First playoff event produces big jump – some say too big – for non-winners

martin laird
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Martin Laird made the biggest jump in the standings last week, going up 92 places to No. 3 for his runner-up finish at Ridgewood.
By
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

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Published: Wednesday, September 01, 2010 | 6:44 p.m.

Matt Kuchar rose to No. 1 in the FedExCup standings after the first playoff event, and no one was quibbling about that. After a solid year, he beat one of the strongest fields of the year at The Barclays.

The new question facing this playoff system is whether too much is made of finishing second.

Martin Laird made the biggest jump in the standings last week, going up 92 places to No. 3 for his runner-up finish at Ridgewood. It was only his third top-10 finish of the year, and it came at a good time. Barring a big collapse, he is likely to get into the Tour Championship for the top 30 players, assuring him a spot in the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open.

And then there's Kevin Streelman.

He had only three top-10s all year, one of them at an opposite-field event. He came into the playoffs at No. 102 and was not assured of making it out of the first round. But he played well -- that's what the playoffs are all about -- and tied for third at The Barclays, moving him up 84 spots to No. 18.

Streelman finished one shot better than Vaughn Taylor, who started at No. 38 and now is three spots behind Streelman at No. 21.

Does that sound about right?

"I don't think -- I know -- that's too many points," Ben Crane said about the jumps made by Laird and Streelman. "We should aspire to answer the question of who's playing the best golf. You don't want to answer the question of who had a hot week. The jump probably should be more gentle. A big jump should be for playing great for two weeks."

Tiger Woods made a moderate jump, but it was good enough. With a tie for 12th at The Barclays, he went from No. 112 to No. 65, and now has a reasonable chance of making it to the third round.

Woods arrived at the TPC Boston on Tuesday for a session on the range. The tour has projected he would need to finish somewhere around 50th at the Deutsche Bank Championship to move on.

Crane holds nothing against Laird or Streelman. Everyone knew how the points worked when the playoffs began. And he finds it to be a 100 percent improvement from two years ago, when the incentive for the world's best player was simple to make the cut. Several players referred to that system as the "Michelle Wie Cup."

Even so, Crane is among those who wonder whether there's too much of a reward for finishing second or third. He won at Torrey Pines this year and came into the playoffs at No. 12. Crane tied for 12th, five shots behind the leaders, and moved up one spot.

"It is a severe jump," Stewart Cink said. "Do they award 18 percent to the winner like prize money? What about using 20 percent for the winner and 10 percent for second?"

Cink likes the system, and one thing everyone would agree to is that no system will be without flaws. Even so, he also was troubled that players could make such a quantum leap without winning.

Andres Romero started the playoffs at No. 115. With four birdies on his last five holes -- the last one from 40 feet -- he moved up to No. 100 to earn the last spot in the field at the Deutsche Bank Championship, which starts Friday. By finishing third at the TPC Boston, he could move up to as high as No. 15 and be on the fast track to East Lake.

"That renders the regular season useless," Cink said.

Then again, that's what the playoffs are supposed to be all about -- playing the best golf toward the end of the year. What troubles Crane, Cink and other players is that one good week -- even if it's not a victory -- could be all it takes to reap a significant reward by going to the Tour Championship.

Everyone knows what's at stake in the four playoff events, just as everyone knows what's at stake at the four majors. They are playing for history in the majors. They are playing for the chance at big money (a $35 million bonus pool) and big perks in the playoffs.

Streelman knew what he was up against. If he played poorly in the opening playoff event, he was headed home for a month.

"The intent was for players to be playing well in the playoffs," Streelman said. "That's why the points are up so much. It's a neat thing. If you're playing good, your goals can change quickly."

He was hopeful of going to Boston. Now, Streelman is assured of getting to the third round outside Chicago, where he grew up. And there's a decent chance of going to the Tour Championship for the first time.

All because he tied for third in the first playoff event.

For all the debate, the Deutsche Bank Championship offers another strong field, with 37 of the top 50 in the world. The other 13 players are not PGA Tour members.

"How good is this for golf?" Crane said.


Comments

mbaigrie

I would add to my most recent post that even Tiger Woods, until now #1 in the world and may just eke out enough at The DeutscheBank to stay there depending on what Phil and Stricker do, yet Tiger played quite well at the Masters and played decent golf at the other 3 majors.
He shouldn't have been in the position he is to attempt to eke out at least getting to Chicago, based on his majors record this year.
Players who weren't even eligible for the majors, or at least some or all of them now have shown the ridiculous points system up for what it is.
At least when Tiger won The Fedex Cup twice and Vijay once, there was NO doubt that they deserved it.
I don't begrudge any winner in the lucrative game of golf at that level the right to win all of that money in one shot, but until now no challenge of any substance has come foreward as Tiger Woods and Vijay, for one season were well-deserving winners.
Now that Tiger's game is off-track for obvious reasons and Vijay is getting long in the tooth, the faults of the points system is sticking out like a sore thumb.
Yes, some of the pros have had good seasons, but a LOT of them haven't and simply scratching into the playoffs and going nuts for one week, the reward is far too high.
Mickelson won The Masters, and right now leads the pack, but if his Masters win had been worth MUCH more, his lead would be much greater and if he won the thing, he would be deserving moreso than many, many others who would be 'pretenders' possibly by simply getting hot at the righ time, IMHO.

mbaigrie

Adroit discussion has been made for making the 4 majors worth more points toward the Fedex Cup than ANY of the other tournaments. I agree completely. It doesn't matter that Tiger Woods made a runaway when he was healthy and still playing by far the best in the world, or Vijay for that matter. They were the best-period, no matter what !!
Points should be awarded to tournament winners and high finishers, based on the strength of the field using a system that is in place regarding a pro's world ranking.
Then the playoffs would have more points awarded for the top finishers, but should not accord them as many points as the 4 tournaments do now, save possibly The Tour Championship with only 30 golfers who compete, because it's obvious that the winner of the Fedex Cup will come from that group.
What is occurring now is that a pro can get hot for one week and advance, regardless how mediocre his season has been and that is quite apparent with the quantum leaps we have seen from The Barclay's and now possibly the DeutscheBank.
Yes, give them more points than a regular tournament, but please, please, don't get carried away. The mediocrity of some of the golfers is obvious, and they are rewarded way out of line for just one tournament if they get just plain lucky, having had a season not worth talking about, for all intents and purposes.

randle50

If one player is winning about 6 times every year, this is good for the other players. It seems to be designed to give the whole PGA field a chance to keep one player from winning the FEDEX Cup every year. These big jumps in the points standing is a result of this desire to give the hottest players a great chance to over take the player who has been winning a lot every year. This adds excitement at the end of the year. All a player needs to do is get hot at the right time and win 3 of the 4 events and he will do just fine. This could be a FEDEX Cup with a unexpected ending, never dreamed in the minds of the PGA.