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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Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:19 am

IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.

Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.

Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.

Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.

Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."