Child's play

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2011, 7:24 pm

ATLANTA – It’s a question as old as gift cards and party favors. What do you get a precocious 5-year-old who has clumsily straddled the gulf between limitless potential and an over-inflated sense of self-importance?

We’re talking about a toddler who, through no real fault of its own, made the age-old mistake of over-promising and under-delivering and yet has enjoyed a surprisingly eventful half-decade.

From their debut in 2007, the FedEx Cup playoffs were a square-peg solution for a round-hole game. A game defined by four majors – and, to a lesser extent, an occasional cup – and played by independent contractors. But if the powers that created the FedEx Cup are guilty of anything, it is poor word association.

Most agree the term “playoff” was never going to be a good fit for golf. There is no collective one-and-done pressure and, to be accurate, East Lake isn’t even the end of the season, but calling the big finish the “$10 million cash grab” probably didn’t test well with focus groups.

So the Tour tinkered, with points and resets and even revenue distribution and along the way the playoffs delivered, from Vijay Singh’s win in 2008 – a buzz-less affair that was highlighted by the Fijian needing to simply stay upright for four days in Atlanta to cash the $10 million lottery ticket – to Tiger vs. Phil in ’09, a perfect storm that may be as good as these playoffs ever get.

Five years into the experiment the best thing anyone can say about the FedEx Cup is that it’s better than what came before it.

“(The FedEx Cup) accomplished more than we had anticipated by this point in time,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said Tuesday at East Lake.

The commish measures postseason success in practical terms, citing increased viewership for this year’s postseason and the Tour’s latest round of network television contracts that now stretch into the next decade.

But even Finchem conceded that the ultimate arbiters of playoff success or failure are the players.

“I thought it was telling that (last year) a player who had not won early on but was very consistent and garnered the FedEx Cup (Jim Furyk) was then recognized by his peers as the Player of the Year, which I think spoke volumes for Jim and a lot about the FedEx Cup, as well, in terms of where it's come in four short years,” Finchem said.

The playoffs are important when the players say they are. Although the collective has not reached a consensus, there were signs of progress in 2011.

After bogeying the final hole at last week’s BMW Championship, Camilo Villegas marched over to a scoring computer to confirm what his gut already knew. He’d slipped into a tie for sixth and missed advancing to East Lake by three spots. His fist slamming into a table said more about the playoffs’ growing importance than all the PSAs that Camp Ponte Vedra Beach has produced to date.

Two weeks earlier at the Deutsche Bank Championship, Ernie Els, one of four players to have participated in every playoff-era Tour Championship, compared his push to keep his postseason hopes alive to winning a golf tournament, only harder.

Whether it is the money or the morose thought of having to watch the action from the sidelines is debatable, but there is no denying that the playoffs matter to the rank and file.

Exactly where the 5-year-old ranks in the competitive hierarchy is golf’s version of a player to be named later. Most Tour types surveyed Wednesday at East Lake rank a FedEx Cup crown somewhere between a major championship and, say, winning the Zurich Classic.

“The playoffs were something that said you were one of the best of the year. It’s a great thing to be able to say that you didn’t just have one great week but you had a great year,” Matt Kuchar said. “The playoffs have become a great event. They’ve kind of gotten a formula that really works.”

Not that your off-the-shelf fan could break down this week’s points reset without the aid of a flow chart and a Tour mathematician. Truth is, most players would need a few hours studying the playoff’s “FAQ” page if they were pressed to explain the system’s nuances. But this much is certain to every inner-competitor: you can’t win the FedEx Cup playoffs if you don’t play in them.

As for those who question the system’s competitive integrity, it’s worth noting that a defending FedEx Cup champion has never made it back to East Lake the following year. If that doesn’t scream “playoffs,” nothing does.

“If you go back in golf and look at any tournament . . . there is a graduation of stature of any event that rides with the extent to which players prioritize that event,” Finchem said. “That's where it starts. It doesn't start with the fans. It can be impacted by the media, but it really starts with the players. And clearly in these last couple of years, there have been very clear signs of how the importance to players has grown with the FedEx Cup.”

Maybe the best birthday present one could give the playoffs is perspective. The postseason has not been a tectonic shift in the way the game measures greatness, but it has given fans a reason not to change the channel in the fall and players a reason to be hungry. Not bad for a precocious 5-year-old with identity issues.

LeBron's son tries golf, and he might be good at everything

By Grill Room TeamOctober 15, 2018, 5:36 pm

LeBron James' son seems well on his way to a successful basketball career of his own. To wit:

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Finally got it down lol

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But with just a little work, he could pass on trying to surpass his father and try to take on Tiger and Jack, instead.

Bronny posted this video to Instagram of him in sandals whacking balls off a mat atop a deck into a large body of water, which is the golfer's definition of living your best life.

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How far, maybe 400 #happygilmore

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If you listen closely, at the end of the clip, you can just barely hear someone scream out for a marine biologist.

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Sponsored: Callaway's 'Golf Lives: Home Course'

By Grill Room TeamOctober 15, 2018, 4:20 pm

In this original series, Callaway sets out to profile unique golf locations around the country based on their stories, communities and the characters that surround them. The golf cultures across the series are remarkably diverse, yet in all cases it's the course itself that unifies and ignites the passions of those who play.

“Golf Lives: Home Course” focuses on three distinct home courses across the country – one in D.C., one in Nebraska and one in Portland, Ore. All have very different golf cultures, but are connected by a deep love of the game.

Click here for a look at all three episodes in the series, as well as past Golf Lives films (check out the trailer below).

And here’s a breakdown of the three courses in focus: 


Langston Golf Course (Washington, D.C.)

Opened in June 1939, Langston is steeped in a rich history. Known for its triumphant role in the desegregation of public golf, the course has been integral to the growth of the game’s popularity among African Americans. With its celebratory feel, Langston shows us golf is not unifies individuals, but generations. 


Edgefield Golf Course (Portland, Ore.)

The air is fresh, the beers are cold and the vibes are electric at Edgefield. You'd be hard pressed to find a more laid back, approachable and enjoyable environment for a round. Overlooking stunning panoramic views of northeast Portland, two par-3 pub courses (12 holes and 20 holes) wind through vineyards, thickets of blackberry bushes and a vintage distillery bar. All are welcome at Edgefield, especially those who have never swung a club. 


Wild Horse Golf Club (Gothenburg, Neb.)

In 1997, the locals and farmers living in the tight-knit town of Gothenburg decided to build a golf course. A bank loan, a couple of tractors, and a whole lotta sweat-equity later, their prairieland masterpiece is now considered one of the best in the country. Wild Horse is the soul of the community, providing unforgettable memories for all who play it.

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Pepperell likely sews up Masters invite via OWGR

By Will GrayOctober 15, 2018, 2:13 pm

Eddie Pepperell received a trophy for his win Sunday at the British Masters, but another prize will be coming in the mail at the end of the year.

Pepperell held on to win by two shots at rainy Walton Heath, giving him his second win of the year to go along with a pair of runner-ups. The Englishman started the year ranked No. 133 in the world and was as low as 513th in May 2017. But with the win, Pepperell jumped 17 spots to a career-best 33rd in the latest world rankings.

It means that Pepperell, who finished T-6 at The Open while fighting a hangover in the final round, is in line to make his Masters debut next spring, as the top 50 in the world rankings at the end of the calendar year become exempt into the season's first major.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

Another player now in the mix for that top-50 exemption is Emiliano Grillo, who went from 62nd to 49th with a T-2 finish at the PGA Tour's CIMB Classic. Grillo has played in two Masters but missed this year's event. Marc Leishman moved up eight spots to No. 16 with his win in Malaysia, while T-2s result moved Chesson Hadley from 75th to 60th and Bronson Burgoon from 162nd to 102nd.

There were no changes among the top 10 in the latest rankings, with Dustin Johnson still ahead of Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy. Francesco Molinari remains in sixth, with Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth rounding out the top 10.

Both Koepka and Thomas are in the field at this week's CJ Cup in South Korea, where they will have an opportunity to overtake Johnson for world No. 1.

With his next competitive start unknown, Tiger Woods stayed at No. 13 for another week.

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USGA, R&A unveil new limits on green books

By Rex HoggardOctober 15, 2018, 1:53 pm

Following a six-week feedback period, the USGA and R&A unveiled a new interpretation of the Rules of Golf and the use of green-reading materials on Monday.

The interpretation limits the size and scale of putting green books and any electronic or digital materials that a player may use to assist with green reading.

“We’re thankful for everyone’s willingness to provide feedback as we worked through the process of identifying a clear interpretation that protects the essential skill of reading a green, while still allowing for information that helps golfers enjoy the game,” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior managing director of governance.

Players will be allowed to continue to use green-reading books beginning in 2019, but the new interpretation will limit images of greens to a scale of 3/8 inch to 5 yards (1:480), and books can be no larger than 4 1/4 inches by 7 inches (pocket-sized). The interpretation also bans the use of magnification devices beyond normal prescription glasses.

The USGA and R&A will allow for hand-drawn notes in green books as long as those notes are written by the player or their caddie. The rule makers also dropped a proposal that would have limited the minimum slope to four percent in green-reading material.

“These latest modifications provide very practical changes that make the interpretation easier to understand and apply in the field,” Pagel said.