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It’s playoff time: The Barclays preview

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The PGA Tour’s version of the post-season, the Playoffs for the FedEx Cup, begins this week at The Barclays at Bethpage Black in Farmindale, N.Y.  Heading into the tournament, the first of the four week playoff system, it is easy to pick contenders but almost impossible to pick the eventual winner. Among the favorites is Tiger Woods, the Tour’s only three-time winner and the FedEx Cup point leader. It will be interesting to see how Woods performs in these playoffs given his disappointing performances on the weekends of this year’s majors.

While the playoff events are worth a significant amount of money, they are not the major championships. Golf’s most important competitions take place in the regular season, but are followed by a highly-compensated All-Star competition at the end, making the PGA Tour the inverse of the most professional sports. But the Tour’s playoffs have grown over time to become a system that is enjoyed by players and fans alike.

Woods spoke of trying to “relax and take it easy” during the PGA Championship, a clear indication that he was feeling the pressure like other mortal golfers. Tiger has had success on three of the four playoff venues; if he can keep his focus without psychologically wrapping himself around a tree he will be hard to beat.

The next four positions in the FedEx standings are Jason Dufner, Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson and Zach Johnson. Style-wise, they are a split between steady (Dufner, Johnson) and spectacular. Team Spectacular logged two major victories this year (Watson’s Masters win and McIlroy’s at the PGA Championship), but Dufner and Z. Johnson were permanent fixtures on the leaderboards every week. Look for all of them to be in contention going into the Tour Championship at East Lake.

You’ll win big betting money trying to figure out who is going to be this year’s Bill Haas, coming from the middle of the pack to cash a life-changing check. A betting man could take a chance on Lee Westwood. He finished in 51st place in the point standings, but he only played in 11 events. He again came up short in his quest for his first major and a FedEx Cup victory would buy a lot salve for those wounds.

The fun starts on Thursday, with Woods and McIlroy paired for the first two rounds on the Bethpage Black course that hosted one of Wood’s signature victories, the 2002 U.S. Open, where he was the only player to finish under par for the week. A full 10 years later, the once precocious Woods is now the elder statesman, while McIlroy is golf’s current phenom.  Expect record galleries to follow this historic twosome as they negotiate the challenging Bethpage layout; perhaps as challenging will be how to handle each other. Any head-to-head matchup between these two for the rest of their careers will be closely scrutinized for signs of where their respective games are in relation to each other in the present and, ultimately, in terms of their legacies.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum.

Michael Williams is the contributing editor of Newschannel8 Capital Golf Weekly and Bunkershot.com, as well as a member of the Golf Writers Association of America.

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Williams has a reputation as a savvy broadcaster, and as an incisive interviewer and writer. An avid golfer himself, Williams has covered the game of golf and the golf lifestyle including courses, restaurants, travel and sports marketing for publications all over the world. He is currently working with a wide range of outlets in traditional and electronic media, and has produced and hosted “Sticks and Stones” on the Fox Radio network, a critically acclaimed show that combined coverage of the golf world with interviews of the Washington power elite. His work on Newschannel8’s “Capital Golf Weekly” and “SportsTalk” have established him as one of the area’s most trusted sources for golf reporting. Williams has also made numerous radio appearances on “The John Thompson Show,” and a host of other local productions. He is a sought-after speaker and panel moderator, he has recently launched a new partnership with The O Team to create original golf-themed programming and events. Williams is a member of the United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Troy Vayanos

    Aug 23, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    Very difficult to pick a winner this weekend. I think Sergio Garcia’s form will continue. I’d look for long hitters like McIlroy, Johnston and Bubba Watson to do well.

  2. Chris M

    Aug 23, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Tiger is giving him the high handshake and standing tall over him. Let the intimidation tactics begin.

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Tour News

Tiger Woods fires second-round 76, will miss Genesis Open cut

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Tiger Woods’ trip to Los Angeles is over sooner than he’d hoped. Woods fired a 5-over 76 during the second round of the Genesis Open to miss the presumed cut at Riviera by four strokes (the second round won’t be completed until Saturday morning due to darkness).

Hopes were high Woods would continue to build on a T-23 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, as the driving woes that plagued him at Torrey Pines followed him to the Riv, despite changing shafts in his TaylorMade M3.

RELATED: Tiger Woods WITB

Wayward off the tee, Woods made eight bogeys Friday, unable to grind out a decent score as he did with his opening-round 1-over 72. He was unable to rely on his putter the way did in this first round, three-putting back-to-back holes (No. 11 and 12). A stretch of three straight bogeys sunk Woods’ hopes of hanging around for the weekend.

(c/o PGATour.com)

We won’t have to wait long to see the Big Cat back in action, however, as Woods committed to next week’s Honda Classic at PGA National in Florida. Woods most recently put a peg in the ground at the course in 2014, where he ultimately withdrew due to back spasms.

The 79-time PGA Tour winner hasn’t teed it in back-to-back weeks since 2015, so while fans may not be encouraged by his play, at least he continues to be free from any issues with his surgically repaired back.

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Tiger Woods shoots an opening-round 72 (1-over) at the 2018 Genesis Open

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After hitting just 17 fairways all week at the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open, where he finished T23, Tiger Woods switched driver shafts and added 0.75 degrees of loft in his TaylorMade M3 driver ahead of the 2018 Genesis Open this week. He went from using a Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro White 70TX shaft, to a Matrix TP6HDe shaft — he used a TP7HDe shaft back in 2015.

So how did the switch work out for him at Riviera CC on Thursday?

Well, he hit driver 9 times during his round of 72 strokes; four went right — one of which got lost in a tree and he had to re-tee — one went left, and four found the fairway. He hit 8-of-14 fairways in total; no Fred Funk, but an improvement. Woods’ bigger issue on Thursday, actually, was that he hit only 7 greens in regulation, leaving himself a few tricky up-and-downs. Despite hitting only 38 percent of greens, Woods managed to make 5 birdies, and he continues displaying prowess on the greens (1.784 Strokes Gained Putting, and 82 feet worth of putts made).

He also showed some flashes of old Tiger with Arnie-esque follow through.

Of course, that means he missed the fairway way right, and he did go onto bogey the hole, but the shot made for some excitement on golf twitter, at least.

According to @RandallMellGC, Tiger described his round in a post-round interview: “I fought hard. I made a few simple, silly mistakes, bad shots here and there, missed on the wrong side, made a few birdies as well. 1-over’s not bad.”

Yea, that’s about right.

Tiger currently sits at T66, and six shots off the leader. Lots of golf to play, but he’ll likely be contending with the cutline come Friday afternoon. How do you think Tiger will finish this week at the 2018 Genesis Open?

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Tour News

Bill Haas injured in fatal car crash in Los Angeles

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Bill Haas was involved in a fatal car crash in Pacific Palisades, Calif., site of the Genesis Open, Tuesday night.

The 35-year-old was riding in the passenger seat of a Ferrari driven by a member of the family with whom Haas is staying this week. According to LA County fire officials, the Ferrari collided with a BMW driven by a 50-year-old woman. Haas and the driver of the BMW were transported to a local hospital. The 71-year-old male driver of the Ferrari was pronounced dead on the scene.

The Ferrari also reportedly “clipped” a vehicle driven by actor Luke Wilson prior to the rollover. Wilson was not injured, per a police report.

Per PGATour.com, Bill Haas’ manager, Allen Hobbs of Players Group Management, released the following statement Wednesday morning.

“Last night in Pacific Palisades, California, Bill Haas was involved in a serious car accident in which the driver—a member of the family with whom Haas and his family were staying for the Genesis Open—was killed. While Bill escaped serious injuries and has been released from the hospital, he is understandably shaken up and—more importantly—his deepest condolences go out to the host family during this tragic and difficult time.“

“Bill will withdraw from the Genesis Open and plans to head home to Greenville to recover. He appreciates the support of friends, family and the golf world as a whole, and he has asked for privacy as he processes what has happened.“

Geoff Shackelford tweeted this video of the KTLA coverage of the crash.

Bill Haas’ father, Jay, spoke with Todd Lewis on Golf Channel’s morning drive earlier in the day, saying his son was “very fortunate.” Beyond swelling in one of his legs and pain, Haas sustained no serious injuries, according to his father.

See the discussion in the forums here

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