FedEx Cup for Dummies 2009 Edition

By Rex HoggardAugust 26, 2009, 4:00 pm

 
Stop me if youve heard this one before: A mathematician, a PGA Tour official and Vijay Singh walk into a New Jersey bar . . .Bada Boom.
 
Welcome to the 2009 edition of FedEx Cup for Dummies. If youve perused this tome before, read on because Version 3.0 of the Tours playoff experiment gets underway on Thursday at Liberty National and will look nothing like the 2008 edition, to say nothing of the 07 inaugural offering which may not even be of the same DNA.
 
Playoff Primer
  • Field sizes were cut for this years post-season: with the top 125 regular-season points earners advancing to this weeks Barclays in New Jersey, followed by the top 100 at next weeks Deutsche Bank Championship and top 70 into the BMW Championship
  • The playoff points reset, which occurred after the regular season in 2007 and 08, will now come after the BMW
  • Points awarded at the first three playoff events will be increased, with the winner earning 2,500 points compared with 500 points to the winner of regular-season Tour events and 600 points for a major championship or Players champion
  • The post-BMW reset will narrow the gap between first- and second-place to 250 points, making it mathematically possible for No. 30 on the reset list to win the FedEx Cup and $10 million bonus. The players in the top 5 entering East Lake, however, will control their own destinies with a victory at the finale
  • Tour officials hope to maintain the same type of volatility that the 2008 playoffs had ' Vijay Singh began the post-season seventh in points while runner-up Camilo Villegas started at No. 42 ' while also assuring a solid regular season is rewarded by delaying the reset until after the BMW
For the third consecutive year the Tour tinkered with decimals and divisors not because something was wrong, but because its what one does when operating without a net or instruction manual.
 
Playoffs ' a misnomer of semantics and perhaps the most glaring problem in the circuits season-long quest ' are, by nature, works in progress. Just ask any baseball traditionalist still lamenting the onset of the wildcard concept or NASCAR fans who eagerly await the annual tweaks to the ever-evolving Race for the Cup.
 
The next four events are no more a playoff, at least in the traditional sense of the word, than Decembers Q-School is a place of higher education. But in the Tours defense, A four-event race to a big payday doesnt have much of a marketing ring to it.
 
Playoff is a hard word because you think that there will be eliminations each week, said Jason Bohn, a member of last years Players Advisory Council and one of many architects of the current plan. But if you dont play well one week, you can have a great tournament the next week and be right back in it. Its FedEx Cup triple elimination.
 
There will be tweaks, but I do like the fact if you play well all year you wont fall out so quickly in the playoffs. If feels like a mini-major.
 
The Tours greatest attribute in the development of a playoff is a willingness to adjust. As dogmatic as Ponte Vedra Beach can be about certain things ' drug testing, player fines, slow play ' the playoffs have become a Petri dish of ideas.
 
The only way to have a good idea is to have many ideas, or so the old saw goes, and the creation of a viable post-season in golf has taken a village.
 
Even Singh, hardly one of the circuits most outspoken or political types, had a take on how the playoffs should be structured when asked on Tuesday.
 
Every week (you) should be back to zero (points), said the 08 cup champion. You just advance. It's a tournament. It's part of the money list. It's part of the Tour still, and every week should be back to zero. A hundred play or 200 play or whatever and you just cut it down to whatever is necessary, and the last day it's a shootout.
 
The evolution of the playoffs has a Goldilocks feel to it, with the initial concept (2007) not having enough volatility and last years post-season having too much movement for some. Whether the 09 edition is just right remains to be seen, but at least they are trying.
 
Field sizes for the four playoff events were trimmed this year to 125 (Barclays), 100 (Deutsche Bank) and 70 (BMW), and the points reset was moved to the week before the Tour Championship to mathematically assure all 30 players at East Lake have a chance at the $10 million pot.
 
Arm-chair mathematicians have already found a possible flaw in the new math, however, noting that Tiger Woods can win the first three playoff events, as outlandish as that sounds, and could somehow still get beaten in the season-long race with a poor showing at East Lake.
 
We wanted the Tour Championship to be something where if you had the No. 1 seed, you sort of had something akin to a home court advantage in NBA basketball. You can lose, but you've got an advantage, commissioner Tim Finchem said on Wednesday. The intervals that we set for that first seed provides you an advantage.
 
By comparison, Singh won the first two post-season events last year and needed to only make four loops around East Lake without tripping over his putter ' a feat, not for nothin as they say in Jersey, he found impossible at Hazeltine National.
 
There will be more tweaks. Golf World magazine reported earlier this month that Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els have lobbied Finchem to cut the playoffs to just three events ' if only the NHL had similar-minded stars we might be spared endless post-season hype and a 15-minute off-season. Normally, when the games biggest names speak with one voice action items follow.
 
There is also a perception problem within the general golf public regarding the Tours infant post-season. The golf calendar has 12 months, four majors, one unforgettable cup (perhaps two, with Octobers Presidents Cup looming) and a healthy supporting cast of events from Dove Mountain to Doral. A shiny silver cup and a steady march of promos dont create big events ' history and actions do.
 
Like The Players, the playoffs may grow into the must-see event the Tour pines for, but our Twitter society will have to come to grips with the reality that it takes more than 140 characters and three experiments to make a memory.
 
Woods has signed on for the playoff opener in New Jersey this week for the first time, a symbolic first step if ever there was one, and the new math of a post-BMW reset will assure that a Braves pennant run and University of Georgia football are not the only hot topics in Atlanta come September.
 
And thats not too shabby, at least until next fall when a host of new tweaks will require the fourth edition of Fedex Cup for Dummies. Buy your advanced copy now, and avoid the rush.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - The Barclays
  • Golf Channel Airtimes
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    USGA-player relationship at a breaking point?

    By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 8:00 pm

    SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – For seven days each year, the American game’s preeminent governing body welcomes the best players in the world with open arms. They set up shop at one of the premier courses in the country, and line it with grandstands and white hospitality tents as far as the eye can see.

    The players arrive, first at a slow trickle and then at a steady pace. And once they’ve registered and clipped their player medallions over their belts, they’re told how this year is going to be different.

    How this time around, be it in a Washington gravel pit or on a time-tested piece of land on the tip of Long Island, the USGA will not repeat the mistakes of the past. That the process of identifying the best players in the world will not veer into the territory of embarrassing them.

    Like a college sweetheart in search of reconciliation, the powers-that-be preach a changed attitude and a more even-handed approach. Then, inevitably, they commit the same cardinal sins they promised to avoid.

    So year in and year out, the scar tissue builds. Charlie Brown keeps trying to kick the football and, for most of the players not named Brooks Koepka, he ends up on his butt in a cloud of dust and fescue.



    After letting Shinnecock Hills plunge into avoidable yet all-too-familiar territory over the weekend – before being doused back to life – one thing is clear: in the eyes of many players, the USGA can’t be trusted.

    “When are they going to get it right? I just feel like they disrespect these historic golf courses,” said Scott Piercy, a runner-up at the 2016 U.S. Open who got swept away this week during a crispy third round en route to a T-45 finish. “I think they disrespect the players, I think they disrespect the game of golf. And they’re supposed to be, like, the top body in the game of golf. And they disrespect it, every aspect of it.”

    Piercy, like several players in this week’s field, had a few specific gripes about how Shinnecock was set up, especially during the third round when USGA CEO Mike Davis admitted his organization lost control in a display that echoed the mistakes of 2004. But this was not an isolated case.

    Players went with skepticism to Chambers Bay three years ago, only to encounter greens that were largely dirt and got compared to produce. Mismatched grass strains, they were told. Whoops.

    The next year the USGA threw a dark cloud over a classic venue by allowing much of the final round at Oakmont to play without knowing the leader’s actual score as a rules fiasco reached a furious boil. Last year’s Erin Hills experiment was met with malaise.

    At this point, the schism runs much deeper than a single error in setup. It threatens the core competency of the organization in the eyes of several of the players it looks to serve.

    “They do what they want, and they don’t do it very well. As far as I’m concerned, there is no relationship (between players and the USGA),” said Marc Leishman. “They try and do it. They do it on purpose. They say they want to test us mentally, and they do that by doing dumb stuff.”



    By and large, players who took issue with the USGA’s tactics had a simple solution: put more of the setup choices in the hands of those who oversee PGA Tour and European Tour venues on a regular basis. While some of those personnel already moonlight in USGA sweater-vests for the week, there is a strong sentiment that their collective knowledge could be more heavily relied upon.

    “I know (the USGA) takes great pride in doing all this stuff they do to these golf courses, but they see it once a year,” Brandt Snedeker said. “Let those guys say, ‘Hey, we see this every week. We know what the edge is. We know where it is.’ We can’t be out there playing silly golf.”

    That’s not to say that a major should masquerade as the Travelers Championship. But the U.S. Open is the only one of the four that struggles to keep setup shortfalls from becoming a dominant storyline.

    It all adds up to a largely adversarial relationship, one that continues to fray after this weekend’s dramatics and which isn’t helped by the USGA’s insistence that they should rarely shoulder the blame.

    “They’re not going to listen, for one. Mike Davis thinks he’s got all the answers, that’s No. 2,” said Pat Perez after a T-36 finish. “And when he is wrong, there’s no apologies. It’s just, ‘Yeah, you know, we kind of let it get out of hand.’ Well, no kidding. Look at the scores. That’s the problem. It’s so preventable. You don’t have to let it get to that point.”



    But this wound festers from more than just slick greens and thick rough. There is a perception among some players that the USGA gets overly zealous in crafting complicated rules with complex decisions, a collection of amateur golfers doling out the fine print that lords over the professional game on a weekly basis – with the curious handling of whatever Phil Mickelson did on the 13th green Saturday serving as just the latest example.

    The gripes over setup each year at the USGA’s biggest event, when it’s perceived that same group swoops in to take the reins for a single week before heading for the hills, simply serve as icing on the cake. And there was plenty of icing this week after players were implored to trust that the miscues of 2004 would not be repeated.

    “To say that the players and the USGA have had a close relationship would be a false statement,” Snedeker said. “They keep saying all the right things, and they’re trying to do all the right things, I think. But it’s just not coming through when it matters.”

    It’s worth noting that the USGA has made efforts recently to ramp up its communication with the top pros. Officials from the organization have regularly attended the Tour’s player meetings in recent months, and Snedeker believes that some strides have been made.

    So, too, does Zach Johnson, who was one of the first to come out after the third round and declare that the USGA had once again lost the golf course.

    “I think they’ve really started to over the last few years, last couple years in particular, tried to increase veins of communication,” Johnson said. “When you’re talking about a week that is held in the highest regards, I’m assuming within the organization and certainly within my peer group as one of the four majors and my nation’s major, communication is paramount.”



    But the exact size of the credibility gap the USGA has to bridge with some top pros remains unclear. It’s likely not a sting that one good week of tournament setup can assuage, even going to one of the more straightforward options in the rotation next year at Pebble Beach.

    After all, Snedeker was quick to recall that players struggled mightily to hit the par-3 17th green back in 2010, with eventual champ Graeme McDowell calling the hole “borderline unfair” ahead of the third round.

    “It’s one of the greatest holes in world golf, but I don’t really know how I can hit the back left portion of the green,” McDowell said at the time. “It’s nearly impossible.”

    Surely this time next year, Davis will explain how the USGA has expanded its arsenal in the last decade, and that subsequent changes to the 17th green structure will make it more playable. His organization will then push the course to the brink, like a climber who insists on scaling Mount Everest without oxygen, and they’ll tell 156 players that this time, finally, the desired balance between difficult and fair has been achieved.

    Whether they’ll be believed remains to be seen.

    @bubbawatson on Instagram

    Bubba gets inked by Brooks, meets Tebow

    By Grill Room TeamJune 18, 2018, 5:40 pm

    Bubba Watson missed the cut at Shinnecock Hills following rounds of 77-74, but that didn't stop him from enjoying his weekend.

    Watson played alongside Jason Day and eventual champion Brooks Koepka in Rounds 1 and 2, and somehow this body ink slipped by us on Thursday.

    Got autographed by defending @usopengolf Champ @bkoepka!! #NeverShoweringAgain

    A post shared by Bubba Watson (@bubbawatson) on

    And while we're sure Bubba would have rather been in contention over the weekend, we're also sure that taking your son to meet the second most famous minor-league baseball player who ever lived was a lot more fun than getting your teeth kicked in by Shinnecock Hills over the weekend, as just about everyone not named Brooks Koepka and Tommy Fleetwood did.

    Already in Hartford, Watson will be going for his third Travelers Championship trophy this week, following wins in 2010 and 2015.

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    Phil rubs fan's Donald Duck hat seven times, signs it

    By Nick MentaJune 18, 2018, 3:09 pm

    There is a case to be made that what Phil Mickelson did on Saturday made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

    There is also a case to be made that the USGA's setup of Shinnecock Hills made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

    Whatever you think about what Mickelson did on Saturday - and how he attempted to justify it after the fact without even a hint of remorse - watch this video.

    The next time you hear someone say, "If anybody else had putted a moving ball on purpose and not apologized for it, it would get a different reaction," you can point to this video and say, "Yeah, here's why."

    Here's what happened once a still-strident Mickelson was done rubbing Donald Duck hats on Sunday, per Ryan Lavner:

    If you’re wondering whether Mickelson would be defiant or contrite on Sunday, we don’t know the answer. He declined to stop and speak with the media, deciding instead to sign autographs for more than a half hour and then offering a few short answers before ducking into player hospitality.

    “The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’” he said. “I don’t know.”

    The 2024 Ryder Cup at Bethpage is going to be a three-ring circus, and Mickelson, a likely choice to captain the U.S. team, will be the ringmaster.

    Separately, shoutout to 2017 Latin Am champ Toto Gana, who does a terrific Donald Duck (skip to end).

    Getty Images

    Ryder Cup race: Mickelson out, Simpson in

    By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 2:34 pm

    There's a new man at the top of the U.S. Ryder Cup race following the U.S. Open, and there's also a familiar name now on the outside looking in.

    Brooks Koepka's successful title defense vaulted him to the top of the American points race, up four spots and ensuring he'll be on the team Jim Furyk takes to Paris in September. Dustin Johnson's third-place finish moved him past Patrick Reed at No. 2, while Webb Simpson entered the top eight after a a tie for 10th.

    While Bryson DeChambeau remained at No. 9, Phil Mickelson dropped two spots to No. 10. Tony Finau, who finished alone in fifth, went from 16th to 13th, while Tiger Woods fell two spots to No. 37.

    Here's a look at the latest U.S. standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically:

    1. Brooks Koepka

    2. Dustin Johnson

    3. Patrick Reed

    4. Justin Thomas

    5. Jordan Spieth

    6. Rickie Fowler

    7. Bubba Watson

    8. Webb Simpson

    ---

    9. Bryson DeChambeau

    10. Phil Mickelson

    11. Matt Kuchar

    12. Brian Harman

    On the European side, England's Tommy Fleetwood took a big stride toward securing his first Ryder Cup appearance with a runner-up finish that included a Sunday 63 while countryman Matthew Fitzpatrick snuck into a qualifying spot after tying for 12th.

    Here's a look at the updated Euro standings, with the top four from both points lists joining four picks from captain Thomas Bjorn at Le Golf National:

    European Points

    1. Tyrrell Hatton

    2. Justin Rose

    3. Tommy Fleetwood

    4. Francesco Molinari

    ---

    5. Thorbjorn Olesen

    6. Ross Fisher

    World Points

    1. Jon Rahm

    2. Rory McIlroy

    3. Alex Noren

    4. Matthew Fitzpatrick

    ---

    5. Ian Poulter

    6. Rafael Cabrera-Bello