The Great Playoff Debate

Via email and not appearing for all the world to see, the PGA Tour's Steve Dennis and I debate the best possible format for the pPlayoffs.

Essentially, I'm arguing for a true playoff that lets someone get hot, get to East Lake and maybe pull off a big upset. Steve wants to protect the season points leaders and crunch numbers right up to the end.

Playoff Eliminations Begin!

I like this new FedEx Cup volatility. We're already down to 136 players and it's only Monday.

Tim Rosaforte reports that playoff fever got the best of Lee Westwood, who listed "holiday" as his reasing for pulling out. And to show just how much the playoffs meant to him, Bob Estes...

who finished 124th in the final FedEx Cup standings, scheduled his wedding for this week and is not on the tee sheet.

Vijay Wins On Eve Of PGA; Can't Wait To Try Out His Yips On Oakland Hills Greens

I did eventually fast forward through the final round at Firestone to watch poor Vijay (yep, it was that painful to watch him putt) stab it around the back nine. But only after I had watched, rewound, watched, rewound and watched yet again Commissioner Finchem and Jim Nantz's state-of-the-WGC's interview. I noticed Faldo wasn't included in on that one?

Anyway, Steve Elling on Vijay's win:

It's no stretch to assert that Singh essentially won the $1.35 million prize with 13 clubs, and despite the bane of his existence, which he holds cross-handed and anchored in his abdomen. At times, in that pose, he looks like a guy who is considering committing hari-kari.
Meanwhile this note from Doug Ferguson ought to have the numbers crunchers filing multiple reports on the 2.5 inch rough cut experiment:

A year after only one person (winner Tiger Woods) finished under par, there were 26 subpar scores.

Lesson To Tour Groupies: Flash Your Badge Before Aiming A Champagne Bottle At Your Client

"Chronic pain specialist" Jim Weathers, whose client roster includes John Daly and Phil Mickelson, received a pain treatment of his own after running out to hose down Canadian Open winner Chez Reavie. If I were the cop and hadn't seen his credential (but did look at those tats and guns), I'd have figured he was up to no good, too.

The only ill fortune to find Reavie came during his celebration, when an overzealous police officer tackled his trainer, Jim Weathers, who was giving Reavie a champagne shower.
"Once he saw (my credentials), he was okay," Weathers said, laughing off the incident.
Thanks to reader Tim for the heads up on the Yahoo images.

"Our rules officials have finally realized that — duh! — course setup has a lot to do with pace of play."

As always I enjoyed the pre-Open Championship insights from SI's anonymous tour pro (thought it would be nice if he'd actually seen Birkdale!), including this on the relationship between PGA Tour course setup and slow play.

No doubt I'm wasting my time talking about slow play. One veteran told me that we had the same discussions 25 years ago. The Tour is trying to identify the slower players and work with them to get faster, but in the end we're probably only talking about picking up 15 minutes a round. Is that a big deal? Probably not.
Yes it is!
One thing I like is that the Tour is going to use ShotLink to tell us how long we take for each shot. Certain players who are slow and don't know the average time spent on a particular shot need to be made aware. Our rules officials have finally realized that — duh! — course setup has a lot to do with pace of play. It's not only the players who are slow. When you play a 510-yard par-4 with a semi-island green, you're going to take a while. It seems obvious, but apparently our officials didn't think of it. At some tournaments, like the Memorial, the setups are getting out of control. Guys don't want to play a U.S. Open-style course two weeks before the Open. What Jack Nicklaus had this year at the Memorial was way worse than Torrey Pines. Jack and Arnold Palmer, who's growing serious rough at Bay Hill, may want to have major-championship conditions, but they're in danger of winding up with bad fields. Six-inch rough, furrowed bunkers, greens running at 14 — some guys are going to think twice before coming back.


Reader Greg noted there was one problem with another the mystery pro's comments.

The Tour thinks that putting San Antonio in Atlanta's spot was a terrific swap because Valero is a great sponsor and that we might have a Texas swing: the Nelson, Colonial and San Antonio in successive weeks. The problem is that LaCantera, the Texas Open venue, is awful. None of the top players would tee it up there in the fall, and they won't play there in May, either. Anytime you can see a roller coaster and a Ferris wheel from a tee box — you can actually hear the people on the rides screaming in the background — that's a red flag. Has any great course ever been built next to an amusement park? Until the new TPC San Antonio is finished [in 2010], I don't see top players remembering the Alamo.

Technically, Pine Valley's next door neighbor is an amusement park too. But we understand his point.

Perry Wins Again; May Skip PGA Championship To Rest Up For FedEx Cup

perryarms071308-183x256.jpgJust kidding...maybe. It would be fun if he skipped the FedEx Cup to rest up for the Ryder Cup, wouldn't it?

Anyway, the AP game story about the hottest player in the world not named Tiger winning yet again
He never wanted to be the star, the main attraction, but Kenny Perry will have no choice if this continues. The guy who merely wanted to win enough to make the Ryder Cup team is now racking up victories at a rapid pace.

"I don't want to live in a fishbowl," he said. "I don't want Tiger status."
I'll take Tiger's fishbowl!

Kenny Perry Peaking Just In Time For U.S. Bank Championship

He shares the third round lead at the John Deere Classic, is looking for his third win in five weeks, but has one defender for skipping the Open Championship in Jay Williamson.

“He’s made a commitment to this Tour because he knows that this Tour has put him where he is, and I think other guys need to take a look at what he’s doing because he’s taken a lot of heat for that,” Williamson said. “He’s a guy that really values what the Tour means to him.”

Hey Jay, The Open Championship is a PGA Tour sanctioned event too, you know.

"I'm already in the British Open, and I'm still not going."

I guess I'm not surprised by Kenny Perry's ambivalence toward the Open this year. When he fired a course record 62 at Riviera I was in the final stages of the club history, I asked him if he would pose with a sign that read 62 and the day's date, course, etc.... You'd think I had asked him to read the Torah....backwards, on camera, for Golf Central. 

Since then I've always seen him as Bobby Joe Grooves of Dan Jenkins' You Gotta Play Hurt (not the more refined Bobby Joe of later years). Bobby Joe would have skipped the Open in heartbeat for a chance to play in Milwaukee, as Perry will be doing next week.

Doug Ferguson tries to understand Perry's thinking and concludes that Perry is a bit batty for skipping next week.

Why would anyone skip a chance to play one of four major tournaments that define a career? How does it look when one of the top Americans ducks a major to play against the B-Flight in Milwaukee?

The most peculiar part of Perry's decision is that he finished 16th or better in three of his last four Opens. His best finish was at Royal St. George's, where he wound up four shots behind Ben Curtis in a tie for eighth. That was in 2003, the best season of Perry's career.

Anyone playing this well - and few are better at the moment - can win anywhere.

Such a decision contrasts with Sean O'Hair going through hoops to get a passport to St. Andrews in 2005 after winning the John Deere Classic, or Bob Estes flying across the ocean as an alternate and leaving without ever hitting a shot.
Besides, his captain is squarely behind him.

``I don't care and he doesn't care,'' Azinger said about the British Open flap. ``So why should it bother anybody else? The guy has the guts of a burglar. He's going to be 48. He can do whatever he wants. I'm happy for him.''
There's a metaphor Kenny's wife will want to stitch on a throw pill.

Kenny has the guts of a burglar. -Paul Azinger

Reading today's press conference, Perry comes off as less Bobby Joe and more genuine in his thought process, however limited you may think it sounds.

Q. The pundits are always telling you what you should do. You should have not been in the TV booth at Valhalla at the PGA, you were supposed to play the British Open next week. Are you a contrary guy and do you get tired of people telling you how to run your business?

KENNY PERRY: Well, you know what, I'm not going to lie; it kind of bothers me a little bit. But you know what, I'm an independent contractor. I can do whatever I want, and I like that. I like being able to make the decisions I want to make, and I think it's best for me and my family, and that's the way I want to live my life. If they don't like it, that's fine. They can say all they want to.

But my only goal was to make that Ryder Cup team, and if they're going to -- for me if I was going to play the British Open, I'd have to miss this week, and this is a week I love playing. I was going to have to miss Milwaukee next week, which is a tournament I've won. I've had eight Top 10 finishes there.

I mean, the British Open is a great tournament, don't get me wrong. If you win, you know, a major, everybody looks at all the people in the world when they win majors on your résumé. That is the ultimate.

But it's just at this stage in my career it's just not a goal of mine. I love my family, and I want to play the golf at the courses I enjoy playing at these last couple years, and I'm going to go out on my terms, not on their terms.

Q. If you win this week and get a spot in the British Open, you'd pass it up?

KENNY PERRY: I'm already in the British Open, and I'm still not going.
Q. How hard is that -- how different would your perspective have been 20 years ago making the same decision?

KENNY PERRY: I wouldn't have made the same decision 20 years ago.

"Barely registered"

Thomas Bonk with Monday's overnights for the AT&T National and the worst titled LPGA event ever:
In a word: bad. The overnight ratings for Sunday's fourth round of the AT&T National on CBS were down 48%, from a 2.9 to a 1.5. The third-round overnight ratings were down 35%, from a 2.0 to a 1.3.

Meanwhile, the overnight ratings on CBS for the weekend's LPGA event, the P&G Beauty Northwest Arkansas Championship, barely registered. Saturday's rating was a 0.7 and Sunday's rating was a 0.6.

"Why isn't the PGA Tour and Tim Finchem stepping to the plate and using our own rules?"

Tom Pernice livens up the lagging groove change discussion just in time for the best of British golf writing to give Peter Dawson a free pass when they lob Nerfballs at the Open Championship's R&A press conference!

Doug Ferguson reports on this and other Pernice venting:

"Why isn't the PGA Tour and Tim Finchem stepping to the plate and using our own rules?" Pernice said. "Tim's been against it all the time. We should have our own rules, and this way we could use V-grooves and everybody can have the same set, and driving the ball in the fairway might make a difference."

Or, make firm greens mean something? Well, we'll quibble over that later. You go Tom!

"It's been so bad at Golf Channel that instead of providing live coverage of the Fall Series, the network ran an endless loop of Woods's 2006 appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show."

For my money (which isn't much), Alan Shipnuck should win the GWAA Award For Best Non-Daily What-Will-Golf-Do-Without-Tiger Column division. From last week's SI Scorecard:

He is said to have added 17 pounds of muscle, most of it in his left leg. Gone will be the trademark swoosh on his cap, replaced with mayo clinic, which took advantage of golf fans' newfound interest in medical issues and became his newest big-ticket sponsor. Woods will also unveil a reconstructed swing designed to reduce the torque on his left knee: After carefully studying a sequence of photos of Charles Barkley taken at 1999's American Century Celebrity Golf Championship, Woods has incorporated a pronounced hitch in his downswing.

It is a testament to his tremendous athletic ability that he is still able to drive the ball up to 210 yards. To chronicle the return of the world No. 1 — yes, Woods had piled up enough points to retain his lofty perch while idled — ESPN and CBS are planning wall-to-wall coverage.

(A tiny camera has been embedded within Woods's knee, so viewers can gauge how well his surgically repaired ACL holds up during the Masters.)

Television executives are giddy about Woods's return, since ratings have plunged 93% without him. It's been so bad at Golf Channel that instead of providing live coverage of the Fall Series, the network ran an endless loop of Woods's 2006 appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.