19/09/2012 § Leave a comment
The final leg of the PGA Tour Playoffs wraps up this coming weekend at East Lake, and statisticians, including yours truly, are having a field day in anticipation of the possible scenarios that may play out.
As has been voiced in prior posts, the FedEx Cup Playoffs scoring scheme has been a work in progress over its first five campaigns. Even though most golf fans still can’t wrap their heads around the system, or prefer to be spoon fed the scenarios, or simply wait for it all to unfold, most would agree that the PGA Tour has got to have it right now, finally. How else could such perfect drama have been manufactured on last year’s final stage that saw Bill Haas splash his way from 25th in the standings to the top?!
I’m writing tonight in part to explain that what happened last year was both anomalous and unfair. For Haas to win it all required the perfect storm; he needed to win the event of course, and hats off to him for doing so, but he also needed a ton to go wrong for the gentlemen who entered the week at the top. That happened. Webb Simpson (entering the week in 1st) finished in 22nd, Dustin Johnson (2nd) finished 23rd, while Justin Rose (3rd) and Matt Kuchar (5th) finished tied for 20th in the 30-man field.
12/08/2012 § Leave a comment
In the words of the venerable Rob Thomas, it’s 3 am and I must be lonely. Why else would I be awake, with little intention of falling asleep, blogging about sports?
Well, it’s quite simple.
For one, the final day of competition in London is well underway. But of course more importantly, play resumes at Kiawah in a mere hour and a half as heavy rain and the threat of thunder and lightning suspended third round action in the PGA Championship.
A look ahead to the final day of action reveals some great story lines which I will briefly set up and give my unabashed predictions for. First, however, I’ll hold myself accountable to my Wednesday evening pre-tournament predictions.
1. Keegan Bradley
I was pretty high on this kid coming into the tournament off a win last week and defending his title from last year. Keegan got off to a fast start Thursday, getting it to -5 at one point and making me look like a genius early. However, he didn’t handle the blustery conditions on Friday too well, and began to fade. Despite righting the ship for the most part on his first 16 holes of round 3 (he will go back out early to complete his final two holes), Keegan sits at +1 for the tournament and probably too far back to realistically contend. A top 10 is not out of the question, though.
2. Jim Furyk
Jim never really seemed to be in the mix this week, though a steady 3rd round 70 has set him up for a possible strong finish, especially since he can enjoy his morning while many others head out early to complete round 3).
3. Zach Johnson
Zach was hanging around quietly until 3 straight bogeys before the stoppage of play more or less derailed him. Perhaps the stoppage was just what he needed in order to recompose and finish respectably. And I do expect Zach to get it going again and get into the top 10 or 15 tomorrow, especially with the possibility of more rain and gusty winds, which he handled well on Friday relative to the rest of the field.
4. Justin Rose
It’s been a strange tournament for the young Englishman. He dropped 5 birdies in each of his first and third rounds, but a 79 on Friday has taken him out of contention. If he can experience some more streakiness that he has enjoyed at times this week, look for him to get it under par for the tournament.
5. Bo Van Pelt
Here’s someone to watch out for. Bo sits on the 3rd round clubhouse lead, while the four players currently ahead of him on the leaderboard have their back nines still to complete. The weather in the early morning could be determinative of Bo’s chances. If the leaders and those others lurking around him fall back in the challenging winds, then he could find himself in the final group. If not, he’s got to take it low in round 4 to have a chance.
6. Luke Donald
Luke continues to disappoint at the majors. A double bogey in each of his rounds has highlighted his unsteady play.
7. Phil Mickelson
Lefty has surprised me. After barely holding it together on Thursday, Phil carded the second lowest round (71) in the tough conditions in round 2. Still, he sits at +1 and would be shocked if he’s a factor tomorrow.
Oh yeah, Eldrick.
Well, as always fans and commentators alike were ready to crown him after Friday (even without the 36-hold lead!). Tiger struggled with the flat stick, as I worried he might, early in round 3. He goes out shortly to try to tidy up am 8-footer for par to avoid dropping to E for the tournament with 28 holes remaining. Maybe the extra time that he’ll be able to play in his traditional Sunday red will be the antidote for Tiger and his majorless streak, now at over 4 years. Your guess is as good as mine, but I would think he would need to get back at least 2 of the shots he dropped for a 73 at worst to conclude round 3.
To rule him out, however, is always a mistake.
It’s hard not to like Rory‘s chances going into the final day. His attitude seems to be world class, particularly demonstrated when his tee shot on the 3rd hole on Saturday lodged itself in the branch of a tree. With poise, Rory took an unplayable lie and the accompanying penalty stroke and promptly got up-and-down for his par.
A win for Rory tomorrow would reignite discussion around his anticipated dominance for the next decade, much like how Tiger took control of things in the 2000s. Rory, 23, would be the youngest player since World War II to have won two major championships.
On the other end of the spectrum, Vijay Singh has seemingly come out of nowhere to challenge and become the oldest player to win a major, at 49. Vijay was completely off my radar coming into this week, but sits in a tie atop the leaderboard on the strength of his 69 on Friday (compared to a PGA Championship field average high of 78) and trying to cap off a bogey free front nine in round 3, a round that he will complete with Tiger as surely have his competitive juices flowing.
Other notables include Adam Scott, who is trying to do what Rory did a year ago at the US Open in bouncing back immediately after giving away the previous major down the stretch. Adam appears to have found his equanimity at Kiawah, and hopes to fully exorcise the demons from Royal Lytham. I expect Adam to play his way into the final grouping for round 4.
Two others that have caught my attention going into the final day are Trevor Immelman and Ian Poulter. Their international experience and proficiency on links courses have allowed them to stay in the hunt, shooting respective rounds of 72 and 71 on the tough Friday. Trevor’s a past major winner (2008 Masters) while Poulter has often found himself in the mix on Sunday only to fail in finding the decisive gear. I look to both to make a charge.