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.

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(Not that) Jutanugarn shares lead with (not that) Ko

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 1:58 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn overcame a poor start and birdied the 18th for a hard-earned 1-under 70 to tie Jin Young Ko at 9 under on Saturday going into the final round of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open.

Ko shot a 66 at Wilshire Country Club in her bid to become the year's first two-time LPGA winner. She won the Women's Australian Open in February, her first victory as an official tour member.

Jutanugarn is trying to match younger sister Ariya as a tour champion. Seven-time winner Ariya was tied for 27th after a 72 in the third round.

Hall of Famer Inbee Park was two shots back in third after a 69. Her birdie putt for a share of the lead on 18 slid just by the hole.


Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open


Moriya Jutanugarn's round included a double bogey on the par-4 first hole and a bogey on the par-4 sixth. She eagled the par-4 14th after holing out from the fairway 93 feet away. The ball took once bounce and went in, eliciting a stunned look from Jutanugarn before she high-fived her caddie.

Jutanugarn read the break perfectly to make birdie on 18 and share the lead with Ko.

Playing two groups ahead of Jutanugarn, Caroline Inglis also eagled the 14th. She briefly jumped up and down and smiled. She shot a 69 and was four shots back in a tie for sixth with Minjee Lee.

Aditi Ashok eagled 14 early in the round.

Ko did some scrambling of her own. Her ball found a sandy hazard on the 17th with a scoreboard and a winding creek in between her and the green 190 yards away. Her approach landed just off the green and she made par. Her round included six birdies and a bogey on 16.

Eun-Hee Ji (70) and American Marina Alex (72) were tied for fourth at 6 uner.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng shot a 70 and was in a six-way tie for 12th at 2 under.

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Defending champs Singh, Franco take senior lead

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 12:15 am

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco took the third-round lead Saturday in the windy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Singh and Franco shot a 7-under 47 in wind gusting to 20 mph on the Top of the Rock par-3 course to get to 19-under 145, a stroke ahead of the teams of David Toms-Steve Flesch and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett.

''It was a tough day,'' Singh said. ''The wind was swirling, have to get the club right and we made some putts. Carlos played really well on the back nine and I played really well on the front nine, so we ham-and-egged it a little.''

Toms and Flesch also shot 47, and Broadhurst and Triplett had a 33 on the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course.

''We just paired well together,'' Toms said. ''I don't think either one of us played great. We picked each other up out there.''

Wind and rain is expected Sunday when the teams finish at Top of the Rock, again playing the front nine in alternate shot and the back nine in better ball.

''Make as many birdies as possible and see what happens,'' Singh said. ''That's all we can do.''

Singh and Franco are trying to become the first to successfully defend a title since Jim Colbert and Andy North in 2001. Singh won the Toshiba Classic in March for his first individual senior title.


Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf


Flesch won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic last week in Georgia for his first senior victory.

Tom Lehman and Bernhard Langer had a 34 at Mountain Top to join Spanish stars Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal at 17 under. Jimenez and Olazabal had a 33 at Mountain Top.

''It's great for me to be able to play with him as a team member,'' Olazabal said. ''We do have great memories from the Ryder Cup and other events, and it's always a great pleasure to play with a great player and a friend.''

Langer took the final-round forecast in stride.

''We've done it hundreds of times before and we'll probably do it again,'' Langer said. ''We'll make the best of it. We both have a good attitude. We're known to play in all sorts of weather and I just look forward to playing one more day with my partner here.''

Wisconsin neighbors Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly were 16 under after a 48 at Top of the Rock.

John Daly and Michael Allen, the second-round leaders after a 46 at Top of the Rock, had a 37 at Mountain Top to drop into a tie for seventh at 15 under.

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Landry shares Valero lead, eyes first career win

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 11:15 pm

After coming up just short of a breakthrough win earlier this season, Andrew Landry has another chance to earn his maiden victory at the Valero Texas Open.

Landry came within inches of winning the CareerBuilder Challenge in January, ultimately losing to Jon Rahm in a four-hole playoff. He struggled to find form in the wake of his close call, missing the cut in each of his four starts following his runner-up finish in Palm Springs.

But Landry took some time off to welcome his first child, Brooks, last month and he made it to the weekend in his first start back last week at the RBC Heritage, where he finished T-42. He made a move up the standings Saturday at TPC San Antonio with a bogey-free 67, and at 13 under shares the lead with Zach Johnson heading into the final round.

"I just did everything really good," Landry told reporters. "I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat, and I had a couple bad putts that I didn't really make. I'm happy with it, it's a good 5-under round. Gets me in the final group tomorrow and we'll see what happens."

Landry started the day one shot off the pace and in the final group with Johnson and Ryan Moore, and at one point he took sole possession of the lead after birdies on three of his first six holes. Now he'll have another chance in the day's final tee time where he's grouped with Johnson and Trey Mullinax, who sits one shot back after firing a course-record 62 in the third round.

For Landry, it's another opportunity to break into the winner's circle, and it's one for which he feels prepared after coming so close three months ago.

"I mean, I don't want to go too deep into it because I don't want to sound cocky or anything, but I just believe in myself. There's no other explanation for it," Landry said. "You can totally get out here and play with Zach Johnson, Ryan Moore, two top players in the world, and you can go out there and fold under pressure or you can learn a lot.

"Zach's always been a role model to me the way he plays golf, I feel like we have very similar games, and it's just going to be fun tomorrow getting to play with him again."

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Z. Johnson, Landry share 54-hole Texas Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 10:56 pm

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson birdied the par-5 18th Saturday at the Valero Texas Open for a share of the third-round lead with Andrew Landry, a stroke ahead of record-setting Trey Mullinax.

Johnson shot a 4-under 68, holing a 10-footer on 18 to match Landry at 13-under 203 at TPC San Antonio's AT&T Oaks. Landry birdied the 16th and 17th in a 67.

Johnson won the event in 2008 and 2009, the last two times it was played at LaCantera. The 42-year-old Iowan is trying to win for the first time since the 2015 British Open.

''I've got 18 holes to get to that point,'' Johnson said. ''I've got to do exactly what I did on the back side and that was give myself opportunities on every hole. I'm putting great, I'm seeing the lines well, my caddie's reading the greens well, so it's just a matter of committing and executing down the stretch.''

The 30-year-old Landry is winless on the tour.

''I'm a good putter and I just need to give myself a lot of opportunities tomorrow like I did today,'' Landry said. ''I'll be looking forward to tomorrow.''

Mullinax had a course-record 62. He played the back nine in 7-under 29, going 6 under on the last five with eagles on the par-5 14th and 18th and birdies on 16 and 17. He also birdied Nos. 10 and 12 and bogeyed 11.

''It's probably one of the best rounds I've ever had,'' Mullinax said. ''To go out there and shoot 62 on a hard golf course is really good.''

Johnson played the front nine in even par with two birdies and two bogeys. He birdied Nos. 11, 14, 15 and 18 on the back nine.


Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


''Different wind today early on, misjudged some numbers, misjudged some wind, made some bad swings, all of the above,'' Johnson said. ''But truthfully, my short game was actually pretty good, my putting was great. I missed some putts, but I hit some really good ones, hit some lines and I gave myself opportunities especially on the back side.''

Landry had a bogey-free round.

''I just did everything really good,'' Landry said. ''I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat.''

Ryan Moore was two strokes back at 11 under after a 70. Sean O'Hair had a 65 to join 2015 champion Jimmy Walker (67), Chris Kirk (68) and 2013 winner Martin Laird (69) at 9 under.

''I just feel like I'm getting closer and closer to playing better and better golf, more solid golf, putting rounds together,'' Walker said. ''I'm excited for the opportunity tomorrow.''

Mullinax has made 42 of 44 putts from inside 10 feet this week.

''They just kind of remind me of greens from home,'' Mullinax said. ''My caddie, David (Flynn), has been reading them really well. We trusted each other on our reads and I've been hitting good putts. Been working hard on putting on the weeks off that I've had so it's good to see some results.''

The 25-year-old former Alabama player chipped in for the eagle on 14 and the birdie on the par-3 16th.

''It was just a little bit down the hill,'' he said about the 16th. ''All you had to do was just land it just past that little light grass spot. My caddie told me just read it like a putt, so I tried to just read it like a putt and it went in.''

On 18, he hit a 3-iron from 255 yards to 15 feet to set up his eagle putt. He broke the course record of 63 set by Matt Every in 201 and matched by Laird in 2013. The tournament record is 60 at LaCantera, by Bart Bryant in 2004 and Johnson in 2009.