal this year.

Separately, the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, which was not involved in the lawsuit but represents the caddies to the Tour, began negotiating with the circuit last year.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the APTC.

In January 2017, Jay Monahan took over as commissioner of the Tour and began working with the APTC to find a solution to the healthcare issue. Sajtinac said the Tour has agreed to increase the stipend it gives caddies for healthcare beginning next year.

“It took a year and a half, but it turned out to be a good result,” Sajtinac said. “Our goal is to close that window for the guys because healthcare is such a massive chunk of our income.”

The Tour did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the agreement or the end to the lawsuit.

Caddies have received a stipend from the Tour for healthcare for some time, and although Sajtinac wouldn’t give the exact increase, he said it was over 300 percent. Along with the APTC’s ability to now negotiate healthcare plans as a group, the new stipend should dramatically reduce healthcare costs for caddies.

“It’s been really good,” said Sajtinac, who did add that there are currently no talks with the Tour to created a retirement program for caddies. “Everybody is really excited about this.”