FedEx Cup Playoffs have come a long way in 10 years

By Rex HoggardSeptember 15, 2016, 2:00 pm

As 10-year-olds go, the FedEx Cup is surprisingly mature, particularly when you consider the relative animosity players held for the season-long race when it was launched in 2007.

Or maybe ambiguity is a better way to characterize how players viewed the FedEx Cup when it was created a decade ago.

“I was quite critical of it 10 years ago when it first came out. I think that was fair because the points weren’t right,” Adam Scott said. “It's taken a while to get it right.”

Well, time and a healthy dollop of tinkering by the PGA Tour’s mathematicians have helped move the FedEx Cup along, but it’s difficult to argue with Scott’s assessment that the postseason has come of age.

In every way, the FedEx Cup was always a work in progress going back to that first season in ’07 when Tiger Woods won the big paycheck after skipping the first postseason stop.

That wouldn’t do.

The next year, Vijay Singh won the FedEx Cup needing only to remain upright for four days at the Tour Championship thanks to a dominate playoff performance that included victories at The Barclays and Deutsche Bank Championship.

That wouldn’t work, either.

In 2014, Billy Horschel won the title after starting the playoffs 69th on the points list, which prompted a new system with less volatility beginning in 2015.

Whether the point permutations are now perfect is matter of perspective and it seems likely the tinkering will continue as long as the Tour has calculators. What’s not up for debate is how the FedEx Cup has evolved from a curiosity with largely lukewarm support from the players to a prominent seat at an increasingly crowded table.

“I think it's really achieved what it set out to do, and that's have better fields at the back end of a season,” Scott said. “That's what it set out to do and it’s done that.”

Meaningful golf with strong fields during a time of year when the Tour normally takes a backseat to football was the implied mission of the FedEx Cup, and with a few exceptions that’s what golf’s faux playoffs have accomplished.

Nothing proves that more than the participation numbers for this year’s playoffs.

Masters champion Danny Willett and Shane Lowry passed on this year’s postseason, but that was to defend a title on the European Tour (Willett at the European Masters) and make a final Ryder Cup push (Lowry); and Henrik Stenson skipped last week’s BMW Championship, but that was to nurse an injured knee.

Otherwise, the players have spoken with their feet when it comes to the FedEx Cup.

“Not many guys skip tournaments in the FedEx Cup, one or two here or there, so they're getting great fields every week and that's what we needed,” Scott said.

And the benefits of the increasingly improved postseason go well beyond four weeks in the fall. Across the schedule, players have added events with an eye toward East Lake and the season finale, where a start assures an idyllic schedule at the biggest events the following year.

Players like Kevin Kisner and Kevin Na virtually assured themselves a start at the Tour Championship thanks to a hot start last fall, and each year those post-East Lake events are seeing stronger and stronger fields.

“When we get into the fall series, guys are putting priority on those first events of the year,” David Hearn said. “Maybe in the past guys sort of eased their way into the year. If you're having a good season, you might take it easy. But with this FedEx Cup format now, I think it makes each and every week so important out here.”

The postseason is not perfect. There are some who say four playoff events are one too many, and during Ryder Cup years, like this year, the top players are compelled to make tough schedule decisions that often don’t lead to their best golf.

Nor has the FedEx Cup replaced the Jack Nicklaus Trophy for deciding the year’s top player. The FedEx Cup champion has also won the Tour’s Player of the year award just four times since 2007.

“It determines who's the best player for these four weeks. But that's what playoffs do as well in any other sport,” Scott said. “Just because you've topped the division or whatever you call it doesn't mean you're just going to be given the top spot at the end of the year. Playoffs have volatility and that's what this does.”

There is room for more changes, and if history is any indication, the Tour won’t stop tinkering with the FedEx Cup anytime soon, but just like any other 10-year-old, the players and Tour should all marvel at just how fast the postseason experiment has grown up.

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Bend it like Garcia? Sergio scores in player-caddie soccer match

By Grill Room TeamOctober 20, 2018, 2:44 am

Sergio Garcia has always been able to work his golf ball from left to right, but he's also - apparently - proficient at playing a draw with a soccer ball.

This year's Adalucia Valderrama Masters is suffering through some weather issues. But the highlight of the week - and, according to the Felipe Aguilar, "the year" - was always going to be the event's player-caddie soccer match, which you can see here:

The standout highlight? This bending, left-footed(!) strike from defending champion Sergio Garcia:

"Just a little bit of fun with the caddies and some of the players," Garcia nonchalantly says in the video. "Yeah, just a little bit of running and it was good fun."

Garcia, a diehard Real Madrid fan who kicked off El Clasico in his green jacket back in 2016, has previously appeared in professional matches for CF Borriol, a Tercera Division club in Spain. 

"It's good fun and whenever I'm around I get to practice with them a little bit and play a little bit here and there. This season, I've played probably five games, so not a lot, but I enjoy it," Garcia told CNN back in 2013.

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Dunlap, in 'excruciating pain,' shares early Dominion lead

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:29 pm

RICHMOND, Va. – Scott Dunlap and Fran Quinn shot 5-under 67 on Friday to share the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Fighting a left wrist injury that will require surgery, Dunlap matched Quinn with a closing birdie on the par-5 18th on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''Maybe excruciating pain is the key to playing good golf because I'm not getting nervous on a shot, you're just trying to get through it,'' Dunlap said. ''The worst parts are gripping it and getting the club started ... that's when that bone hits that bone.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

The 55-year-old Dunlap entered the week 29th in the standings. Playing through the wrist injury, he's coming off ties for ninth and seventh in his last two starts.

''I think I finally taped it the right way,'' Dunlap said. ''Or maybe it's the pain meds kicking in. I don't know, one of the two.''

Quinn is 64th in the standings.

''I finished up strong last year, too, kind of secured my privileges for the following year making eagle on 18,'' Quinn said. ''I played solid all day. I had a lot of opportunities. A couple hiccups.''

Jay Haas was a stroke back with Kent Jones, Stephen Ames, Woody Austin and Tim Petrovic. The 64-year-old Haas won the last of his 18 senior titles in 2016.

Vijay Singh and Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, were at 69 with Joey Sindelar, Tom Gillis, Billy MayfairLee Janzen, Glen Day and Gene Sauers.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer opened with a 70. The 61-year-old German star won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the points lead. He has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

Defending Charles Schwab Cup champion Kevin Sutherland had a 71. He's 14th in the standings. No. 3 Jerry Kelly shot 72. No. 4 Scott McCarron, the 2016 tournament winner, had a 74.

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Weather continues to plague Valderrama Masters

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 7:55 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Marc Warren helped his chances of retaining his European Tour card by moving into a tie for second place behind Englishman Ashley Chesters at the rain-hit Andalucia Valderrama Masters on Friday.

Bad weather interrupted play for a second straight day at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain before darkness caused the second round to be suspended until Saturday, with overnight Chesters still ahead at 5-under.

Weather delays on Thursday, including a threat of lightning, had kept 60 golfers from finishing their opening round. They included Scottish player Warren, who went out on Friday and finished his first round with a 2-under 69.

He then made three birdies to go with one bogey on the first nine holes of the second round before play was halted. He joined Frenchman Gregory Bourdy one shot behind Chesters.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

''I'm hitting the ball as well as I have in a long time,'' Warren said. ''Hitting fairways and greens is the most important thing around here, so hopefully I wake up tomorrow with the same swing.''

Chesters and Bourdy were among several golfers unable to play a single hole in the second round on Friday.

Warren, a three-time European Tour winner, has struggled this season and needs a strong performance to keep his playing privileges for next year.

Currently ranked 144th, Warren needs to break into the top 116 to keep his card.

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Watch: Is this the up-and-down of the year?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 3:30 pm

Play away from the pin? Just because there's a tree in your way? Not Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Watch him channel some Arnie (or, more appropriately, some Seve) with this shot in the Valderrama Masters: