Thankfully It's Still 2018: Tiger Opens Tour Championship With 65, Tied For Lead

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Golfweek’s David Dusek has the details of Tiger’s first round at East Lake in five years and it was a beauty.

“This was by far better than the 62 at Aronimink,” Woods said, referring to his opening round at the BMW Championship two weeks ago. “Conditions were soft there. It’s hard to get the ball close here. There’s so much chase in it. If you drive the ball in the rough, you know you can’t get the ball close.”

If this were 2019 and Tiger came into the Tour Championship/FedExCup finale 20th in the standings, things would have been different after round one given the new “strokes-based” handicap system announced this week. As Joel Beall notes for GolfDigest.com, “thank the golf gods the system doesn't come to fruition until next fall.”

Beall posts the full top 8 and Tiger would be five back of Justin Rose after one round.

Of more note for those wanting to consider how the system will work for the Cup leaders, there is Bryson DeChambeau—winner of two playoff events and the FedExCup leader—already three back following an opening 71.

Ranking The 11 FedExCup Finishes: Kyle Porter Deserves Time-And-A-Half

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Maybe he just wanted to inflict pain upon himself during the bye week or maybe some editor was annoyed with Kyle Porter of CBSSports.com, because I can’t fathom anyone wanting to relive the eleven FedExCup finishes in much detail. Though Porter has provided a service to anyone wanting to know why the format will be changing.

A glance at the list yielded one quibble for me—Furyk’s backward cap year is only 6th!?—and mostly sympathy for Porter’s plight in trying to find the beauty in what has to be one of the drearier sets of championship-concluding memories.

The stars are aligned for a grand finish this year regardless of format, so keep those fingers crossed!

Perhaps starting in 2019 we’ll get a new format that yields something more satisfying. I’m confident it won’t take much of a change to get there, but still unsure about the floated concept. From Morning Drive:

Focus Group-Tested, Players-Approved FedExCup For 2019 Still Lacks A Certain Something

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Let's establish a few things for those who might have forgotten: the FedExCup has been a resounding success despite lackluster ratings and constant tweaking over the years.

Which, of course, is why something so good, so brilliantly conceived, and so universally adored by the masses will be blown up in 2019. Despite years of great suggestions from all corners of the golf watching world, it should be noted the PGA Tour chose to cook up an internal idea that has some merit but also potential holes.

 AP's Doug Ferguson says the vaunted points system, resets and algorithms will be tossed in favor of a scoring bias system that starts the FedExCup leader at -10 and works its way down from there.

The problem was splitting attention on two trophies. A year ago, Xander Schauffele won the Tour Championship by one shot over Justin Thomas, who won the FedEx Cup. Thomas said later it was a “weird” moment to lose the tournament and win the $10 million prize.

This means we have a weird 72-hole stroke play event where one player starts with a 10-stroke advantage, the next guy 8 strokes, and on down for the top 5. Presumably after those top 5 everyone else will start from scratch. 

After legions of great suggestions over the years ranging from aggregate stroke play playoffs to points systems that produce a one-day shootout any sports fan can understand, we have something crafted by focus groups. Literally.

From Brian Wacker's GolfWorld.com story with more details on the concept:

According to multiple sources, the organization gathered statisticians and focus groups to help flesh out the format and gauge how well the changes would be received. Roughly 80 percent of the focus groups grasped the concept and said it was easier to understand, according to one source.

This handicap tournament will count as an official win despite the stroke-weighted structure. 

No doubt, Cialis prescriptions went unused for days when the statisticians and tour executives were told the new format would have produced a one-stroke Justin Thomas win over Jordan Spieth in 2018.  (Spieth held the FedExCup lead over Thomas heading to East Lake, so this presumes he started -10 to Thomas's -8).

That duel surely would have made for some great theater, but the year before, Dustin Johnson would have played just a so-so final tournament and have beaten Rory McIlroy by three strokes. That McIlroy win in a playoff was confusing but also possibly the most exciting in the Tour Championship's FedExCup era despite the confusion over scenarios.

Ultimately Sundays at East Lake should get better and maybe even make more sense in this scenario. But before you say Billy Horschel, the PGA Tour's Playoffs(C) have always lacked the dramatic potential for wild upsets, surprise eliminations and an underdog component. 

The final four days at East Lake will still be just like before: three days of ho-hum golf with fingers crossed the numbers add up to make Sunday work. Which begs the question: what so has the players, execs and focus-groups still afraid to cut after 36 holes, reset the points, cut again for an exciting Saturday, then feature a Sunday shootout with just a few playing-for-the-big-check?

I guess we still will never find out.

How's This For A Tour Championship Plus One Scenario?

If the 2017 Tour Championship had been in 2019 when it could potentially change, here's how I would love to have seen it play out.

Remember, the schedule that year will likely finish on Labor Day Monday, meaning the Tour Championship could start on Thursday and end on Sunday.

Instead of everyone trying to figure out who is winning the FedExCup and overshadowing a golf tournament Coca Cola pays handsomely to sponsor, what if Sunday was mostly about the Tour Championship and the need to make it to championship Monday.

In the case of the 2017 Tour Championship, Xander Schauffele's win would have been a huge way to sneak in to the Monday finish. And what happens Monday?

Why six players at 18 holes of very simple stroke play for $10 million.

If the Tour Championship this year had cut to six--other numbers seem awkward--we'd have the guys broken into two threesomes or three twosomes playing Labor Day Monday for the big prize.

Here were the top six after play Sunday at East Lake courtesy of GolfChannel.com and I must say, kind of a perfect scenario of season long stars and playoff upstarts:


And here are the almost-finalists who had nice seasons and playoffs, but I think everyone would agree, were not deserving of making it to Monday's madness either because of playoff struggles or just not enough regular season success.

For those who don't recall the many times I've floated these scenarios where we send the algorithms home and just let the lads play golf, spare me the arguments that season long success must matter to the very end.

At some point we have to cut the cord and just make this a very simple shootout for the big money.

The entertainment will ensue and even better, sponsors will love it, television will have something to talk about that is actually more interesting than a mysterious mathematical formula, and the average fan will be able to follow along. Best of all, the sun will still rise in the east and set in the west.

Casey Leads, Kisner Copters Out: Another FedExCup Is (Mercifully) About To End!

Outside of player accountants, I know almost none of you will have the live updated FedExCup standings page open during Sunday's Tour Championship finale at East Lake. That's because the competition you hate having to explain to inquisitive friends is about to wrap another year of...promoted pieces telling us how great the FedExCup is.

At least something that might make more sense--splitting the Tour Championship from a FedExCup final day--is in the works pending player input. Until then, we'll be held hostage to the algorithms, which makes explaining scenarios very tough sledding (Wacker/GolfDigest.com).

At least this year there was the fun of Kevin Kisner helicoptering out of Atlanta to watch his beloved Georgia Bulldogs to remind us where most sports fans would rather be (DiMeglio/USA Today). Kisner Tweeted a photo and credited Justin Thomas for helping him find the ride (Hoggard/Golfweek).

At least there is Xander Schauffele emerging as a big time player almost out of nowhere, including after a terrible start to the season. (Babineau/Golfweek).

At least Justin Thomas doesn't care where he stands when the numbers crunchers tried to inform of his Sunday scenarios (Babineau/Golfweek).

And at least there is Paul Casey to root for, who has played spectacularly in "playoff" events without winning (Everill/PGATour.com) and whose track record in final rounds does not match his talent (Murray/Guardian).

Points leader Jordan Spieth is feeling mostly powerless in the chase for the Cup after a third round 69 (Hoggard/GolfChannel.com).

PGA Tour Considering Shocking Plan To Emphasize Entertainment And Clarity Over Current Playoff Conclusion

I'm getting ahead of myself here because, after all, Doug Ferguson's AP report on the possible FedExCup playoff change wil be taken to the players for feedback. You know, the same players who said 72-holes of stroke play is the only way for Olympic golf to be presented.

Still, the possibility of a playoff shakeup is exciting. Sure, Steve Sands will have to retire the white board and algorithm writers may protest a Sunday finish that is straight-stroke play, but we'll deal with that when it happens.

ShackHouse listeners know I floated two scenarios this week, including an algorithm-driven elimination system that whittles the field down after 36 and 54 holes.

And while I think that would be great fun, especially by injecting life into Tour Championship rounds other than Sunday, the scenario Tour officials are considering makes more political sense. In other words, it will hurt fewer feelings.

One concept being explored is staging the Tour Championship, handing out a trophy, and then the top FedEx Cup finishers playing the next day over 18 holes to determine the winner.

That's a long way off from becoming a reality, and it includes feedback from the players. One area of dissent is that the current system works fine.

Fine=draws ratings in the mid 1's consistently!

Playoff Fever! Stars Looking Forward To The Off-Season

Maybe golf's Playoffs(C) are so rigorous and stressful that they invoke longing for a vacation. Or, not.

Nothing screams playoffs like athletes telling us how they are looking forward to a break. But this is the FedExCup, where stars are coddled by points resets that help get them through all of the stages. Something tells me if these were actual playoffs with traditional eliminations for poor play, that Rory McIlroy's and Bubba Watson's wouldn't be telegraphing their much needed breaks.

Rory on Tuesday, courtesy of Kyle Porter at CBSSports.com:

"I'm not at 100 percent, but I'm at a percent where I feel like I can still compete," McIlroy told reporters. "I want to get a win before I shut it down for the season, so I'm excited for the next few weeks, but I'm excited for the next three months after that. Because more than likely I'll take some time off and regroup.

"When's the last time I've been able to take that much time off and focus on myself and my game. We don't get an off-season anymore, so to be able to get that time to afford myself, I'm really excited about that as well."

After an opening 73 on top of many okay finishes by his high standards, might these playoffs be more interesting if they were sending McIlroy home early? And given that he's not getting any help from his caddie, as David Dusek at Golfweek points out following a day watching Rory play, might the urgency be there with a format that endangers his ability to advance in the playoffs.

Then there is Bubba Watson, who has worked twelve weekends in 2017 even after getting a major wake-up call a year ago when passed over for the Ryder Cup team. Still, he's ready for a break as soon as the playoffs are over.

From Rex Hoggard's Golfweek story:

“You know, truthfully, when I'm done with the playoffs, no matter where that is, I'm taking at least four and a half months off. I won't play until next year,” said Watson, who opened with a 3-under 67 and was tied for fifth at Glen Oaks. “I don't know about you, but traveling every week, my kids started kindergarten. ... If I had to choose golf or family, I'm going family every day of the week.”

Algorithm writers: let's figure out a points reset that helps these stars begin their hard-earned vacations early!

FedExCup Renewal: Complications And Concerns

For fans, there was only one piece of news that should have come out of FedEx's renewal that matters: an improved format and better flow to the PGA Tour schedule.

Given the complex nature of the changes being discussed, neither happened. But it's worth waiting to see how things play out in hopes of turning an odd algorithm-driven competition into one that is a true playoff at season's end. Because as Adam Schupak  notes at MorningRead.com, the FedExCup extension brought more questions than answers.

Given that Commissioner Jay Monahan insisted there were no plans to move The Players back to March, the possibility of a a schedule change still seems up in the air. Yet FedEx's rep, Patrick Fitzgerald, gave away his excitement at the potential schedule refinement in a Monday gathering of select press:

There is some exciting potential when you look at the schedule and other things, but I don't know what the best answer will be yet, and that's why we are so fortunate that we have a close collaborative working relationship with the TOUR, and they have a very clear view of some potential things that could change and how that would affect things.  So I'm confident that if the schedule changes, it will be in the best interest of golf and of the FedExCup.

Format tweaks were not discussed but seem possible. They even seem a priority based on some of the comments made by both men.

However a bigger question remains: is securing FedEx's sponsorship more important than any other relationship the Tour enjoys?

Doug Ferguson asked about this in Monahan's press conference:

Q. Can you just ever see a day where a tournament that performs well in its community and charity and everything else, there's not room for it on the schedule?

JAY MONAHAN: No, I think there will always be room. Using that fact pattern, there will always be room because you're talking about a tournament that's performed very well, that's performed well for us and we have got a strong relationship with, so I could see change in the schedule, but I can't see a removal of a partner from our schedule, because we have a duty and a commitment the to do everything we can to build those partnerships. I don't know, but that would be my response to it; we're certainly not thinking that way.

Yet contraction seems likely in some markets and a longtime charity could be hurt in the effort to tighten up the "product". 

And now player pocketbooks may take a hit at the behest of FedEx.

An exclusivity clause was part of the new 10-year agreement, reports GolfChannel.com's Rex Hoggard. This could be harmless, or could set off dreadful corporate boundary wars that also target players not endorsed by preferred partners. 

According to sources, the clause will keep players from participating in the season-long race if they have endorsement deals with one of FedEx’s competitors.

“All I'm going to say on that front is when you're in business with someone for 30 years, and you're about to commit to 10 more, you do some things to protect each other on a long-term basis,” commissioner Jay Monahan said. “That's what we've done in this agreement, and our players know that; our players understand it; our players think so highly of FedEx and what they've meant to them in terms of playing financial opportunities. So we do everything we can to protect our partners.”

Lee Westwood and Louis Oosthuizen both have endorsement deals with UPS but have been grandfathered in and will not be impacted.

Could UPS logos on shirts really have been that terrible for FedEx that the deal hinged on such a request? Call me crazy, but lame points resets and the overall view of a bloated, boring competition should have been priority number one over a corporate turf war.

Overall, these are entirely first-world matters and I sense the end goal of Monahan and FedEx is to create something that is fan friendlier, more entertaining and better in the sports landscape.

But getting there is not going to be easy or, at times, very pretty.

Playoff Pressure! Bubba Aims At Tent; Jordan Goes Home

You can literally see the playoff vibe at Plainfield.

In the form of large, Impact font lettering along the fairway, just in case you forgot these were playoffs where algorithms rule!

That's the good news for Jordan Spieth, who misses his third cut of 2015 but is still very much alive in the FedExCup points race despite stepping on his ball. Reinforcing just how vital these playoffs are, Spieth put new irons in the bag this week, reported Jonathan Wall (and noted by golf.com's Brendan Moehler).

The 36-hole leader, Bubba Watson, apparently doesn't care much for Plainfield due to the blind shots, so he's aiming at tents and not worrying if he moves the ball. He's also using driver on holes where the play seems iffy, but the strategic tactic is to secure a few of the next shot.

Kevin Maguire on the tent play:

The two-time Masters champ said previously this course just doesn't suit his eye. Blind shots, of which there are many on the classic Donald Ross design, are difficult for Watson and he is an extremely visual golfer.

"The reason why I hit driver is to make the hole visually better for me on the next shot," Watson said.

Asked about his hole after the round, Watson simply gave the answer that many a weekend golfer would after making a par in a non-traditional.

"There's no pictures on the scorecard," he said.

But it doesn't really matter because the golf should still be fun. Example 4.5 million of how much more fun golf is when the ground game matters, Jason Day style at Plainfield's superb 7th hole:

Playoff "Vernacular" & Logo Change...Again!

Disappointingly, the Reset Cup has not become the preferred description of the algorithm infused, two-points reset system best known as the FedExCup Playoffs, until next year when the vernacular changes again.

For Immediate Something:

NEW LOGO FOR THE FEDEXCUP PLAYOFFS
 
The seventh year of the FedExCup Playoffs kicks off this week at The Barclays, featuring the top 125 players in the 2013 FedExCup standings.
 
For your use, we have attached the new logo, "FedExCup Playoffs," that replaces the previous version, "PGA TOUR Playoffs." We would greatly appreciate any  references going forward to be the "FedExCup Playoffs" and use of the new logo as well.
 
Additional changes to PGA TOUR vernacular are as follows:
 
·        The Playoffs officially become the FedExCup Playoffs (with new logo).
·        There should be no more reference to the Regular Season.

What about lower case regular season?

·        The 2013 PGA TOUR Season concludes October 6 at The Presidents Cup.  The 2013-14 PGA TOUR Season begins October 7 at the Frys.com Open.
·        Reference to a specific tournament will still be by the calendar year in which it is played.
·        There no longer will be a “Fall Series” on the PGA TOUR; those should be referred to as “season-opening events.”
·        The final four events on the Web.com Tour are the Web.com Tour Finals, ending with the Web.com Tour Championship at TPC Sawgrass (Dye's Valley course).

FedExCup, From This Day Forward Your Official Name Is FedExCup Playoffs

After intense merger talks between lawyers for FedExCup(C) and The Playoffs(C), PGA Tour Communications has announced major structural and terminlogy changes to the 2013-14 ResetCup.

The resets are firmly in place and the whole thing is all about the algorithm writers and not the players, so rest assured nothing was changed there.

But we have a new official name for the playoff portion of the proceedings: FedExCup Playoffs. Along with it comes a highly unoriginal caddie bib for the current leader ripped off inspired by the Champions Tour's Schwab Cup, which ripped off took inspiration from the Tour de France.

 The bib is distinguishable with orange accents on the shoulders and pocket.

I guess a few accents are better than dressing up the caddie in a FedEx uniform?

  • The Playoffs officially become the FedExCup Playoffs (with new logo)

Me thinks someone paying lavishly to sponsor the cup wanted more bang for their buck...

• We no longer refer to the Regular Season; we reference the PGA TOUR Season and the FedExCup is the season-long competition that culminates with the FedExCup Playoffs

Got that Lerner? I want that taped to your refrigerator door.

That goes for you, too, Hicks, Nantz, Gannon and the entire Communications Department.

Just curious, do we writers have to capitalize regular season or face parking in the volunteer lot?

 • Once the schedule begins to bridge calendar years, the season reference will include both years, as in: the 2013-2014 PGA TOUR Season
 
• Reference to a specific tournament will still be by the calendar year in which it is played, as in: XXX is defending champion of the 2013 Frys.com Open (which is part of the 2013-14 PGA TOUR Season)
 
• There no longer will be a “Fall Series” on the PGA TOUR; those tournaments should be referred to as “season opening events”

Darn, and I had Fall First in the pool.

 • The 2013 PGA TOUR Season will include 36 events before the FedExCup Playoffs

Therefore prompting Websters to add PGA Tour to its definition for "oversaturation."

• Three Additional Events, played the same weeks as certain Major Championships and World Golf Championships, will offer a slight increase in FedExCup Points (winners receive 300 points, vs. 250 in 2012)
 
• An off week during the FedExCup Playoffs will fall between the second and third events (rather than the third and fourth)
 
• The 2013 PGA TOUR Season and the FedExCup Playoffs end in late September with the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola
 
• The 2013-2014 PGA TOUR Season officially begins 3 weeks later; the season-opening events begin awarding full FedExCup points

Ugh, I spoke to soon. We get three whole weeks off! Thankfully, I know this new shortened off-season and increased workload has meant more pay for the hard working PGA Tour staff. Well, at least at the VP and up level.

• The CIMB Classic and World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions become official events on the PGA TOUR (official victory, full FedExCup points, official money; winners qualify for Hyundai Tournament of Champions) 

Alas, no fixing the format...again.

But why fix what's broken?

Snedeker: “That’s all I needed.”

The AJC's Steve Hummer with Brandt Snedeker's emotional Saturday winning $11 million in the Tour Championship/ResetCup but starting the day with a trip 11 miles away to the Shepherd Rehabilitation Center to visit the badly injured Tucker Anderson, son of his instructor Todd.

Only natural the subject of the Tour Championship would arise.

So, Tucker, you think I can beat Rory today?

Tucker Anderson had been involved in a near fatal car accident in Florida two weeks ago and was transferred to the Shepherd Center for treatment of a traumatic brain injury. The teen can’t speak yet. But as Snedeker relayed later, Tucker answered him with a wink.

“That’s all I needed,” Snedeker said.

C’mon, how you gonna beat that?

Bob Harig feels Snedeker's clean victory in the Tour Championship made his ResetCup win better too because the algorithms stayed out of the affair. Those poor calculability codes and rolled up Oxfords in PVB that couldn't bring the attention off the golfers and onto the suits!

The fact that Snedeker won the Tour Championship by 3 shots over Justin Rose and kept the typically contrived and confusing points scenarios to a minimum makes for a nice bow on that FedEx package.
Even Rory McIlroy, who finished second to Snedeker in the final FedEx standings despite two playoff victories, a major championship and a total of four wins this year (to Snedeker's two), was left to give a golf clap to Snedeker while having to "settle'' for his $3 million bonus.

"I'm a little disappointed, but at the same time, Brandt really deserves to win," McIlroy said. "If you look at his stats the whole way [throughout] the week, he played the best golf out of anyone. He knew what he needed to do. He needed to come in here and win. He controlled his own destiny, just like I did, and he was able to come and do that. Because of that, he really deserves it."

Rob Matre posts a lovely album of final day shots and also this awesome shot of Snedeker making a key putt.

Snedeker's entire post round interview transcript.

For those of you counting at home, the aggregate scoring concept for the Playoffs would have finished this way:

Rory McIlroy, 41 under (-1) -42   
Dustin Johnson, 36 under (-1) -37  
   

Tiger Woods, 34 under (-2) -36
Brandt Snedeker, 25 under (-10) -35
Ryan Moore, 24 under (-6) -30
Phil Mickelson, 31 under (+1) -30
Louis Oosthuizen, 34 under (+7) -27

And for those of you favoring the "Plus One" concept endorsed by Brandel Chamblee and Johnny Miller last week, that means the final foursome after the Tour Championship play would have been McIlroy, Woods, Johnson and Snedeker, playing either one round or 36 for the $10 million prize.

Now that's one reset I'd love to see!

ESPN's Sportscenter highlight package:

Furyk: "Nope, I have no idea" Of FedExCup Standing As It Unfolds

When former FedExCup Jim Furyk made his comments today at East Lake about having no idea about where he stands in the ResetCup as the Tour Championship unfolds, he was repeating what's been said many times over the last five years. So it's hardly news.

But it got me to thinking, is there any other "championship" in the world of sport where the combatants aren't sure where they stand as they compete in the final moments?

Certainly makes it unique.

"Nope, I have no idea," the American told reporters on Tuesday when asked if he was fully versed in what he needed to do to emulate his 2010 FedExCup success. "I know I would have to win (the Tour Championship), and a lot of (other) things would have to happen. But I'm never really worried about that.

"I had two or three friends try to text me, 'do you know what you have to do?' No. It's hard enough winning a golf tournament. I can't control the rest."