Inside the Ropes: Playoff Time PGA Tour Style

PLAYOFF TIME PGA TOUR STYLE

The game of golf entered a new era in 2007 when the PGA TOUR launched the FedExCup, a season-long points competition offering $35 million in bonus money and the Tour’s first-ever playoff series. With the opening round of the four season ending playoff events scheduled to begin August 27 at The Barclays in New Jersey, the race to golf’s richest prize is about to get underway. Coupled with $32 million in tournament prize money and another $35 million in season ending FedExCup bonus money, there’s a total of $67 million on the line over the four week race to crown this year’s FedExCup champion.

It seems as if every avid golf fan on the face of the planet has had some form of opinion regarding the FedExCup point system.  Maybe the point system is too volatile during the playoffs.  Maybe the point system is not volatile enough during the playoffs.  Maybe the point system is simply too difficult to understand without a master’s degree in advanced mathematics.

So how does it work? During the 43 events on the regular PGA Tour schedule, Tour members earn FedExCup points based on their results, with a strong emphasis placed on winning and high finishes.  Once the regular season ends, the top-125 players advance to the FedExCup Playoffs. The pressure packed series of four events features a progressive cut beginning with 125 players at The Barclays, continuing with the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston which tees off the top 100 players and the BMW Championship in Chicago which starts with a field of 70 players.  Only the top-30 players will make it to the TOUR Championship in Atlanta where the FedExCup Champion will be crowned.

Tiger Woods won the inaugural FedExCup in 2007 and again in 2009. Others to hoist the trophy include Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk, Bill Haas, Brandt Snedeker, and Henrik Stenson. Billy Horschel won in 2014. Before the playoffs began, the 27-year-old Horschel’s resume didn’t exactly strike much fear into opponents. He had one career PGA Tour victory in 2013 and posted a strong top-five finish in the 2013 U.S. Open but had otherwise failed to make his mark as an elite golfer. And he looked nothing like a FedExCup champion in the first playoff event, missing the cut at The Barclays. Then, he turned things around in a heartbeat.

Horschel brought his best to the Deutsche Bank Championship, the second of the four playoff events and while he failed to hold on to his Sunday lead over a charging Chris Kirk, with two tournaments left, he made the most of it. With a win at the BMW Championship in resounding fashion holding off Bubba Watson in the final round he followed-up with a victory at the season-ending TOUR Championship where he made no doubt of his FedExCup title. In the end, Horschel earned $14.8 million playing golf on the PGA Tour during the 2013-14 season including regular season earnings, playoff winnings and his $10 million share of the $35 million FedExCup bonus pool. That’s a lot of money, but it doesn’t undermine what he did for his caddie after all the dust had settled.  According to a story in Golfweek, Horschel left a $10,000 tip for the locker-room attendants at East Lake Golf Club, site of his title-clinching victory and then dished out a cool $1 million to caddie Micah Fugitt for helping him reach the pinnacle of golf financially.

The FedExCup will likely never rival the major championships, and the PGA Tour may keep tinkering with the format for years to come, but however you slice it the FedExCup Playoffs are all about the kind of excitement that happens when you bring the top players in the world together for a four tournament series with more than $67 million on the line. Over time, the FedExCup Playoffs will be as natural to golf as a run to the World Series or the Stanley Cup playoffs and golf will be better for it.

Celebrate with Legends on the Niagara

Legends on the Niagara Clubhouse stone building on lake

The Niagara Parks Commission and Legends on the Niagara want to celebrate the years of hard work that has resulted in Legends being designated a “Certified Audubon Sanctuary” for environmental and wildlife stewardship on its 1,000 acre golf complex. On Sunday August 23 between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. green fees will be $65 plus tax including golf, power cart, practice range, lunch at the turn and a registration gift.

According to Laura Karosic, Associate Director of Environmental Programs at Audubon International, “Legends on the Niagara has shown a strong commitment to its environmental program. The staff is to be commended for their efforts in providing a sanctuary for wildlife on the Legends property.”

To reach certification, a course must demonstrate that they are maintaining a high degree of environmental quality in a number of areas including Environmental Planning, Wildlife & Habitat Management, Outreach and Education, Chemical Use Reduction and Safety, Water Conservation, and Water Quality Management.

“Since 2004, The Niagara Parks Commission has been pleased to work with Audubon International to achieve this prestigious designation,” stated NPC Chair, Janice Thomson. “While Legends on the Niagara has become renowned for its challenging play, today we celebrate the tireless devotion of our staff in pursuing this highly sought-after certification and commitment to environmental stewardship and preservation.”

In accepting this designation, Superintendent Tom Newton remarked, “At Legends on the Niagara we take great pride in providing a golf facility that is maintained to the highest possible standards, and reflects the Niagara Parks Commission’s belief in environmental protection.”

The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses, endorsed by the United States Golf Association, provides information and guidance to help golf courses preserve and enhance wildlife habitat and protect natural resources. Golf courses from the United States, Africa, Australia, Canada, Central America, Europe, New Zealand.

Visit niagaraparksgolf.com to book your tee time for this special event.

Inside the Ropes: Who will Defend Canada’s Olympic Gold?

As Canadians celebrate success at the 2015 Pan Am Games, this time next year we will know who has qualified for the first Olympic golf competition in more than one hundred years and who will defend the Olympic crown won by Canadian George S. Lyon at the 1904 Summer Games in St. Louis, the last time that golf was an Olympic sport.

When golf returns to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil it will feature men’s and women’s individual events. Both events will have 60 players consisting of amateurs and professionals, competing in a 72-hole stroke play competition for the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals. Every player inside the top-15 in the official world rankings as of July 11, 2016 will be eligible, up to a maximum of four players per country. After that, the field will be filled by the next highest-ranked players, with a maximum of two players per nation.

If the Canadian roster were announced today PGA Tour players Graham Delaet and David Hearn would fill the men’s team and teenage sensation Brooke Henderson would join LPGA member Alena Sharp to represent Canada in the women’s competition. The United States’ men’s roster would include Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler, all of whom are well within the top-15 in the world rankings.

While much can change between now and July 2016, there are some notable names that wouldn’t make the grade since no one country can have more than four players. Americans Jim Furyk, Jimmy Walker, J.B. Holmes and Matt Kuchar who are all ranked within the top-15 in the official world rankings would all miss the cut. Add to that list Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, who is not even close. On the women’s side, Michelle Wie would be the top American not to qualify. If she represented any other country other than the U.S. or South Korea she would easily make the team based on her current world rankings. The same would hold true for Mickelson and Woods, despite his recent rankings free fall.

Another notable that is well within the running to make the trip to Rio would be the oldest man in the field — three-time major champion Vijay Singh of Fiji, who will be 53 next July. Then there’s former world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa of Mexico who has been retired for five years but it still only 33. If she were tempted to come out of retirement she would only need to be ranked somewhere near 400 in the world to represent Mexico based on today’s rankings.

The opening ceremonies for the 2016 Games in Rio are scheduled for next August 5 and golf’s return as an Olympic sport gets underway August 11 at the Gil Hanse-designed Olympic course. While golf will continue as an Olympic sport through Tokyo 2020, whether it will return in 2024 will be determined by an IOC vote in 2017. With golf’s governing bodies doing everything possible to put their best foot forward in 2016, one thing is certain that after an absence of 112 years from the Olympic movement golf is now a global sport with world-class athletes emerging from every corner of the planet. Whether it remains an Olympic sport is yet to be seen but at least Canada will have two good chances to repeat as Olympic champions.