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Opinion & Analysis

Meet the FedEx Cup top contenders

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New Scoring System for the FedEx Cup

The FedEx Cup kicks off at The Northern Trust on August 8th, and the three-tournament event will feature a brand-new finish for 2019. For the first time, the winner of the final tournament, the Tour Championship, will automatically be declared the winner of the FedEx Cup and take home a check for $15 million.

In an effort to simplify the FedEx Cup, the rules were changed last season to introduce a new scoring system called FedEx Cup Starting Strokes. The revamped system will assign scores to each player based upon their FedEx points through the first two tournaments. The top golfers will start the Tour Championship anywhere from even-par to 10-under.

The alteration to the final scoring will assure that the Tour Championship winner is the FedEx Cup champion. Over the past 11 years of the FedEx Cup, the Tour Championship victor has not been the FedEx Cup champion on three different occasions, causing frustration among television viewers that could not follow the complicated rules.

Meet the FedEx Cup Top Contenders

With the start of the FedEx Cup just a few days away, let’s take a look at the top contenders for bringing home the champion’s take of $15 million.

Brooks Koepka

Easily the golfer with the best all-around season in 2019, Brooks Koepka will enter the FedEx Cup as the prohibitive favorite. The Florida native is the number-one player in the world has won the most money on the PGA Tour this season and leads the FedEx Cup points standings.

Koepka ranks in the top ten on the Tour in greens in regulation percentage, average birdies per round, and most importantly, scoring average. He has three wins on the season including his fourth major title, the PGA Championship, back in May.

Rory McIlroy

Coming off his disappointing Open Championship performance, Rory McIlroy could turn his frustration into a serious run at the FedEx Cup. In addition to his two wins this season, McIlroy has posted the best scoring average on the PGA Tour in 2019.

In his last three tournaments in America, McIlroy has posted rounds in the 60s in nine out of twelve total rounds. In his last five tournaments where he made the cut, McIlroy has finished in the top 10 in each event.

Matt Kuchar

The 41-year-old Matt Kuchar may not have the flashiest collection of stats this season, but the golfer has put together another solid year that includes winnings totaling over $6.2 million, good for third place on the PGA Tour in 2019.

Although he remains in the bottom third in driving distance, Kuchar ranks in the top eight in both greens in regulation percentage and scoring average. If the Georgia Tech graduate has one Achilles’ heel it is with the putter as Kuchar stands 107th on Tour with 29.04 putts per round.

Xander Schauffele

Xander Schauffele stands fourth in FedEx Cup points and fifth in total money on the PGA Tour. Ranked 11th in the world, Schauffele has put together some very impressive performances on golf’s biggest stages as he finished tied for second at the Masters and tied for third at the U.S. Open.

Schauffele has been solid this season in his recent tournaments but, aside from the two majors, has rarely challenged for tournament wins since his Sentry Tournament of Champions victory in early January.

Gary Woodland

The 2019 U.S. Open champion is riding his first major win to a fifth-place spot in the FedEx Cup standings. The Kansas-native has missed two cuts and finished in the 50s in the four tournaments around his U.S. Open win.

If you were to try and pinpoint a weakness in Woodland’s game you might choose putting at first glance until you get to the birdie conversion percentage and you find that he has converted a whopping 35.79 percent of his birdie attempts, good for second on the PGA Tour this season.

Patrick Cantlay

Winner of the 2019 Memorial Championship, Cantlay has posted a stellar eight top-10 finishes this season on the PGA Tour. If you are an analytics fan, Cantlay shines in the total strokes gained per round. Patrick stands behind only Rory McIlroy, as the 27-year-old is posting an average of over two strokes gained on the field.

In big events this season, Cantlay finished third at the PGA Championship and ninth at the Masters. He made the cut in all four major championships in 2019.

Dustin Johnson

Ranked second in the world, Johnson continues to post impressive stats. The 35-year-old golfer is top-seven on tour in driving distance, birdie average, and sand save percentage. He also can drain a putt from anywhere as Johnson has knocked home 14 putts this year from beyond 25 feet.

Johnson came close to another career major with his second-place finish at the PGA Championship in May. One of the many reasons that Johnson cannot be discounted for the FedEx Cup is he has the fifth-best scoring average on tour in 2019 at 69.428 strokes per round.

Jon Rahm

The 24-year-old Spaniard has one victory on the PGA Tour and ten top-10 finishes this season. Rahm’s game is aggressive as he prides himself on hitting long drives and knocking home birdies from anywhere on the green. Rahm ranks seventh on tour in 2019 as he averages 4.3 birdies per round.

Rahm won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans at the end of April and has posted three straight top-11 finishes in his last three tournaments.

Tiger Woods

Although Tiger finished second last season in the FedEx Cup, due mainly to his Tour Championship win, he doesn’t have the same momentum heading into the 2019 edition of the event. Woods once again missed a cut at a major after posting 6-over 148 during the first two rounds of the Open Championship.

Citing his age and numerous surgeries, Woods told the media after his misfire at the Open that he just can’t rebound like he could in his 20s. Since Tiger will need to put together three straight stellar performances in the span of three weeks, it is not hard to believe that Woods might not be ready for the physical toll that the FedEx Cup will place on his beleaguered body.

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Jordan Fuller is a golf enthusiast with over 25 years of experience on the golf course. He’s fallen in love with the game and now teaches golf to amateur players in Omaha, Nebraska. He also loves to write and share his learnings about the game in articles on his website, Golf Influence.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. John H.Holliday

    Aug 6, 2019 at 12:33 am

    Wood? ha,ha,ha,ha,…..

  2. Pelling

    Aug 3, 2019 at 9:21 pm

    Dumb format, no ones cares, and the top guys could care less about the extra money. See the Wyndham incentive that failed to attract any top players. There are only four tournaments that matter and they are now scrunched into a 120 day period. Golf is not NASCAR.

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Opinion & Analysis

Slow play is all about the numbers

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If you gather round, children, I’ll let you in on a secret: slow play is all about the numbers. Which numbers? The competitive ones. If you compete at golf, no matter the level, you care about the numbers you post for a hole, a round, or an entire tournament. Those numbers cause you to care about the prize at the end of the competition, be it a handshake, $$$$, a trophy, or some other bauble. Multiply the amount that you care, times the number of golfers in your group, your flight, the tournament, and the slowness of golf increases by that exponent.

That’s it. You don’t have to read any farther to understand the premise of this opinion piece. If you continue, though, I promise to share a nice anecdotal story about a round of golf I played recently—a round of golf on a packed golf course, that took a twosome exactly three hours and 10 minutes to complete, holing all putts.

I teach and coach at a Buffalo-area high school. One of my former golfers, in town for a few August days, asked if we could play the Grover Cleveland Golf Course while he was about. Grover is a special place for me: I grew up sneaking on during the 1970s. It hosted the 1912 U.S. Open when it was the Country Club of Buffalo. I returned to play it with Tom Coyne this spring, becoming a member of #CitizensOfACCA in the process.

Since my former golfer’s name is Alex, we’ll call him Alex, to avoid confusion. Alex and I teed off at 1:30 on a busy, sunny Wednesday afternoon in August. Ahead of us were a few foursomes; behind us, a few more. There may have been money games in either place, or Directors’ Cup matches, but to us, it was no matter. We teed it high and let it fly. I caught up on Alex’ four years in college, and his plans for the upcoming year. I shared with him the comings and goings of life at school, which teachers had left since his graduation, and how many classrooms had new occupants. It was barroom stuff, picnic-table conversation, water-cooler gossip. Nothing of dense matter nor substance, but pertinent and enjoyable, all the same.

To the golf. Neither one of us looked at the other for permission to hit. Whoever was away, at any given moment, mattered not a bit. He hit and I hit, sometimes simultaneously, sometimes within an instant of the other. We reached the putting surface and we putted. Same pattern, same patter. Since my high school golfers will need to choose flagstick in or out this year, we putted with it in. Only once did it impact our roll: a pounded putt’s pace was slowed by the metal shaft. Score one for Bryson and the flagstick-in premise!

Grover tips out around 5,600 yards. After the U.S. Open and the US Public Links were contested there, a healthy portion of land was given away to the Veteran’s Administration, and sorely-needed hospital was constructed at the confluence of Bailey, Lebrun, and Winspear Avenues. It’s an interesting track, as it now and forever is the only course to have hosted both the Open and the Publinx; since the latter no longer exists, this fact won’t change. It remains the only course to have played a par-6 hole in U.S. Open competition. 480 of those 620 yards still remain, the eighth hole along Bailey Avenue. It’s not a long course, it doesn’t have unmanageable water hazards (unless it rains a lot, and the blocked aquifer backs up) and the bunkering is not, in the least, intimidating.

Here’s the rub: Alex and I both shot 75 or better. We’re not certain what we shot, because we weren’t concerned with score. We were out for a day of reminiscence, camaraderie, and recreation. We golfed our balls, as they say in some environs, for the sheer delight of golfing our balls. Alex is tall, and hits this beautiful, high draw that scrapes the belly of the clouds. I hit what my golfing buddies call a power push. It gets out there a surprising distance, but in no way mimics Alex’ trace. We have the entire course covered, from left to right and back again.

On the 14th tee, I checked my phone and it was 3:40. I commented, “Holy smokes, we are at two hours for 13 holes.” We neither quickened nor slowed our pace. We tapped in on 18, right around 4:40, and shook hands. I know what he’s been up to. He understands why I still have a day job, and 18 holes of golf were played—because we both cared and didn’t care.

There you have it, children. Off with you, now. To the golf course. Play like you don’t care.

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Opinion & Analysis

Golfers: Go easy on yourselves!

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Heres a fact for you: nearly half of all golfers will never break 100, according to the National Golf Foundation. Less than that will ever break 90, and only five percent will ever break 80. Golf is not an easy game, so you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. Period.

I’m not here to go all Zen golf on you; I can only speak from personal experience, but the moment you accept that, regardless of your ability to score, you can have a lot of fun, the more you will truly enjoy the game of golf.

When I first learned to play, like many, I was not very good. Everyone I played with was way better than me, and although I don’t remember a lot of those early rounds, I can remember moments of feeling embarrassed for my play. It wasn’t because of the people I was playing with, they were all very helpful and patient, but for some reason, I knew that I was not helping the group. It is those memories that allow me to make sure no matter who I play with now, I make them feel welcome on the course and help them any chance I can.

We all started somewhere, and regardless of how many rounds we have played or how low our handicaps have gotten, we need to be accepting that anyone that takes the time to try and play golf should be afforded the opportunity to learn and enjoy the game.

Even with my current level of play, the insecurities of being a newbie creep in from time to time, I never want to feel like I am the reason my group is being slow—although I must admit that with my normal pace of play that’s not usually an issue. I played a round very earlier in the year during a trip to Florida where I was paired with what I would call very regular golfers, players who generally break 100, but struggle with aspects of their game. Even then, just like when I was 10 years old, I was having a hard time out of a bunker one the second hole and after blading one into the pond on my second attempt (give me a break, it was my first round in four months), I just walked to the green, tended the flag, and told them I’d take my ESC (equitable stroke control) number for the hole. Thas describes my golf game, and I’m OK with that.

Too many golfers get caught up in how the pros play—from the tips, bombing drivers, expecting to make six birdies a round. Players on the PGA Tour are like the aliens from Space Jam (I just seriously dated myself) the Monstars. They have every skill imaginable, and get to do this for a living—you better believe they are going to be good at it. There is NO reason as a 10-15 handicap you should be slamming clubs and stomping your feet for missing a green from 150 yards. It’s just part of the game. Heck, even Rory McIlroy misses greens from time to time. Do you ever hit it like Rory?

Expectations are part of the human ego, and if we don’t manage them properly, we will always feel like we are inadequate. In reality, we should approach every challenge (even something as simple as golf) with the idea that today I have the opportunity to be great, but there is also the equal chance I will fail. We learn from failure, we improve after failure, and it’s not something we should be scared of.

No matter your score, make it fun, enjoy the day, embrace the challenge. Your expectations can make or break what to take from every round of golf you play, and if you think for a second this is the worst golf ever played—trust me it’s not. It’s just one round of many bad rounds played every day, and the next round is your next challenge. Honestly, you’re not as bad as you think you are.

Go easy on yourself. Golf is a lot more enjoyable that way.

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Podcasts

TG2: LPGA Tour caddie Chris McCalmont

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LPGA Tour caddie Chris McCalmont joins us to talk about his 12-year career as a caddie. How volatile the job market is, the money they make, and what he loves about caddying. Chris also makes some interesting comments on slow play and what can, and cannot, be done about it.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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