Johnson Wins Irene-Shortened Barclays While Others’ Season Ends

September 1, 2011 in Golf

AP

Dustin Johnson shot out of the gate in the third and final round of the Barclays, grabbing a piece of the lead following back-to-back birdies to start off his round. Three more birdies and one eagle against one dropped shot left Johnson ahead of the pack and playing partner Matt Kuchar with nine holes to play.

Kuchar was able to birdie the par-3 11th hole to tie DJ, but Kuchar dropped shots on the 12th and 13th holes to leave him two shots back of the 29-year-old Carolinian. The steady Johnson’s quest for his first win of the year could only have been derailed by the onslaught of Hurricane Irene, which if play could not be finished, scores would have reverted back to the second round standings, giving Kuchar the trophy regardless of any move Johnson made on Saturday.

“The way I got started, I was hoping that we were going to keep on playing,” Johnson said.

Irene balked a bit as rain started to come down on Johnson’s fourth hole of the day, but after a short watering, the final round went off without a hitch.

“We didn’t really know [what to expect],” Johnson said of the weather. “Coming into the day, we thought that it’s not going to be great but the weather guys, they weren’t really sure. We could have played nine and got stopped or played them all. We got lucky. The weather held up for us long enough.

Johnson shot his age on the front nine for the second consecutive day and cruised in with an even par 36 on the back for a 6-under 65 to finish it off.

With the win, Johnson moved up to No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings, putting himself right in the thick of things for the $10 million prize in a few weeks. He moved up to No. 4 in the world golf rankings, while also taking home just over $1.4 million for three days of work. Not bad.

Brandt Snedeker torched Plainfield Country Club for a 10-under par 61 on Saturday that moved him up to a tie for third with Vijay Singh.

Other players of note were Camilo Villegas who has gone on a tear over the past few weeks. Needing a good showing at the Wyndham to get into the Barclays, the Columbian finished T9 to get inside the top 125 in the FedEx Cup standings. Without a guaranteed spot in the Deutsche Bank, Spiderman recorded another top-10 finish, this time a T6 to get him to 51st in the rankings.

Ben Crane is one lucky dog. After a missed cut, his future was out of his hands, but coming into the week ranked 86th, Crane made it through to Boston on the number, checking in at 100 in the FedEx Cup standings.

Some saw their season’s come to an end on Saturday including Stuart Appleby, Paul Goydos and Chris DiMarco. Heartbreak goes out to Bryce Moulder who was the last player not to make it, coming in a No. 101 after a T64 finish this week.

Among others who have made it to the Deutsche Bank, but have not yet guaranteed themselves a shot at the BMW are Ian Poulter (78), Padraig Harrington (80), Graeme McDowell (84), Davis Love III (93), Stewart Cink (94) and Ernie Els (99).

So there are quite a few big names to watch out for this weekend and into Monday.

Remember, the Deutsche Bank runs Friday-Monday, so don’t forget to check out the coverage after your rounds at your local clubs this week when grabbing a beer. Also, it is Patriot Golf Day around the country, so splurge and throw in an extra buck for the troops who are keeping us safe and allowing us to play a game.

Hurricane Irene Blows Away Final 18 Holes at the Barclays

August 26, 2011 in Golf

At 12:30 p.m. on Friday, the PGA Tour announced just how it was planning on dealing with the impending arrival of Hurricane Irene atPlainfield Country Club.

“We weighed all the options available to us, and under normal circumstances, we would obviously prefer to complete 72 holes,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in an e-mail. “That’s even more true here at The Barclays, considering that this is such an important event to our players as they look to advance through the PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedExCup.

“We realize that ‘waiting it out’ until Hurricane Irene passes and trying to play golf on Monday or Tuesday would only add unnecessary strain to those who will be trying to help the community recover from whatever potential damage the storm causes. The safety of the community, our fans, players, sponsor guests, television partners and staff is of the utmost importance.”

As a result, the Barclays has been dwindled down to a 54-hole event to finish on Saturday. Hopefully*.

The PGA’s plan is to send players off at 7 a.m. tomorrow off both No. 1 and No. 10 in hopes of getting in the (possibly) final 18 holes completed before Irene arrives and presumably, leaves Plainfield in unplayable condition.

*The “hopefully” and “(possibly)” are there for a reason. Even the weather on Saturday afternoon is iffy at best. The possibility of rain on Saturday morning checks in at about 40 percent according to weather.com beginning at 7 a.m. and only increases up to a 100 percent chance in the evening. If the rains come early and forces a stoppage of play, then the leaderboard reverts back to where it stands now with the 36-hole leader, Matt Kuchar taking home his defense title of the Barclays.

Everyone else will be awarded points based on their standings after today’s round.

It seems a little unfair that the afternoon wave of players were aware of the situation prior to teeing off and the morning players were not, however, with a storm like this coming through, the smartest thing to do was to keep everyone as safe as possible.

If the rain does cause the Tour to revert the 36-hole standings, some big names will be ending their seasons. Ernie Els sits at 107 in the projected rankings and Ian Poulter a few spots further down the list stands at 114. Both players made the cut, which was 4-under par, but if the play is nullified tomorrow, they are left on the outside looking in.

“Given the situation, I love being on top of the leaderboard with 18 holes to go,” leader Matt Kuchar said. “Hard to find something to complain about with the situation I’m in. Yeah, I’m quite happy that I’ve got this opportunity. I just feel like we’ve got one last round to go.”

With the only sure thing on Saturday being that there will be rain at some point, the players are put in a strange position, but it was the right call.

Better for the Tour to get out in front of the storm and get the tournament over with rather than wait for the storm to blow through and then have to deal with the clean-up, which after a massive hurricane has been said to take at least 24 hours to complete.

As it stands going into Saturday’s (maybe) final round, Kuchar (65) leads at 14-under, one stroke better than Dustin Johnson (63) and Vijay Singh (64) who sit at 13-under.

TaylorMade-Adidas Killing the Marketing Game at the Playoffs

August 26, 2011 in Golf

For the past five years, we’ve been force-fed these FedEx Cup Playoffs as the way to find out who was the best golfer on the PGA Tour. Said golfer will receive a nice lump of change for performing so well, but a theme that has emerged over the past few weeks is the reason for this post.

With the PGA Championship, fans were making noise on the interwebs about the amount of commercials during the broadcasts of the golf. Admittedly, I have seen the Southwest red tape ball in my nightmares. However, in this day and age of sports marketing, the advertisers and sponsors rule the roost. We’re going to hear more and more about it in the coming months as the PGA Tour tries to re-up the big networks on their television deals.

That being said, golf is one of the biggest dependents in professional sports on corporate money. This week, a pair of corporations have done a good job of marketing their products without drawing the ire of the golfing public. Quite the contrary, in fact, as their ideas have made others take notice of what they’re doing.

TaylorMade-Adidas, which has become one of the top, if not the top, club-making/clothing/apparel lines in the sport has killed it this week with a pair of marketing schemes. TM paired with the Playoff’s head sponsor, FedEx, to sent out on of the Tour’s young stars, Dustin Johnson, to deliver the 1 millionth R11 driver to a guy (conveniently) in New Jersey.

Aside from DJ’s poor acting and teleprompter-reading skills, the idea is a cool one.

As for the second leg of TaylorMade-Adidas’ marketing blitz on the Playoffs, Adidias enlisted the skills of 3D artist Joe Hill (everything is in 3D now, even 4D in some cases) as well as the body of TaylorMade-Adidas staffer Sergio Garcia to create this awesome scene at the Barclays.

So, good on ya, TaylorMade-Adidas. The true test of a good advertisement or marketing scheme is that people look for it when it’s not forced upon them. Both of these accomplish that task.

Well done.

Who’s In and Who’s Out of the FedEx Cup’s First Round; Tee Times

August 24, 2011 in Golf

By all accounts, 2011 has been a pretty weird year on the PGA Tour. There have been eight rookie winners, 12-first time winners and for only the second time since World War II, all four major champions were first-time major champs.

Along that same line, the big name players that we have become accustomed to seeing win multiple times on Tour have been almost unnoticeably  absent (noticeably absent in Tiger Woods’ case). Phil Mickelson has won just one time at the Shell Houston Open and no body has more than two wins.

Guys like Graeme McDowell, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Anthony Kim and even last year’s FedEx Cup winner, Jim Furyk, have yet to win a single tournament. More than that, a couple big names were left scrambling last week to try and make the top-125 in order to make the field for the first event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, the Barclays, which kicks off tomorrow.

Among those who had to do some work last week at the Wyndham just to make the field include Ernie Els, Camilo Villegas and Padraig Harrington. Harrington, in fact, had to cancel a family vacation to ensure he would be around for the Race to East Lake.

Luckily for them, and probably the Tour as well, all three got into the field, but not by much. Harrington slid in at No. 124, Els at 118 and Villegas at 109.

Therein lies the beauty of the Playoffs.

Playing their tails off to make it to the Barclays wasn’t good enough, they need to keep their good play up to advance to the Deutsche Bank next week where only the top-100 will make the cut.

The top-125 was slimmed to 123 earlier this week for as a pair of players withdrew, one for health reasons and one because of preference, however there isn’t an alternates list, so the field remains at 123.

Masters Champion Charl Schwartzel, ranked No. 21 in the standings heading into the Barclays decided to sit out the first leg of the Playoffs. This isn’t unheard of, Woods has skipped the event and still gone on to win and last year, Furyk missed the event due to a DQ for missing his pro-am start time.

The other withdrawal was JB Holmes, No. 66 in the standings coming into this week. Holmes is calling it a season in order to prep for upcoming brain surgery to help with his balance and vertigo symptoms. As it is a routine procedure, the connotation of “brain surgery” shouldn’t strike fear into people. Holmes should be back playing in three months.

Coverage this weekend will be on the Golf Channel on Thursday and Friday from 3-6 p.m.,1-2:30 p.m. on Saturday and 12-1:30 p.m. on Sunday. CBS will pick up the coverage on the weekend, going until 6 p.m. both nights, weather permitting.

With Hurricane Irene almost certain to strike the upper East Coast this weekend, there will most likely be some changes so make sure to follow me on Twitter to get the latest playoff news.

*****

Here are your first round tee times and pairings.

7:15 am Matteson, Troy Imada, Ryuji Crane, Ben
7:26 am Romero, Andres Kelly, Jerry Tringale, Cameron
7:37 am Garcia, Sergio Furyk, Jim Frazar, Harrison
7:48 am Moore, Ryan Van Pelt, Bo Glover, Lucas
7:59 am Vegas, Jhonattan Singh, Vijay Palmer, Ryan
8:10 am Levin, Spencer Gainey, Tommy Stallings, Scott
8:21 am Sabbatini, Rory Byrd, Jonathan Dufner, Jason
8:32 am Leishman, Marc Chappell, Kevin Haas, Hunter
8:43 am Taylor, Vaughn Villegas, Camilo Teater, Josh
8:54 am Trahan, D.J. Slocum, Heath Appleby, Stuart
Plainfield Country Club Tee #10
Time Players
7:15 am Verplank, Scott Reavie, Chez Wagner, Johnson
7:26 am Henry, J.J. Wi, Charlie Campbell, Chad
7:37 am Senden, John O’Hair, Sean Perez, Pat
7:48 am Na, Kevin Stanley, Kyle Hoffman, Charley
7:59 am Scott, Adam Day, Jason Haas, Bill
8:10 am Choi, K.J. Watson, Bubba Toms, David
8:21 am Watney, Nick Stricker, Steve Simpson, Webb
8:32 am O’Hern, Nick Bettencourt, Matt Herron, Tim
8:43 am Bradley, Michael Chalmers, Greg Goosen, Retief
8:54 am Driscoll, James Flesch, Steve Bowditch, Steven
Plainfield Country Club Tee #1
Time Players
12:00 pm Couch, Chris Ogilvy, Geoff Piercy, Scott
12:11 pm Overton, Jeff Rollins, John Streelman, Kevin
12:22 pm Garrigus, Robert McNeill, George Pettersson, Carl
12:33 pm Rose, Justin Karlsson, Robert de Jonge, Brendon
12:44 pm Jacobson, Fredrik Laird, Martin Snedeker, Brandt
12:55 pm Woodland, Gary Wilson, Mark Kuchar, Matt
1:06 pm Donald, Luke Bradley, Keegan Mickelson, Phil
1:17 pm McDowell, Graeme Goydos, Paul Immelman, Trevor
1:28 pm Gillis, Tom Lunde, Bill Merrick, John
1:39 pm Hearn, David Els, Ernie Mayfair, Billy
1:50 pm Atwal, Arjun Harrington, Padraig McGirt, William
Plainfield Country Club Tee #10
Time Players
12:00 pm Love III, Davis Cink, Stewart Barnes, Ricky
12:11 pm Blanks, Kris Adams, Blake Walker, Jimmy
12:22 pm Gay, Brian Davis, Brian Allenby, Robert
12:33 pm Steele, Brendan Jobe, Brandt Yang, Y.E.
12:44 pm Johnson, Zach Kirk, Chris Marino, Steve
12:55 pm Howell III, Charles Points, D.A. Fowler, Rickie
1:06 pm Johnson, Dustin Mahan, Hunter Baddeley, Aaron
1:17 pm DiMarco, Chris Molder, Bryce Kim, Anthony
1:28 pm Stadler, Kevin Stroud, Chris Thompson, Michael
1:39 pm Poulter, Ian Pampling, Rod Ogilvie, Joe

No Moving Ball Tricks: Simpson Finally Wins in Greensboro

August 23, 2011 in Golf

AP

While some of the big names on the PGA Tour were taking the week off in preparation for the five-week haul that is the FedEx Cup Playoffs, others were trying to improve their stead. For Webb Simpson, ranked 12th in the standings coming into the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, he redeemed himself from his misfortunes earlier in the year to become the 12th first-time winner on the PGA Tour in 2011.

Simpson had come up short a few times earlier in 2011; a second at the Transitions Championship and another runner-up at the Zurich Classic, which you’ll remember as the tournament Simpson incurred a penalty when his ball moved after he addressed it with his belly putter. Simpson would go on to lose in a playoff to everybody’s favorite player with a persimmon driver, Bubba Watson. Simpson was also in contention at the AT&T National and the Greenbrier.

You don’t get to 12th in the FedEx Cup standings without being around the lead a few times.

But Sunday was finally his day. After a stretch in Saturday’s round of 6-under on five holes, Simpson took the lead overnight and into Sunday. Opening with eight straight pars, Simpson sunk a birdie putt on the ninth to take him to 16-under par.

While no one around him was really making a charge, Simpson was content to keep playing boring, fairways and greens golf. George McNeill, Vijay Singh and Jerry Kelly were the only people making a move, but they were too far behind to put any real pressure on Webb.

With few more pars and a birdie on the 15th, Simpson asked his caddie where they stood.

“When I made the putt on 15 I asked my caddie for the first time all day, ‘Where do we stand?’ He said, ‘We’re two ahead right now,'” Simpson explained in his post-round interview. “I knew I needed to play solid golf on the last three holes.”

He did just that, birdieing the 16th and parring in to shoot a bogey-free final round of 67, good enough for a three-shot cushion.

“I’m super-excited and obviously in a far better position to win the FedExCup than any other year I’ve had on Tour so I am excited,” Simpson said.

The win also holds a special place in Simpson’s heart. When he was 16, his father brought him to the Wyndham Championship to caddie for Neal Lancaster.

“That was probably the most fun 18 holes I’ve ever been a part of,” Simpson said.

The local Wake Forest product became the third player in a row to take home the hardware on the PGA Tour using a long putter, something more than a few experts have a problem with. Adam Scott won the WGC Bridgestone three weeks ago with the broomstick putter, then Keegan Bradley broke through to win the PGA Championship becoming the first player to win a major championship with a long stick, and now, Simpson became the third player in a row to win with the unusual flat stick.

Simpson, however, has been rolling the rock with the belly putter before it was cool.

“It’s been 7 years now I’ve used the same putter and it seems like a lot more guys are using it,” Simpson opined. “Keegan Bradley being the first guy to win a major with the belly putter is encouraging to us belly putter users.

“I think you’re seeing younger guys use it, more guys use it and I don’t know what it is for the other guys. For me I just like it better. I putt differently with it and I’ve never really found anything I like better.”

The fact of the matter with the long putter is that they are here to stay. For those against it, they believe it has gone the way of the golf ball, with the governing bodies allowing it to get out of control before they knew what had happened.

Sure, an anchoring system may seem to give some advantage from a physics standpoint, but the only way it would be an unfair advantage would be if some players were allowed to use it while others were not. Because some players’ egos force them to say it’s not right and they should be illegal is simply ignorant and egomaniacal. If it’s legal, there’s nothing holding other players back from trying it aside from their own skepticism.

The argument from a “traditionalist” standpoint is different, but eventually those beliefs cave. Do you see anyone claiming to be a “traditionalist” still using persimmon drivers and ballata balls? No.

Thus endeth the lesson.

With his win, Simpson moves up to No. 3 in the FedEx standing heading into this week’s Barclays, the first leg of the competition. While being in the top 5 when the Tour Championship rolls around gives the players a chance to control their own destiny, being in the top 5 at the beginning of the Playoffs doesn’t hold much of a guarantee of winning, although it would be nearly impossible for Simpson not to advance through the Playoffs and make it to East Lake.

Simpson cashed a winner’s check for just under $1 million and moved firmly inside the top-50 in the world at No. 33, three spots ahead of a certain Nike-clad golfer who skipped out on the Wyndham.

Simpson will go off the 10th tee at Plainfield Country Club at 8:21 a.m. on Thursday with Nick Watney and Steve Stricker, Nos. 1 and 2 in the FedEx Cup standings, respectively.