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Money is money, but the FedExCup has earned respect

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2017, 7:53 pm

ATLANTA – Pat Perez, never one to mince words or sugarcoat a $10 million elephant in a room, was asked on Wednesday about his chances this week at the traveling circus’ big finish.

“You know, for me to win the FedExCup, there's got to be a million things that have to go right and the biggest one happens to be me winning,” the eclectic veteran figured. “For me it's like winning the Powerball, because all the top guys would have to play bad, which they haven't done all year. So for them to all do it at once and me win, it’s about the same odds as Powerball.”

And does Perez play Powerball? “No, no chance. I bought a can of chew instead. Got more enjoyment out of that,” he answered.

East Lake understandably to some qualifies as “fantasy land” - Perez's words, not mine - but the elusive jackpot at the end of this week’s rainbow has a much more tangible meaning to others in the field.

After a decade, winning the FedExCup has fully evolved into an accomplishment that transcends even the most lofty expectations the PGA Tour had when it introduced its unique version of a playoff in 2007.

Players may have initially embraced the concept in ’07, if not the overly complicated math, but the cup's place among the game’s most coveted achievements was very much in flux.

Tiger Woods skipped the postseason opener in the New York area in ’07, the year he won the inaugural FedExCup, and Sergio Garcia hasn’t played the playoff lid-lifter four times in 11 years.

The $10 million was always attractive, and players by and large appreciated what the playoffs did for golf - creating meaningful competition during a time of year when the game had largely been a sporting afterthought - but the FedExCup wasn't necessarily high on players' priority lists.

That notion has changed, slowly but surely, as evidenced by this week’s field at East Lake and the level of play so far this postseason. That evolving reality has never been as obvious as it was on Tuesday when Jordan Spieth, the points leader entering the finale, was asked what was more important to players this week, assuming they would have to choose – a victory at East Lake or the FedExCup?

“I think players are probably more focused on the FedExCup than the Tour Championship,” he said.


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Current FedExCup Playoff points standings


That doesn’t mean Spieth or the other 29 guys in the field completely understand the convoluted points and permutations that go into the winning equation, but with history has come a general understanding of what needs to happen to claim the cup.

Just twice in the playoff era has the winner at East Lake not gone on to win the FedExCup, and both of those victors came before the circuit reworked the points structure to help tilt the competition toward those who play the best in the postseason.

Although he said he isn’t aware of every possible scenario, Spieth fully grasps the concept that - for the top five points leaders - one win (the Tour Championship) will beget another (the FedExCup) on Sunday.

“There are a lot of scenarios where I can still win the FedExCup and not win, and I can finish seventh like last week and probably still win depending on how it shapes up,” he explained. “But the likelihood is the guys that have been playing really well, the guys that are hot, you're likely to see toward the top of the leaderboard again.”

Spieth's wait-and-see scenario came to fruition for last year's points leader Dustin Johnson, when Rory McIlroy went into a playoff with Kevin Chappell and Ryan Moore late Sunday.

McIlroy needed to win the OT bout to claim the $10 million, while Johnson waited in the clubhouse for an alternative, as a Chappell or Moore victory would have assured him the cup instead.

“I still give [Chappell] crap, because he's a buddy of mine, so I still jab at him every once in a while about how much he cost me,” joked Johnson, who begins this week third on the points list.

Johnson can joke about his $7 million shortfall, the difference between finishing first and second in the FedExCup standings, because even though the check gets people’s attention, it’s the meaning and depth of the competition that motivates players – at least players at this level.

“In terms of this week, it's definitely not about the money. It's definitely not about being better than anybody else. I just like to win, and I like trophies,” said Justin Thomas, who enters the week behind only Spieth. “Not only the Tour Championship, but anytime you can win a year-long race and be known as a champion of an entire year, it's a big deal.”

The FedExCup means vastly different things to different people, but the biggest difference now is that it’s truly meaningful to the players.

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USGA receives more than 9,000 U.S. Open entries

By Will GrayApril 26, 2018, 4:31 pm

The field of contestants for golf's most democratic major has been set.

The USGA announced that it received 9,049 entries for this year's U.S. Open, with the deadline for entry expiring at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday. That total includes 515 applications on the final day, 115 in the final hour and a buzzer-beater from Drew Caudill, a 32-year-old pro from Mount Vernon, Ohio, who beat the entry deadline by only 23 seconds.

This marks the seventh straight year that the USGA has received more than 9,000 entries, but the total marks the second straight year of a decline in applications. At least 9,860 players entered each year from 2013-16, topping out in 2014 when 10,127 applications were received. But last year there were 9,485 entries for Erin Hills, and this year's return to Shinnecock yielded only one more application than the USGA got in 2005.

For the vast majority of entrants, the next step is a spot in 18-hole local qualifying which begins April 30 and runs through May 17. The fortunate few advance from there to 36-hole sectional qualifiers, played May 21 in Japan and June 4 across 11 other sites in the U.S. and England.

A total of 54 players are already exempt into the 156-man field, including 12 former winners. The only remaining ways to earn an exemption from qualifying are to win either The Players or BMW PGA Championship next month, or be ranked inside the top 60 in the Official World Golf Rankings on either May 21 or June 11.

The U.S. Open will be played June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., which is hosting the event for the first time since 2004.

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Report: Houston Open may move to Memorial Park in '19

By Will GrayApril 26, 2018, 3:48 pm

Still without a permanent spot on the PGA Tour schedule, the Houston Open appears to be on the move.

According to a report from the Houston Business Journal, there is a proposal in place to shift the tournament downtown in 2019, returning to Memorial Park Golf Course which previously hosted the event from 1951-1963.

While formal relocation plans have not been announced, the tournament officially reached the end of an era this week when the Golf Club of Houston, which has hosted the event since 2003, informed the Houston Golf Association that it would no longer serve as tournament host moving forward.

"We received notice this week from the Golf Club of Houston regarding the club's decision to no longer host a PGA Tour event," read an HGA statement obtained by GolfChannel.com. "Currently, the HGA's focus is on securing a long-term title sponsor. The Golf Club of Houston has been a great venue for the Houston Open dating back to 2003 and we look forward to maintaining a great relationship with the club."

Such a move would be a win for Houston mayor Sylvester Turner, who has expressed an interest in returning the tournament within city limits. The Golf Club of Houston is located in Humble, a suburb 20 miles northeast of downtown.

"This move would place the tournament on center stage in downtown Houston, creating a central location for the city to rally around," read marketing materials cited in the Business Journal report. "Houston Proud Partners of the Houston Open would have the opportunity to collaborate with the Houston Golf Association on this historic move and make a lasting statement that would be seen for generations."

The Houston Open's lineage dates back to 1946, but its future remains in question. Shell Oil ended its 26-year sponsorship of the event in 2017, and this year it was played without a title sponsor and financed in part by the HGA.

The tournament has also carved out a niche with its pre-Masters slot on the schedule, where it has been played every year but once since the advent of the FedExCup in 2007. But next year that coveted position will go to the Valero Texas Open, leaving Houston's place on a revamped 2019 schedule in question.

The Houston Open remains one of only two tournaments on the current Tour calendar without a title sponsor. Earlier this week Charles Schwab signed a four-year deal to sponsor the Fort Worth Invitational beginning in 2019, and a report this week indicates the other unsponsored event, The National, may be on the verge of moving from the Washington, D.C. area to Detroit.

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With baby on the way, Piller WDs from Zurich

By Ryan LavnerApril 26, 2018, 2:45 pm

AVONDALE, La. – With wife Gerina set to give birth to their first child, Martin Piller figured he’d need to check his phone every few holes at the Zurich Classic.

He didn’t even make it that far.

Piller withdrew before the start of the first round Thursday.

Piller’s partner, Joel Dahmen, who only got into the field because of Piller’s status as the team’s A player, was allowed to remain in the event.

Piller was replaced in the field by Denny McCarthy. The new team of McCarthy-Dahmen will tee off at 2:36 p.m. ET.

The format change at the Zurich should make things easier for the new teammates. The first round is now best ball, not alternate shot.

The only event that Gerina, a three-time U.S. Solheim Cupper, has played this season was the Diamond Resorts Invitational in January. The couple’s baby was due May 3, and she said that she plans to take off the entire year.

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China's Jin (64) leads by one in Beijing

By Associated PressApril 26, 2018, 12:28 pm

BEIJING – Daxing Jin took a one-stroke lead at the China Open after shooting an 8-under 64 Thursday in the first round.

Jin's bogey-free round at the Topwin Golf and Country Club included six birdies and an eagle on the par-5 eighth. The 25-year-old Jin is playing in only his eighth European Tour event and has made the cut only once.

Matt Wallace (65) had an eagle-birdie finish to move into a tie for second with Nino Bertasio, who also produced a bogey-free round. Alexander Bjork and Scott Vincent (66) were a further stroke back.

Defending champion Alexander Levy, who won last week's Trophee Hassan II in Morocco, is in a large group five shots off the lead at 3 under.