There's a lot to catch up on for a Monday after a 'regular' Tour stop. There was a Monday finish (first of 2012), a former prodigy won, Augusta National announced its first two female members, the start of the FedEx Cup Playoffs is this week at one of the best public-access facilities in the country, there's a real debate as to who is the best player in the world, and fantasy golf is in crunch time for all the big money. Forget all the politicians making fools of themselves, this is entertainment. Almost better than funny animal videos.
First up, here's what we learned at the Wyndham Championship:
- Sergio can still win. He’s been begrudged for his attitude, has had public spats with his putter, pulled himself out of consideration as a captain’s pick for the last Ryder Cup, and simply hadn’t won on the PGA Tour since 2008. A lot of that ended on Monday in Greensboro, when the Spaniard pulled away from the field with three consecutive birdies on the back nine and cruised to a two-stroke victory.
The win is significant for Sergio, who also won twice late in the European Tour season in 2011… but it was more important for the European Ryder Cup team. For an eight-year stretch at the beginning of the century, few tormented the US team more than he did; with the bottom part of the team still fairly unsettled, Sergio brings a heavy hitter back into the equation. He’s the perfect best ball teammate and will be coming back to Medinah, where he first burst onto the US golf scene in 1999 with a second-place finish at the PGA and in 2006 finished T3 when the PGA came back.
It was also a good win for the world of golf. Sergio doesn’t move the needle like Tiger or Phil, but he can certainly get more people to watch the game. Especially if he can get confidence and energy back into his game.
Other notes from Greensboro:
- Carl Pettersson and Jason Dufner performed as expected and finished in the top-7. Crazy Carl could be one to watch in the playoffs, as he’s hitting the ball very well. Dufner has decided to rest this week, play the final three playoff events and then head to the Ryder Cup. A calculated risk when you’re talking about a $10 million prize for the FEC winner, which he has a very legitimate chance of winning (ranked 2nd).
- Webb Simpson faded on Sunday/Monday – something we’ve seen from him a couple of times recently. Interesting to note, and as James Dalthorp has reported all season, he has really struggled keeping his driver from the right-hand trees.
- Nice result for Charl Schwartzel (T14). Four under-par rounds is what I’ve been looking for from him. Another one to consider in the playoffs (more below).
- Notable names now missing the FedEx Cup (FEC) Playoffs: Jhonattan Vegas (126), Retief Goosen (131), Gary Woodland (134), Stewart Cink (139), Camilo Villegas (148), Angel Cabrera (172), Lucas Glover (219).
- Who do you think has more FEC points: Dustin Johnson, John Huh, Adam Scott or Sergio? Yep, you guessed it: Huh, the Tour rookie. Of course he's played a lot more events than the others, but it still just doesn't look right. The Tour could put some weight into the number of events played in the FEC scoring to correct this, but that would probably discourage the big guns from playing more events. But if they're only playing 12-15 events anyway, what's the harm?
- Brandt Snedeker, eager to make his first Ryder Cup (standings here), underperformed at The Wyndham, where he's a past winner. He'll need to have a good showing in at least two of the four playoff events to have a legitimate chance to make the team. It also depends on how other contenders play. Stricker, Furyk and (likely) Mahan are locks for captain's picks. That leaves about 10 guys fighting for one spot. Sneds, Garrigus, Van Pelt, Dustin Johnson and Bill Haas should be the front runners, but don't count out guys like Jonathan Byrd (Captain Love's neighbor on Sea Island) or David Toms (a proven contributor to US teams, lurking in the 20's in RC standings). To me that's really the most interesting competition in the FEC Playoffs.
Now, onto the 10-Fer for round one of four in the playoffs. We're off to the imposing Bethpage Black in New York,
where majors are contested, the greens are small, the fairways are tight and the longer hitters have historically been rewarded. I think that will play out even more with a par-71 layout and three par-5's this year. James Dalthorp
will get more into the details of the course on Tuesday night. In the meantime, be sure to check the field
before you select a golfer: Dufner,
No. 2 in the current FEC points race, is taking the week off. Spencer Levin
has also withdrawn due to the tragic death of his brother. Our prayers are with the Levin family.
10. Paddy Harrington.
A T8 at The Black in 2002, a MC in 2009 when it was sloppy and his game was about to sink to a very dark place. He seems to have found his happy place (to complete the Happy Gilmore reference, watch him do this
) now and only has one finish outside of the top-20 since late May, and that was a T39 at The Open. He's getting back to his gritty game.
9. Charl Schwartzel. He missed the cut at the 2009 US Open, but that was before he burst onto the scene. He was hurt early in the summer this year and has just now dusted off the cobwebs, as evidenced by at T14 at the Wyndham with four rounds in the 60's. I like his improving game for The Black -- he's been more consistent in distance and accuracy each of his last four tourneys and was 16th in putting in Greensboro on sloping greens, which aren't dissimilar from Bethpage. When he's playing well he is very good in all phases, and that's how he's trending.
8. Graeme McDowell. If you haven't used him yet in One and Done, this could be a good spot. He finished T18 at the US Open in 2009 in soggy conditions, and he always plays tough courses well. His game has improved since 2009, too.
7. Adam Scott. A good comeback showing at Kiawah for the PGA makes me think he's in a good place mentally after his Open Championship collapse. He bombs it and has found a way to get the ball in the hole all year (7th in scoring average); he's only missed one cut with 8 top-25's in 12 events. Was in the thick of things in the 2009 US Open until a final-round 75.
6. Phil Mickelson. A real home run pick this week. He's saying that he's hitting the ball well, but you just never know with Lefty. If he has a good opening round, watch out -- it'll have his interest all week. He finished 2nd in both the 2009 and 2002 US Opens here, and loves the New York crowds. He would like nothing more than to get back into the discussion with Rory and Tiger as the best players in the world, and a good run in the playoffs might do that.
5. Steve Stricker. He'll probably win one of the next three events -- he really turns it on this time of year historically, with two FEC Playoff wins and a series of top-15's. He's had a rock-solid year and is one of the most bankable ATM's on Tour. T23 at Bethpage in 2009.
4. Carl Pettersson. Shot a 68 in the second round of the 2009 US Open (T36) and is arguably playing the best golf on Tour right now. He has the length to succeed anywhere (297.1 yard average, 37th) and is 5th in scrambling and 11th in strokes gained-putting, obviously a great combo.
3. Sergio Garcia. Just a huge leap in confidence for Sergio after the way he polished off the field in Greensboro on Monday. He also has almost as good of a history at Bethpage as anyone: T10 in 2009 (when his struggles really started - remember the waggles?) and 4th in 2002 when he shot a final-round 74 to drop off. He also won two weeks in a row last year in Europe, so when he's hot, he's hot. He's the most interesting player in the field to me this week -- will he continue his momentum or be satisfied that he's made the European Ryder Cup team?
2. Tiger Woods. Winner in 2002 and T6 in the 2009 US Opens here, and no matter what all the pundits say he's playing good golf in major events. We just expect so much. The bottom line is that he's had a legitimate chance to win the last three majors but hasn't been able to put it together on the weekend. I think a familiar venue on which he's been successful -- and a little less pressure than the national championships or PGA -- will be just what he needs. And an FYI: he's never finished worse than T15 in a FEC Playoffs event.
1. Rory McIlroy. He finished T10 at Bethpage in the 2009 US Open and dominated the best field ever assembled for a major championship two weeks ago at Kiawah. Bethpage sets up for Rory like it did for Tiger back in 2002. And I think this weekend will be the first time we really see Tiger and Rory go head-to-head. (Honda doesn't count -- Tiger came charging from well back on Sunday.)
Other notes: I do think Snedeker, DJ and Van Pelt should play well here as they battle to impress Captain Love for the Ryder Cup.
Player to avoid: Justin Rose. Just a gut feeling on him -- he missed the cut in the 2009 US Open and even though he's playing the most consistent golf of his career in 2012, I think there are better setups for him over the next month. Also not a huge fan of Lee Westwood this week based on current form.
The good and bad last week: Another 8/10 week, and I had a lot of potential heading into the final round with Tim Clark, Jimmy Walker, DL3 and Haas hovering near the lead. In the end, I'll settle for five picks in the top-15 with Sneds, Josh Teeter and Ryan Moore in the top-40. JB Holmes and Greg Owen missed the cut, and hopefully they were triple-charged for their Spectravision viewings for doing so.
Photo: US Presswire