A Head-to-Head Answer

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2010, 1:26 am

2006 The TOUR Championship presented by Coca-ColaATLANTA – Is it the FedEx or FedUp Cup? Playoff golf or a payoff? A Tour Championship or a four-day lottery with a $10 million jackpot?

The answer, at least for the half dozen or so media types who used the “bye” week to pick apart the PGA Tour’s postseason carcass, is the latter. And a half dozen golf writers can’t be wrong, can they?

For some, the fourth year of the Tour’s playoff experiment is a bust. It’s golf’s version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, this edition has too much volatility, that option has too little Tiger Woods, and whatever the big brains in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., come up with one gets the feeling it’s never going to be just right.

Five years ago when the Tour introduced the FedEx Cup formula commissioner Tim Finchem likened it the BCS, something people would talk about and debate. Congrats and enjoy.

Lost in all the finger pointing, however, have been the only voices that matter – the players. Much like The Players Championship and its unofficial quest for fifth-major status, the playoffs will be awarded true legitimacy only when the rank and file – not the media or fans or Tour suits – say it’s the real deal.

So like a 6-year-old after 15 minutes on the highway we asked, are we there yet?

“It’s been a success,” said Steve Stricker, as thoughtful a soul as one will find in a player parking lot. “It’s done what it was set up to do and that’s gain more interest in our sport during a time period where our interests kind of fade a little bit because of the start of football season.”

And had Stricker stopped with that company line we could have dismissed the Cheesehead’s thoughts as marketing claptrap. But he didn’t.

“Right now every shot doesn’t matter,” said Stricker, taking aim at a playoff slogan. “You could finish 120-something on the list and still win the FedEx Cup.”

Kevin Streelman, as if the transplanted Midwesterner did anything wrong, has become the poster child of the playoff debate having started the postseason 102nd in points, posting a single top 10 (The Barclays) on the road to East Lake and is now on his way to three of next year’s four majors.

If Stricker is less than amused by Streelman’s climb he can take it up with the Tour’s mathematicians, but if the circuit is married to the idea of calling its postseason push a playoff, the Streelman scenario is part and parcel.

In fact, if player reaction on Wednesday at East Lake was any indication the Tour should start coming up with a way to inject even more volatility into the proceedings.

If excitement is the ends, then the means must be volatile.

“It’s hard to know what playoffs feel like in an individual sport, but if you want a playoff go head-to-head,” Ryan Palmer said. “In golf a playoff is one hole, except for the majors. But it’s head-to-head.”

The Tour considered different variations of a match play theme when they concocted the cup but the concept was ultimately rejected for the same reason it is the only format that fits neatly into the playoff theme. The capricious nature of match play is the bane of television executives everywhere. But then the thought of Tiger Woods losing in an early round of a match play event loses some steam as one walks the Tiger-less East Lake grounds this week.

There’s no need for the Tour Phd.s to do this math. Play the first three playoff events as is, cutting the field progressively from the top 100 on the points list (honestly, if you’re 125th and just keeping your Tour card you don’t deserve a playoff start unless you play hockey or little league football), to the top 75 for the Deutsche Bank Championship and top 50 at the BMW Championship before making a final trim to 32 for East Lake.

Seed the brackets accordingly. Give Nos. 1 and 2 first-round byes if a Sunday without Woods or Phil Mickelson makes you go cold, just let them play.

“That’s a true playoff,” Hunter Mahan gushed. “There’s a reason why they did this, they needed a bang. That’s exciting.”

If the idea of millionaires putting for millions offends the senses consider the current format. If you want to see a play-for-pay type gag a 3-footer tune in for the four majors, or if the pressure of playing for God and country is the ultimate we’ve got a cup of some sort every year now.

The FedEx Cup, however, has always been about the cash. Nothing more. It is why two-time cup champion Woods has yet to kiss the big silver salad bowl.

“If the money wasn’t there I don’t think guys would care as much,” Mahan said.

Nor would the fans. But enough zeros left of a decimal point can make anyone sit up and take notice, so why not make the most of all that loot with a 36-hole, winner-take-all Sunday shootout at East Lake between the last pairing standing?

“How exciting would it be to have two guys going head to head for $10 million?” Palmer said. “That would be a playoff.”

It would also be the democratic answer to all those who dub the current system too volatile. No one outside Indianapolis called last year’s Super Bowl a tad harsh after the Colts’ stellar regular season. There was no use, because that’s a playoff.

And the only way for the Tour to answer all the current questions is to stop tinkering and start a playoff – a real playoff.

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Koepka has his chance 'to earn' his way to No. 1

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:09 am

There won't need to be any wonky math involved. He won't have to settle for finally reaching the the top via some kind of mathematical reset while he's sitting at home on the couch (or more likely working out in the gym).

No, Brooks Koepka on Sunday in South Korea will have a chance to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking the way every player would most want to - with a victory.

On the strength of a bogey-free round of 5-under 67 Saturday, Koepka will enter the final round of the CJ Cup four clear of Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, with six more players five behind.

The tournament is Koepka's to lose, and so too is the No. 1 ranking. So long as Justin Thomas doesn't somehow defend his title from 12 shots back, Koepka can supplant Dustin Johnson atop the rankings with a win or a solo second-place finish.

Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos

"It was something I wanted to do. I always wanted to become World No. 1 in a week that I was playing," Koepka said Saturday. "I thought like I could really earn it and not have a week off where it just so happens that you bump up. No, it would be very special, and to do it here would be nice and hopefully get to world No. 1 and cap it off with a win, I don't think there would be much better."

It would be a fitting end to this breakthrough year for Koepka, who successfully defended his U.S. Open title and then added his third major victory at the PGA Championship en route to claiming the PGA Tour's Player of the Year Award. Oddly enough, given how his career has unfolded, this would be Koepka's fifth Tour victory but only his second in a non-major.

"My confidence has always been pretty high," Koepka said. "Anytime you can win three majors you're going to be feeling pretty good about yourself. To do what I've done over the last two years has been special, but I'm looking to build on that."

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Ahead by four, No. 1 ranking within Koepka's grasp

By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 5:48 am

Following a closing birdie and a third-round 67 at Nine Bridges, Brooks Koepka will take a four-shot lead over Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy into final round of the CJ Cup. Here's how Koepka separated himself from the field in South Korea.

Leaderboard: Koepka (-13), Poulter (-9), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-8), Cameron Smith (-8), Jaime Lovemark (-8), Pat Perez (-8), Gary Woodland (-8), Chez Reavie (-8)

What it means: Koepka is in search of his fifth PGA Tour victory and – believe it or not – only his second non-major. The three-time major champion’s only other win came all the way back in February 2015, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. One behind overnight leader Scott Piercy to start the day, Koepka opened with eight straight pars and birdied Nos. 9 and 10 to take the outright lead at 10 under par. He added three more circles at 14, 17 and 18 to close out a bogey-free round of 5 under and go ahead by ahead by four. He'll be chased on Sunday by Piercy, a four-time PGA Tour winner who won the Zurich Classic earlier this year alongside Billy Horschel, and by Poulter, who ended a five-year worldwide winless drought back in April and is coming off a 2-2 performance at the Ryder Cup, with a Sunday singles victory over current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Speaking of which, unless Justin Thomas finds a way to win this tournament from 12 back, Koepka will for the first time ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win or a solo second-place finish.

Round of the day: Four players – Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ted Potter Jr., Jason Day and Brendan Steele – shot 7-under 65 Saturday. Day played his first four holes in 2 over and his final 14 in 9 under.

Best of the rest: Paul Casey, Hideki Matsuyama and Emiliano Grillo signed for 66. Casey went seven straight holes without a par, Matusyama was bogey-free, and Grillo did all his damage on the back nine after nine consecutive pars on the front.

Biggest disappointment: The only previous winner of this event, world No. 4 Justin Thomas entered the week with a chance to take back the No. 1 ranking with a successful title defense. But rounds of 73-70-72 have him 1 under for the week. Thomas played his back nine in 1 over Saturday with six pars, a birdie, a quadruple bogey and a closing eagle.

Shot of the day: Koepka flying his tee shot 330 yards to the front edge of the green at the par-4 14th and going on to two-putt for birdie.

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Watch: Koepka flies ball 330 yards, drives green

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 20, 2018, 4:44 am

It's a good thing par doesn't actually matter in tournament play, because if it did, the PGA Tour would have to consider 350-yard par-3s, and even those might not stop Brooks Koeopka.

Already ahead by two during Saturday's third round at the CJ Cup in South Korea, Koepka drove the green at the par-4 14th, carrying his ball 330 yards to the front edge.

The back-to-back U.S. Open champ would go on to two-putt for birdie and push his lead to three.

... The USGA is going to try that 350-yard par-3 idea, isn't it?

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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.