Is Parity Better for the PGA Tour
The headline in our local paper read: Top Trio Prepare to do Battle. Obviously the article focuses on this weeks Bay Hill Invitational and the fact that No. 1 Tiger Woods, No. 2 Vijay Singh and No. 3 Ernie Els are all teeing it up this week. As you may know, there are scenarios whereby each of the top 3 could end the week as the No. 1 ranked player.
And the way each has been playing, youd have a hard time betting against any of them laying an egg at Arnies place.
Throw in No. 4 Phil Mickelson (whos not playing) and the race for the top of the World Golf Ranking is as hot as the weather here in mid-August. Each man has a legitimate argument for the title as worlds best player ' right now.
The one thing that caught my attention in the article was a quote by Chad Campbell ' the defending champion ' who ran away with the title last year and is certainly no mans sand-filled divot to step on.
Its tremendous for golf that its that competitive up top, said Campbell. I just wish I was a part of it.
Interesting huh? A part of it. A part of it. A part of it.
Arnold Palmer himself chimed in by saying, This is the kind of thing you want to see more and more of.
Is The King right? Do we love the Top 3 of 4 players in the world getting in each others way every week for the tours given title?
Heres the list of winners this year:
Stuart Appleby, Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods, Justin Leonard, Phil Mickelson, Phil Mickelson, David Toms, Geoff Ogilvy, Tiger Woods & Padraig Harrington.
Each man, aside from Ogilvy who won in Tucson opposite the WGC Accenture Match Play which went to Toms, has been a fixture this year among the Top 20 in the World Golf Ranking.
So whats happened to the trend of 18 first time winners we saw just a few years ago? Where are the titles available to guys like Vaughn Taylor and Bart Bryant? Heck, what about the poor stars like Jerry Kelly and Charles Howell III?
OK, take it a step higher. Where do superstars like Love and Garcia and Weir fit in anymore if Woods, Singh, Els and Mickelson are playing? Lately they dont.
Whats happened to parity?
Take nothing away from Stuart Appleby and Justin Leonard and David Toms and Padraig Harrington. Each man is more than capable (Toms did it a few weeks ago) of winning the biggest of tournaments. But the PGA Tour today seems reserved for four men.
Arent all these guys good?
Its not just media hype surrounding the Big 4. Its galleries. Its television ratings. Its trophies. And its rounds of 59 and 61. And its 337 yard drives on par 5s and 387 yard drives to the green on par 4s that make guys like Jim Furyk seem like your buddy playing in the A Flight of his Club Championship.
My question is: Do we miss the chance each week where everyone seems to have a chance? A week when parity stands out on the PGA Tour and a look down the leaderboard at the end of Sunday finds Tiger, Singh, Els and Mickelson no better than a T11?
Or is a win by Darren Clarke simply not any good unless he beats Tiger and Ernie?
Is parity good only if were talking about a level of consistency among the Big 4?
From where I sit, this has been the best start to a PGA Tour season in the 10 years Ive been at The Golf Channel. The run for No. 1 is as good as it could be.
My confusion in all of this, I guess, is about assessing the depth of field. Is parity what we want and demand in golf at the highest level?
Should we hope for a tour where any of the fully exempt 125 could win on any given week ' or a tour where we continue to see golfs Big 4 battle it out at the expense of airtime and publicity and promotion for guys like Chad Campbell.
Arnie, himself, said this run of dominance by the best of the bet is the kind of thing you want to see more and more of.
And I think I agree. But how much more and for how long?
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
Woods, Leishman, Fleetwood grouped at Northern Trust
While 125 players qualified for The Northern Trust this week, only 120 have decided to tee it up at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey. Here's a look at a few of the marquee, early-round tee times where players are grouped via FedExCup standing and Tiger Woods makes his first start since a runner-up performance at the PGA Championship (all times ET):
7:54 a.m. Thursday, 12:55 p.m. Friday: Tiger Woods, Marc Leishman, Tommy Fleetwood
Woods starts the postseason at No. 20 in the points race, with a great chance to advance to the season-ending Tour Championship for the first time since 2013. He'll look to pad his point total this week in the Garden State, making his return to competition after a week off following a strong showing at Bellerive. He'll play the first two rounds with Leishman, who has two runner-up finishes this season, and Fleetwood, who nearly caught Brooks Koepka at the U.S. Open.
8:05 a.m. Thursday, 1:06 p.m. Friday: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka
There should be no shortage of eye-popping drives from this trio, who comprise the top three in the season-long points race heading into the playoffs. Johnson holds the No. 1 spot in both the world rankings and the FedExCup, having won three times since January, while Thomas will look to become the first player to go back-to-back in the playoffs and Koepka hopes to add to a career year that already includes two majors.
8:16 a.m. Thursday, 1:17 p.m. Friday: Webb Simpson, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau
Simpson got back into the winner's circle in impressive fashion at The Players Championship, and he heads into the playoffs off a T-2 finish last week at the Wyndham Championship. Molinari cruised to victory at the Quicken Loans National before his major triumph at Carnoustie, while DeChambeau's win at the Memorial highlighted his season that brought him to the cusp of a Ryder Cup berth.
12:44 p.m. Thursday, 7:43 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Beau Hossler, Byeong-Hun An
Normally featured among the points leaders at this point in the season, Spieth heads into the playoffs at No. 43 in the standings, sandwiched between a pair of players whose best results came in playoff losses. Hossler has had a quietly strong season that was highlighted by a runner-up to Ian Poulter in overtime at the Houston Open, while An lost a playoff to DeChambeau at the Memorial.
12:55 p.m. Thursday, 7:54 a.m. Friday: Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Tony Finau
There will be four green jackets among this group, as the reigning Masters champ is joined by a pair of Ryder Cup hopefuls in Mickelson and Finau. Lefty broke a lengthy victory drought with his WGC-Mexico win in March but has largely slowed this summer, while Finau notched top-10 finishes in each of the first three majors to enter the discussion for possible picks for Paris.
Randall's Rant: Too much Tiger for his own good?
We could be getting a dose of way too much Tiger Woods.
Yeah, that’s difficult to fathom, given how good his return to the game has been on so many levels, but the man might be too close to winning for his own good right now.
I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on TV, and I didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but a reasonable person has to wonder how playing the next three weeks in a row – five of the next six weeks – will affect Woods’ surgically fused spine.
That isn’t to say Woods is actually going to end up playing that much, but it looms as a real possibility.
In fact, dating back to the WGC Bridgestone, it’s possible he could be amid a run of playing seven times in the last nine weeks.
My sacroiliac joint is throbbing at the thought.
Beginning with The Northern Trust this week, Woods is committed to the first three legs of the FedExCup Playoffs, and it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t play the final leg at the Tour Championship if he qualifies.
It’s impossible to imagine he won’t be among Jim Furyk’s four captain’s picks to play the Ryder Cup.
So if Woods continues this streak of strong play, what’s going to give?
We hope it isn’t his back.
Or his neck.
Or his knees.
Only Woods and his doctors really know how much the 42-year-old can take physically, but there is more to lose than to gain by overdoing it now.
Yeah, the FedExCup Playoffs are great fun, more meaningful with each passing year, but it’s all about the major championships now for Woods.
Competitively, it’s all that matters.
Nobody but the most anal Tiger fans are going to remember how many FedExCups he won, but we’re all going to remember how many majors he won.
We’re all going to remember him resuming his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus, if that’s where his summer tease is taking us, with Woods’ T-6 at The Open last month and his second-place finish at the PGA Championship two weeks ago.
Whether you are a Woods fan or not, how can you not want to see a historic chase of Jack as Tiger’s last chapter?
The game soars to yet another level with that.
A legion of young, new fans come pouring into the game even if Tiger only gets to 17 major championship titles.
So while the FedExCup Playoffs give us a postseason in golf, make Player of the Year chases more interesting and Ryder Cup captain’s picks more intriguing, they are a mere prelude for Tiger.
The playoffs give him another chance to get ready for next year’s Masters.
They give him a chance to win something before heading to Augusta National.
They give him another chance to rebuild his closing skills.
Woods doesn’t have to win the overall FedExCup to do that.
And he doesn’t have to play every event he commits to playing. He’s 20th in FedExCup points right now. He can get to the Tour Championship without playing all three of the legs leading there.
The tough spot for Woods is withdrawing from a FedExCup event. It’s trickier for him. With all the extra tickets sold when he commits, with all the excitement his anticipated arrival creates, it feels like a broken promise when he backs out.
Yeah, other players WD before big events for reasons beyond injury, but they don’t create the massive disappointment Woods creates.
For somebody invested in wanting to see Tiger vs. Jack reprised, it’s a lot easier to live with seeing Woods pull out of a FedExCup Playoff event to rest than to see him WD from one with an injury.
There’s more excitement in the prospect of seeing a lot of Woods in the majors next year than seeing too much of him now.
Here’s hoping somebody helps Tiger gets his FedExCup Playoff dosage right. His pain could be golf’s pain.
Watch: Marshawn Lynch's golf game could use some work
NFL star running back Marshawn Lynch is pretty great at driving golf carts, but from the looks of a video that surfaced this weekend, his golf prowess starts and ends there.
"Beast Mode" was in attendance at Klay Thompson's charity event in San Francisco on Sunday, and luckily the Golden State Warriors shooting guard caught Lynch's swing on camera - because it is a sight to behold.
Dressed in a traditional golf hoodie, the former Super Bowl champion who has been thrilling fans with his raw athleticism and power on the gridiron for more than a decade showed off a swing that would make Charles Barkley blush.
Lynch was not questioned about the swing by members of media afterwards, although there's a pretty good chance you already know how he would've answered.
Stenson (elbow) withdraws from playoff opener
Former FedExCup champ Henrik Stenson will start his postseason on the sideline, as he withdrew on Monday from The Northern Trust because of an elbow injury.
Stenson captured the season-long title back in 2013, when he won two of the four playoff events. At 50th in the current points standings, he's assured of a spot next week at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship and likely to make the field at the 70-man BMW Championship the following week.
A PGA Tour official confirmed that Stenson cited the elbow injury as the reason for his withdrawal. He was bothered by an injured elbow last month that led him to withdraw from the Scottish Open and limited his prep for The Open, where he tied for 35th.
The 42-year-old defended his title last week at the Wyndham Championship, tying for 20th place after shooting a 6-under 64 in the final round.
"It's fine, I can practice and I can play without any problems as of now, but I can't really go after it in the gym fully," Stenson told reporters last week in Greensboro. "The main thing that we can play and practice without having any problems there, so it's getting better."
The intrigue around Stenson's decision grows when the context of the Ryder Cup is taken into consideration. The Swede has represented Europe in the biennial matches four times, but he's currently 16th in both the European Points and World Points lists with only two weeks remaining in the qualification window.
Even before skipping this week's event in New Jersey, Stenson appeared likely to need a pick from captain Thomas Bjorn, who will round out his 12-man roster with four selections on Sept. 5. Other notable players who are not currently in position to qualify include Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Russell Knox, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Thomas Pieters.
Stenson becomes the fifth player to withdraw from this week's field, which does not feature alternates and is now down to 120 players. Rory McIlroy opted to rest up this week, while Patrick Rodgers is skipping the tournament to attend a wedding. Both Rickie Fowler (oblique) and Bud Cauley (June car accident) withdrew because of injury.