This Week in Golf
Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
Sergio and Rory are skipping Barclays this week. Can the FedEx Cup playoffs be real playoffs when players can skip events? What’s a better format? (Note: we probably had a similar question last year but I’ll keep asking until Commissioner Ostrich sees the light).
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I have never been a big fan of the playoffs, mostly because there isn’t a perfect solution. But I’m afraid I don’t have a better solution. If the tournaments were a bit more spread out, perhaps you would get better participation, but I’m sure that’s a logistical nightmare given the jam-packed PGA Tour schedule. It’s probably as good as it’ll get, and the final playoff event is still exciting, with several potential winners of the $10M prize.
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): As I’ve said in the past, the whole FedEx Cup process is far too complicated for my simple mind, and I don’t care about the results much anyway. It does seem odd that players can skip part of the process, but I suppose they do so at the risk of letting the competition gain on them… which shows that they don’t care much about the results, either. Clearly, I’m in good company.
Craig Loughry, GAO Director of Handicapping (@craigloughry): Nope, the value of the “playoffs” and chase for the Cup is diminished a little with players electing to skip events. All players should be mandated to compete; it should become part of the playoff system. The ONLY reason a start can be missed in the playoffs is a serious injury in my opinion. How do you think Barclay’s feels about this? They pay premium money based on top players being in the field, yet two of the top 10 elect to skip it. If I were Barclays I’d be having a conversation (and getting my playoff partners involved too: Deutsche Bank, BMW & Coca Cola) with the Tour to restructure the points system so that all players would have to play in all events to keep going for the $10 mill and the FedEx Cup.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: The faux drama is as contrived as the entire concept, so why not allow no-shows? Nice to hear Jordan Spieth being confused by the FedEx format, and not really enamoured of the reset. Other sports have playoffs, golf doesn’t need to pretend to be like team sports just to stage an obscene money grab. As Spieth said in his Monday press conference: “It all comes down to East Lake.” That’s it, and in this goofy Finchem-sphere, only the top five guys going into the Coca-Cola finale have a chance to win it. (He also said it would be nice to win but it’s nothing compared to a Major). The best solution is to scrap it.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Of course they’re not real playoffs! Real playoffs involve eliminating players, not giving them time off. The only way these things mean anything is if everybody starts equal at the beginning of the playoffs and then moves on based on performance only. You might not get the Top 30 regular season guys in the Tour Championship but you don’t see the Patriots and Seahawks in the Super Bowl every year either.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): That is the luxury of playing well enough during the season to put yourself in a position where you can skip the first leg of the playoffs and still be in contention for East Lake. I understand that McIlroy is skipping the week to rest his ankle, but he is a long ways back from Spieth in Fed Ex Cup points. You would think that if he was serious about winning the $10 million, he would be teeing it up this weekend in New Jersey.
Tiger Woods put himself in contention last week at Wyndham although an ugly chip-yip triple derailed him on Sunday and ended his season. Is this an encouraging sign for Tiger in 2016 or just a result of a short course and weak field?
Quinn: This time the chip-yips were more painful to watch because he was playing well — on a short course against guys ranked as low as himself. Around the greens he infrequently hits in regulation, he is now limited to full swing flop shots, alarming for a guy not yet in his 40s, so it’s anything but encouraging for next season.
Deeks: It does show that Tiger has some life in him, regardless of course and field. But I swear, Tiger will have to be cold and still and lying in a pine box before the media stop scrutinizing and analyzing his every stroke and breath. Even Bob May (and Davis Love) can shoot 64 once in a while, so let’s not assume this is the Second Coming of Tiger. Instead, let’s focus on the real talent on the Tour: Rory, Jordan and Jason, Justin, Dustin and Rickie.
Kaplan: You simply cannot contend on the PGA Tour unless your game is strong. This is a very encouraging sign for Tiger heading into next season. He proved to himself that he is on the right track and that he can still contend on any given week if he is hitting and rolling the ball well. A T18 and a T10 in two of his last three starts is good momentum to build off. Now, he must keep playing if he wants to retain his form and keep the good vibrations going. His best shot at that is teeing it up over the fall, beginning with the Frys.com Open in mid-October when the PGA Tour schedule reboots.
Mumford: Short Course, weak field. When the crunch came, Tiger proved again that he still doesn’t have the jam to keep it going for 72 holes. He can argue all he wants that he’s close but until he can eliminate the demons in his head, close ain’t close enough.
Rule: I can’t tell you how many people I talked to last weekend wanted Tiger to win on Sunday, since it would be exciting for golf. But I have less and less confidence every time Tiger throws up a dud on Sunday afternoon when he’s in contention. I just think that his head and nerves can no longer cope with Sunday pressure, which is incredible when you think he may have been the best ever in the first half of his career. I hope he has a banner 2016 but my money would be on him not winning again at this point.
Loughry: Like crop circles, this is a sign. If you are contending in any Tour event, you’re accomplishing something. Granted the field wasn’t quite as deep but it’s not like the rest of the field were chops – actually it was a pretty good field for a non WGC or Major event. TW was golfing his ball quite nicely the first three days, I think his first nine on Sunday was pretty bland and he knew at that point he’d have a tough time winning (4 back), and if we know Tiger, he doesn’t play for 2nd place. The unfortunate part is Tiger won’t get any reps until December, unless he plays overseas, which if I were in his camp I’d be pushing for so he can build off this and head into next season in fine form.
Davis Love III won at Wyndham on Sunday, becoming the third oldest player in history to win on the PGA Tour. Does that achievement do anything for the reputation of the Champions Tour?
Deeks: The what?
Rule: I admit I have never been a big DL3 fan (no love!), but it was an impressive performance on the weekend, and it certainly does lend more credibility to the Champions Tour. Those guys can still play! But that’s not a new revelation. The past 10 years we have seen several Champions Tour players compete on the PGA Tour, some even coming within a made 6 footer of winning the Open Championship at the age of 59. However, in saying that, you still won’t find me watching many Champions Tour events, but it’s not because of the quality of golf being played.
Quinn: There’s still a Senior Tour? Well then, for the handful of folks aware of that fact, DL3’s win confirms that old guys can make birdies on short courses. But they must have known that all along.
Kaplan: I don’t know how great the Champions Tour’s reputation was to begin with, but anytime you have a recent PGA Tour champion playing in the field, it certainly adds credibility to the calibre of play on your circuit. When (or, if) Vijay Singh finally moves over to the Champions Tour, there will surely be a nice rivalry between him, Love III, Couples, and Langer. Then, I might be tempted to turn the channel to a Champions Tour event. Until then, there is no chance I will be tuning in, especially with the Blue Jays in flight, the Fed Ex Cup playoffs set to begin, and the NFL season just around the corner.
Loughry: The Champions Tour is a hard sell. It’s a nice product but you’re not seeing the best in the world compete, you’re watching the former best compete on short courses setup for low numbers. There is a reasons you see those players flip back to the regular Tour once in a while, they play for bigger money in front of bigger crowds. Davis himself has only played in four Champions Tour events (two in each of the last two years he’s been eligible). That kind of says it all there, but just to spell it out, the GOOD senior players will play the regular Tour until they can’t anymore, then they’ll switch to chase the Schwab Cup.
Mumford: It’s almost a slap in the face to the Champions Tour because basically Love doesn’t play it. Like Vijay Singh and a few others still good enough to compete on the regular Tour, the best players have generally avoided the senior circuit. They don’t need the money and have nothing left to prove. Nicklaus called it “ceremonial golf” and ever since, many of the Hall of Famers have given it a pass. As a TV draw, it ranks somewhere between synchronized swimming and a National Geographic documentary on the mating habits of bees.