Cash is King in the Fall
“That’s tough. It’s really all about the money, but the Tour doesn’t want to hear that,” said one player who requested anonymity because, well the Tour really doesn’t want to hear that.
With gazillions invested in a season-long points race the Tour is no longer all about the millionaire with the most zeroes next to his name, the leading indicator of success since time began on the play-for-pay set.
Jim Furyk, who appears on the shelf for 2010, won last month’s Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup math quiz, a full house that will likely trump Matt Kuchar’s Tour-leading $4.88 million in earnings in the POY balloting.
But in the twilight of the season on a small island off the Georgia coast cash is once again king.
A large electronic leaderboard began flashing “year to date” earnings updates late Saturday afternoon at the McGladrey Classic and the Sunday confusion at the Tour Championship suddenly seemed years away.
The dizzying array of projected points scenarios that almost shut down IBM at East Lake is simplified this week and beyond by the economics of economics.
For pure clarity of competition, a player's earnings are still the easiest, and most telling, judge of success. It’s why Paul Azinger based much of his revised Ryder Cup selection process on money, not points or world ranking, when he took the captain’s job in 2006. And why many players still use cash as the ultimate barometer.
“Everybody out here plays for money still,” Steve Flesch said. “You don’t pay any of your bills with points. There’s nobody coming down 18 going, ‘If I birdie this I get X number of FedEx Cup points.’”
What the Fall Finish lacks in star power it makes up for in simplicity. There’s no need for a Mensa meeting to decide a player’s fate in the waning weeks of 2010 – finish in the top 125 or find your way to Q-School.
Tour media officials didn’t publish any “possible scenarios” for the likes of Johnson Wagner, who at 147th in earnings is about $200,000 shy of unfettered Tour employment next year.
“The FedEx Cup is important,” Wagner said following his third-round 67. “But the last two years the money list is truly important to me.”
In many ways the conversion to cash from points in the fall is the byproduct of performance. If you played deep into the playoffs the money list is not an immediate concern. But if you missed the postseason your cash flow for 2010 and beyond is ever present.
For the most part, the money and FedEx Cup points list mirrored each other for the first three editions of golf’s playoffs, but in 2010 there was a distinct, and sometimes concerning, disconnect between the two.
Scott McCarron finished the regular-season 130th on the FedEx Cup list, 26 points outside the playoffs, but was 124th in earnings at the time. Chris Stroud was No. 123 in earnings prior to the first postseason event but watched the playoffs from his Houston couch after finishing the regular season 11 points on the wrong side of the ledger.
Mark Wilson may be the only member of the fraternity who can truly understand the current points system with a degree in mathematics from North Carolina and he concurs there is a disconnect between money, the traditional unit of measurement, and a formula that has had more nip/tucks than a Rees Jones redesign since its inception.
“If you make a cut out here you’re going to make at least $10,000,” Wilson said. “But you could earn just one point if you finish last on the weekend. I would make it a little closer to the money so it’s not so bottom heavy.”
Of course the simplest fix is to mirror the money list – one point for each dollar earned. That way the McCarrons and Strouds of the Tour world aren’t left counting fingers and toes from the sidelines for five weeks during the playoffs.
A dollar-to-point scenario would also be nod to the obvious. Since Gene Sarazen signed out the first courtesy car the standard unit of measurement has been money, despite the Tour’s sudden aversion to the crassness of cash. How can a race with a $10 million lottery ticket be beyond the simplicity of earnings?
But then, the Tour doesn’t want to hear that.
Rose (64) peaking just ahead of the U.S. Open
A former U.S. Open champion appears to be finding his form just three weeks ahead of the year's second major.
Justin Rose ascended to the top of the leaderboard Friday at the Fort Worth Invitational, with rounds of 66-64 pushing him to 10 under par for the week.
Through 36 at Colonial, Rose has marked 12 birdies against just two bogeys.
"Yeah, I did a lot of good things today," Rose said. "I think, you know, the end of my round got a little scrappy, but until the last three holes it was pretty flawless. I think I hit every fairway pretty much and obviously every green to that point. ...
"Yeah, the way I played through, I guess through my first 15 holes today, was about as good as I've played in a long time."
Rose won in back-to-back weeks last fall, stunning Dustin Johnson at the WGC-HSBC Championship and riding that victory right into another at the Turkish Airlines Open.
Now the 2013 U.S. Open winner at Merion feels himself once again rounding into form ahead of this year's Open at Shinnecock. A final-round 66 at The Players gave Rose something to focus on in his recent practice sessions with swing coach Sean Foley, as the two work to shore up the timing of Rose's transition into the downswing.
As for his decision to tee it up at Colonial for the first time since 2010, "It was more the run of form really," Rose explained. "I feel like if I didn't play here it was going to be a little spotty going into the U.S. Open. I felt like I wanted to play enough golf where I would have a good read on my game going into Shinnecock.
"So rather than the venue it was more the timing, but it's obviously it's just such a bonus to be on a great layout like this."
For whatever reason, Rose does tend to play his best golf at iconic venues, having won PGA Tour events at Muirfield Village, Aronimink, Cog Hill, Doral, Merion and Congressional.
Koepka (63): Two wrist dislocations in two months
Brook Koepka's journey back from a wrist injury that kept him out four months hasn't been totally smooth sailing, even if his play has suggested otherwise.
Koepka on Friday fired a 7-under 63 to move up the leaderboard into a tie for third, three shots behind leader Justin Rose through the end of the morning wave at the Fort Worth Invitational.
After a slow start Thursday saw him play his first 13 holes 3 over, Koepka is 10 under with 11 birdies in his last 23 holes at Colonial.
"It doesn't matter to me. I could care less. I'm still going to try as hard as I can," Koepka said. "I don't care how many over or how many under I am. Still going to fight through it."
Just like he's been fighting his wrist the last two months or so. Koepka reinjured his wrist the Wednesday of The Players when he was practicing on the range and had to halt mid-swing after a golf cart drove in front of him. He nonetheless managed to finish T-11.
And that's not the only issue he's had with that wrist during his return.
"We had a bone pop out of place. I didn't tell anybody, but, yeah, they popped it back in," Koepka admitted Friday. "Luckily enough we kind of popped it back into place right away so it wasn't stiff and I didn't have too, too many problems.
"Yeah. I mean, I've dislocated my wrist twice in the last two months. You know, different spots, but, I mean, it's fun. I'll be all right."
Twitter spat turns into fundraising opportunity
Country music star Jake Owen, along with Brandt Snedeker, has turned a spat on Twitter into a fundraising campaign that will support Snedeker’s foundation.
On Thursday, Owen was criticized during the opening round of the Web.com Tour’s Nashville Golf Open, which benefits the Snedeker Foundation, for his poor play after opening with an 86.
In response, Snedeker and country singer Chris Young pledged $5,000 for every birdie that Owen makes on Friday in a campaign called NGO Birdies for Kids.
Although Owen, who is playing the event on a sponsor exemption, doesn’t tee off for Round 2 in Nashville until 2 p.m. (CT), the campaign has already generated interest, with NBC Sports/Golf Channel analyst Peter Jacobsen along with Web.com Tour player Zac Blair both pledging $100 for every birdie Owen makes.
Noren so impressed by Rory: 'I'm about to quit golf'
Alex Noren won the BMW PGA Championship last year, one of his nine career European Tour victories.
He opened his title defense at Wentworth Club in 68-69 and is tied for fourth through two rounds. Unfortunately, he's five back of leader Rory McIlroy. And after playing the first two days alongside McIlroy, Noren, currently ranked 19th in the world, doesn't seem to like his chances of back-to-back wins.
McIlroy opened in 67 and then shot a bogey-free 65 in second round, which included pars on the pair of par-5 finishing holes. Noren walked away left in awe.
"That's the best round I've ever seen," Noren said. "I'm about to quit golf, I think."
Check out the full interview below: