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Golf Roundtable: FedEx Cup Playoffs Edition

Steve Emmert

Steve Emmert

Emmert covers hockey and golf for RotoWire. In his spare time, he sets things right in the Supreme Court of Virginia. He's also a master craftsman of Virginia's Unoffical State Beverage, the mint julep.

We've once again gathered the wedgehogs to mull over the fortunes of the 125 PGA Tour players who have qualified for the FedEx Cup playoffs, which begin this week at The Barclays.

1. Which player deep in the playoff standings looks likeliest to make a significant move at The Barclays and Deutsche Bank, and earn a couple extra weeks of work?

Mike Riek

I'll take the adventurous route here and go with PGA Tour rookie Morgan Hoffmann. Sitting at 111th in the FedEx Cup standings, Hoffmann has notched three top-10s on the year and is trending with four of his last five events inside the top 25. While he has little familiarity with The Barclays or Deutsche Bank venues, he is ninth on tour in birdie average with 15 of his last 20 rounds at par or better, so a lack of course knowledge can definitely be counterbalanced by good form when considering this young standout.

Greg Vara

Robert Garrigus enters this week at No. 71 in the FedEx standings, but after a decent performance at the PGA Championship (T-25), I think he might be back on the way up. Garrigus started the season well with five consecutive top-25s, but he hit a major slump in May and didn't recover until recently. At least for the sake of this topic, I'm hoping he's recovered. Garrigus didn't fare all that well at The Barclays and the Deutsche Bank last year, but he did record top-10s in the final two events of the FedEx, so he knows a thing or two about playing golf this time of year.

Jeremy Schilling

I'm going to go with Daniel Summerhays, who's 75th. Three of his last four finishes have been very strong, T9-T4-playoff loss-missed cut, and that run includes a 62 and a 63. A good portion of these players will be seeing Liberty National for the first time, which could bode well for someone like Summerhays looking to cash in.

Ed Cushing

My outstander is 21-year-old Hideki Matsuyama. His recent work: Top-10 at U. S. Open and British Open, T-16 at Canadian Open, T-21 at WGC-Bridgestone, T-19 at PGA Championship, and 15 at Wyndham. He's entered just seven events and has six top-25 finishes.

Steve Emmert

I keep waiting for John Senden to break out. Tee-to-green, he's always among the elite players on Tour; his putting has always held him back. He's just outside the Top 100, which means he needs to play well to get to the Deutsche Bank. I think he'll do it, but I'd be going way, way out on a limb to pick him to get to Atlanta. Among the guys outside the top 75, I think Jerry Kelly is a better pick to go that far.

2. The last two seasons, eventual FedEx Cup champions Brandt Snedeker (2012) and Bill Haas (2011) both entered the playoffs ranked outside the top 10 in the FedEx Cup standings. Will 2013 throw us a hat trick or will this year's $10 million man enter the playoffs from a top-10 slot?

Mike Riek

I'll side with the likely scenario of a top-10 ranking sealing the deal at the Tour Championship. With names like Tiger, Kuchar, Snedeker and Phil locks to enter the playoffs inside the top 10, it seems the "underdog" trend of the last two years will come to a screeching halt.

Ed Cushing

I go along with the upper-10 in FedEx points. Haas' splash save for a par at the 17th or that type of repeat, is hardly in the cards. A repeat by a former winner is remote.

Steve Emmert

I think I'll go with the second tier. Golf is simply too unpredictable on a week-by-week basis, and I think four weeks is too small a sample size to make the top guys the odds-on favorites. For example, while the No. 1 player in the world is usually more likely than any other golfer to win a given event, his odds don't even begin to approach 50 percent; it's probably closer to 3 percent. That means that the guys seeded 11 through 125, in the aggregate, have a better chance than the ones at the top. And this is true even though the format gives the top golfers a bit of a head start.

Greg Vara

Agreed. If there was more weight placed on the regular-season events, it would be more difficult to unseat the top player, but since the points are increased during the playoffs, anyone, really, can jump up into the lead and win the title. I guess that's the nature of a playoff system, but it seems a little strange that a guy who played really well for eight months can lose his lead one week into the playoffs.

Ed Cushing

Checking the final 125 and picking those outside of the top-10: No. 33 Charl Schwartzel; No. 27 Jonas Blixt; No. 49 Rory McIlroy; No. 82 Ernie Els.
Schwartzel rises to high-octane fields; Blixt had strong performance stats at the PGA Championship; McIlroy seeks redemption; Els is always anxious.

3. If Tiger wins this thing for a third time, how do you judge it in the realm of his major struggles?

Jeremy Schilling

Look, for me, he'd probably have six or seven wins on the year, be one or two away from Sam Snead's record, and have had a sensational year. The problem for Tiger continues to be that everything is judged upon one thing - majors - and too much of the broader sports media and casual golf fans only focus on that one issue.

But I hope we can all appreciate what Tiger is doing. These events will be against the best of the best, and if he can pull this off, that would be something like 3-4 wins against WGC/playoff-like fields. Pretty good stuff.

Greg Vara

I wrote about this a couple weeks ago. I agree completely with everything you said, but this obsession with the majors is not a media creation; it's Tiger's doing. He's never hidden the fact that he puts the majors on a much higher pedestal than anything else, so much so that he tailors his entire schedule around the majors. Yes, he had a great year, but no matter what he does the rest of the way, it won't be considered a success, even in his mind I would guess.

Jeremy Schilling

I agree 100 percent. Jim Nantz said in a radio interview the day after the British that he believes the PGA Championship has seen a renaissance because Tiger made it all about 18. This is 100 percent Tiger's doing, but we can't lose sight of the events he HAS won this year.

Steve Emmert

Even right now, before the playoffs begin, Woods has a better argument for Player of the Year than anyone else. He has five PGA Tour wins; no one else has more than two. And as Jeremy points out, the fields he's beaten have been excellent - The Players and two WGC events. He has seven top-10 finishes in the 12 events he's entered. Unless one of the major winners also wins the FedEx Cup, then Woods will win Player of the Year. But Greg is right, too; Woods didn't post Snead's record on his wall when he was a kid. The first golfer to emphasize major championships over events-won was Jack Nicklaus, and Woods has elected to follow that route. No matter what we think, Woods will gauge his season by the yardstick that he has chosen.

Mike Riek

Monetarily speaking, nothing compares to a $10 million payout for winning a season-long race. But in Tiger's eyes, money has never really been an issue; majors have. If he were to win the FedEx Cup a third time, perhaps it might mean more in hindsight if the FedEx Cup continues to gain traction and build a history that rivals the importance of majors championships; but until then, the meaning is ambiguous to both Tiger and the public eye.

My theory of why he continues to win tour events but not majors is that many of the major events recently have been at courses that don't favor his game. Since Augusta National made major changes by lengthening holes, Tiger hasn't been the powerhouse he used to be in the early 2000s. Other majors obviously change courses every year, and the last few years especially have favored fairway-first types players, something Tiger has never been. The tournaments he's won are virtually all at courses where he's extremely comfortable because they generally favor power hitters. There's definitely a mental aspect to why he hasn't won a major since 2008, but I think it's more a factor of the courses and the stronger fields in today's game.

4. One of the ongoing issues with the FedEx Cup Playoffs has been when to have the week off - if there should be one at all. This year, it comes following the second event, the Deuscthe Bank Championship, which ends Labor Day Monday. Next year, however, upon request from U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson, they'll be played four consecutive weeks, so there can be a week off between the Tour Championship and the Ryder Cup.

Jeremy Schilling

This is personally a non-issue to come, as I don't care if it comes after Week 2, 3 or 4. I do side with those, however, who say that where the week falls may not be a big deal as per performance, as each Ryder or Presidents Cup since 2007 has either been really close or a U.S. win - which is exactly what everyone expected to happen. The fact that the U.S. players are playing deeper into the year - and at a high level - has gotten them prepared to play in these events and it's showed in their performance. Thoughts?

Greg Vara

I guess it makes sense if you have guys playing the Bridgestone and the PGA Championship, then four of the following five weeks without a break, that's six out of seven weeks. Considering a lot of the top players are maxing out at 20 events a year, that's more than a third of their schedule within two months, so I guess they could use the break. As for killing momentum? Not sure how to feel about that. I think the hard core fans are going to pay attention no matter what. As for the fair-weather fans, well, it's always tough to get their attention during football season, so again, probably doesn't matter what they decide to do with the schedule.

Mike Riek

I like the thought of playing four straight weeks for the playoffs and then having the week off before the Ryder Cup to build anticipation and offer the those participating some time to recharge. The likely schedule for those earning a spot in the Ryder Cup would include a week off after the PGA Championship (since they likely already earned a spot in the playoffs and wouldn't need to play the Wyndham), then four straight weeks of playoffs, then another week off before the Ryder Cup. This would provide a more-than-reasonable schedule considering other major sports almost never get a week off during their playoff runs.

David Ferris

The FedEx Cup started because the PGA Tour wanted "playoffs" on its dance card. OK, fine, then make them playoffs. I'd redesign the FEC to end with match-play, say 16 or 32 at East Lake. Let the top point guy pick his opponent and draft downward. I know this will never happen, but tell me you wouldn't love the intrigue. Back in the real world, the cut is too gradual for my taste (125 to 100 to 70 to 30), but that's how the gravy train works. Good work, Timmy!

Jeremy Schilling

That idea would be fascinating, but it wouldn't work for TV. And as we all know, money and TV make the world go 'round. So unfortunately, as interesting and unique as that idea is, we'll probably never see it see the light of day.

David Ferris

Can we dismiss it that quickly? Does the current format work for TV? What's the rating at East Lake every year? I can't imagine it's more than a tiny blip, in part because of how September's sporting calendar is packed. How does the Accenture Match-Play do in the numbers? I know it's a mess when a couple of journeymen make the final, but sometimes you get lucky. The Ryder Cup, last I checked, was not a medal play event. OK, I'm comparing apples and lawnmowers. Be creative, Ponte Vedra.

Steve Emmert

It doesn't trouble me in the slightest that some players have to max out their late-season schedule, particularly those who play the Wyndham because they need the points. The guys in the top 10 can safely skip it; but there should be a reward for doing well over the course of the year, as opposed to slipping in, out of breath, just before the door closes. As for next year, I strongly prefer to see the off week immediately before the Ryder Cup. If you're playing for ten million pazoozas, you can afford to make it grueling; but the Ryder Cup is on a completely different level.

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