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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.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. John H.Holliday

    Aug 6, 2019 at 12:33 am

    Wood? ha,ha,ha,ha,…..

  2. Gerald Teigrob

    Aug 4, 2019 at 7:38 pm

    There’s something I don’t like about Koepka. He comes off as being the most arrogant and self-centered Fed Ex Cup leader and major winner. If he doesn’t let his head get any bigger he might become more of a favorite, but he will need to mellow quite a bit for me to cheer for him. DJ and Tiger will always be my favorites. And we all use age as an excuse when we crap out in golf…and the next game we rebound to shoot the best round of the year! I recovered from double knee surgery to enjoy the best golf I have played in some time! And after last year’s Tour Championship win I would say Tiger is still a heavy favorite in my books! Once he gets closer to 60 we’ll talk age, but even with that, clubs and technology have improved that as other pros like Tiger look to play into their 50s like the rest of us, they will need to adapt and stop playing clubs with specs they played in their 20s. No wonder more top players are developing back issues..they need to start playing what fits them. And I would suggest that a number of game improvement irons conform to be played on the PGA tour including my Bio Cell irons and the King Cobra F7 irons. Or play a stiffer graphite shaft/or hybrid shaft. Lots of options available and no one would consider them to be cheating!

  3. 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.

    • Gerald Teigrob

      Aug 4, 2019 at 7:46 pm

      I completely agree, Pelling! I don’t see the same flair and everyone has to either play other tournaments and run out of gas or play with the focus on the majors and suck the rest of the year! Case in point is Koepka! He shows up on the big days but forgets to show up during the rest of the season. The bigger events like majors and WGC events dole out a bunch of dollars and it has become more of a slugfest than something to aspire to! And having Rory explain to the media why he didn’t make the cut at the Open begalls me! Shit happens. And to use that to suggest Rory won’t win a Masters event…the media airheads said the same thing about Phil Michelson and he’s even won the Open that others counted him out of. He could still compete on the regular tour for a while just as Vijay Singh has! OMG…this has become a three-ringed circus instead of the type of event that Finchem would have been proud of! Wake up, Monahan and small the latte1

  4. Michael E Maloney

    Aug 3, 2019 at 5:25 pm

    Is this the tiger effect? cause he won the tourney last year but shithead Justin rose took home the fedex cup which absolutely no one in that crowd gave 2 shits about and was not celebrated?

    Season long points give credit where credit is due for those not ranked so high and gives a chance to get in the playoffs. Then once in the playoff the points determine who moves forward only to make the final tourney then all points out the window and winner take all?

    so you can be in first place, before playoffs, win the first 3 tournaments of the playoff and be ahead by 3000+ points and if player #32 wins just this 1 tournament while technically you have way more points, that 1 winner guys gets the fedex cup?

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Opinion & Analysis

A road trip to St. Andrews

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In 2017, my son Brian and his wife Lauren, proposed a family trip to Scotland. Both of them have traveled a surprising amount for a couple barely 30 years old, but for us it would be a huge trip. We couldn’t get it scheduled for 2018 but everything lined up for October, 2019, a trip that might even include playing the Old Course in St. Andrews, if we got lucky. The amazing Lauren made all the arrangements, beginning with multiple email exchanges with the staff at the Old Course, who were extremely gracious and encouraging in their communications.

Unlike most other courses, in order to play the Old Course, you have three options: One is to book a very expensive trip through a travel broker who will guarantee a tee time. This is the only way to make your arrangements in advance, but you’re paying thousands for the package, which would include at least three other days of golf. Sounds great but above our budget. Secondly, you can take a real gamble and just show up at the starter’s window the day you are hoping to play, and get in line as early as 3 a.m., put your name on the list and then wait, maybe all day, maybe hopelessly. It’s no way to budget an entire day on your vacation. The third way is to use what is called the “ballot system,” submitting your request for a tee time via email to standrews.com, 48 hours ahead and hopefully getting a spot.

Now, it’s not as grim a prospect as it may sound for planning to play golf in St. Andrews. The above only applies to getting onto the Old Course. We were able to make a tee time for the Jubilee Course, one of six other courses (Jubilee, Castle, New Course, Eden, Strathtyrum, and Balgove), all part of the St. Andrews Links complex, “The Home of Golf” as their brochure proclaims. Since we were scheduling our trip for the tail-end of the golf season, the gentleman from St. Andrews wrote that he was cautiously optimistic we would be successful using the ballot system.

This wasn’t just a golfing vacation, the five us had an outstanding time touring the west coast of Scotland, including the Oban Whisky distillery, the Harry Potter train in Glencoe, Ben Nevis—the highest peak in the UK, Fort William, and the spectacular Highlands, the town of St. Andrews, and finally the marvelous city of Edinburgh. We ended up spending one night in St. Andrews, at The Saint, a lovely four-room hotel, a 10-minute walk from the Old Course. That evening, walking down cobblestone streets, with the R&A clubhouse coming into view, was like walking in a dream.

Our day started out by driving directly to the new Links Clubhouse, which has wonderful views of the courses from the restaurant. We had lunch, and I must admit to being a bit nervous over my chicken bacon mayo sandwich. We’d parked our bags in the locker room down below, it’s just what you’d expect in terms of world-class accommodations and feel. I could just imagine the pros suiting up there as they prepare to play in The Open.

Our day of golf at the Jubilee Course was spectacular, although it got off to a rainy start, but the weather cleared by the fourth hole. Mary, Jill, and Lauren formed our gallery as we teed off, then they went for a walk around the lovely town. I parred the first hole and told Brian that made my entire trip to Scotland. I was on fire, shooting 42 on the front nine but hitting only three fairways and two greens in regulation. Brian shot 45. We’d decided on match play, and I was up by three on the 11th hole. Brian then said the fateful words, “You haven’t hit into a pot bunker all day!” Which I promptly did. My game immediately tanked while he proceeded to make a total of nine pars, shooting 42 on the back, and won the match 2 & 1. Our gallery re-appeared on the 17th hole, the sun was shining, and we were in golf heaven! We ended the day with a pint at the famous Dunvegan Pub by the R&A clubhouse.

Earlier in the day, Brian had received an email from St. Andrews, unfortunately stating that we had not been selected for the ballot to play on the Old Course the next day. He resubmitted our request for the following day with fingers crossed. We headed to our next stop, Edinburgh, looking forward to exploring this ancient yet cosmopolitan city. During our walking tour, Brian received the email notification that we’d scored an 11 a.m. tee time on the Old Course for Friday. He and I would be making a road trip back north while the ladies spent the day in Edinburgh.

It was about an hour ride back to St. Andrews but traffic was quite manageable and we arrived at 9:30, plenty of time for breakfast at the Links Clubhouse. I felt that anticipatory excitement I always have right before marshaling at a big event, like a U.S. Open, where the atmosphere of the place is nearly overwhelming. Not really nervousness, but we were about to play the Old Course! Isn’t that every golfer’s dream? To say Brian was wound up tight would be an understatement, he could barely choke down half a scone. The walk over toward the starters shack, where we would meet our caddies, with the R&A clubhouse right there at the first tee was unreal.

The clerk was so gracious, taking our 130 Scottish pounds green fee (about $160), and handing us a very nice valuables pouch complete with an amazingly detailed yardage book, tees, pencils, divot tool, and scorecard. We were then approached by our two caddies, who between them had nearly 30 years of caddying experience. I got John, whose personality was perfect for me, quiet, calm, not too chatty, yet personable. Brian’s guy, Steve was just right for him as well, right from central casting with a thick Scottish brogue. He instantly bonded with Brian to become his playing partner/coach, which was just what he needed to get over the first tee jitters.

The starter, Richard, approached us as we made our way over to the first tee, greeting us much like you see them do at the start of the Open Championship. He made our presence there seem extra special, despite the fact he’d probably done the same routine 10 thousand times. He even took our picture. We were then introduced to our two other playing partners, both former members of the course, so they didn’t need caddies to show them the way. These guys were hilarious, self-deprecating, with brogues so thick I could understand maybe one word in three, not the best golfers by any stretch, which was somehow quite reassuring and certainly less intimidating. Brian proved to be the best golfer in our foursome by far although he had a rough start, hitting his drive into the Swilcan Burn.

I was really calm on the tee, it helped that there were very few spectators as it was drizzling and maybe 50 degrees. John told me where to aim, (“at that gorse bush off in the distance”) and I was able to do exactly that. As we walked off the first tee Steve said “now you can all breathe again!” I found having a caddy to be such a wonderful added dimension to this whole experience—not just as a guide to point out where in the world I should be aiming on this alien golf layout, but also to set an expectation for me on each shot which I then tried my best to fulfill. The greens weren’t too scary as I felt used to the speeds having played Jubilee, but having John read the subtle breaks and provide aiming points was terrific.

I played bogey golf through the first 12 holes but the rain only intensified and despite John’s best effort to keep things dry, the final 6 holes were a mess. Brian was one up on our match at the turn, then went on to win decisively at 5 up, with a total for the day of 5 pars and a birdie, including par on 17, the famous Road Hole. As the day went on, we found ourselves saying over and over to each other, what a wonderful experience this was despite the conditions. Steve took the traditional picture of us on the Swilcan Bridge, on our way to finishing on 18, which Brian almost parred. He later said he had such a tremendous feeling of accomplishment, having conquered the Old Course.

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Podcasts

TG2: Brooks and Peter Kostis rip Patrick Reed

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Brooks Koepka and Peter Kostis both talk about Patrick Reed and his cheating allegations. Brooks was on SiriusXM and Kostis on No Laying Up don’t hold back their feelings on cheating. Kostis also has some PGA Tour beef, saying that they don’t care about the television broadcast.

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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Opinion & Analysis

Watch for players lofting up at altitude at the WGC-Mexico Championship

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This week, at the PGA Tour’s WGC-Mexico Championship, we are going to watch some of the best and longest players on the planet play what will effectively be one of the shortest courses on tour.

Now, 7,341 yards is by no means a cakewalk, and there are shorter courses from a pure yardage perspective played on tour—Harbour Town, as an example, only plays at 7,099 yards from the very back. The difference is Harbour Town is played at sea level while Club de Golf Chapultepec is at over 7,500 feet of elevation, and when you factor in the altitude difference between the two courses, they play very differently—more on the math in a moment.

The altitude will also factor in how some players will be setting up their equipment and we could see some adjustments. The most obvious is lofting up the driver or fairways woods to increase carry, which is something Tiger Woods specifically mentioned last year.

The biggest misconception when talking about playing golf at altitude is that the ball doesn’t spin the same in thinner air and players “loft up” to maintain spin. Let’s get into the physics to bust this “spinning less” myth and simplify the science behind playing at altitude,

The golf ball is an inanimate object, and it has no idea it’s at altitude; the air will not have an impact on how much the ball will actually spin. Yes, increasing loft should, by almost every imaginable measure, increase spin but the air it travels through will not change the spin rate.

However, playing at altitude has an effect, Let’s break down what happens

  • Thinner air exerts less drag force (resistance/friction) on the ball. The ball moves more easily through this less dense air and won’t decelerate as quickly as it flies. But note that the faster an object moves the more drag force will occur
  • Less resistance also means that it is harder to shape shots. So you when you see Shot Tracer, the pros are going to be hitting it even straighter (this makes Tiger’s fairway bunker shot last year even more unbelievable)
  • Less force = less lift, the ball will fly lower and on a flatter trajectory

Time for some math from Steve Aoyama, a Principal Scientist at Titleist Golf Ball R&D (full piece here: The Effect of Altitude on Golf Ball Performance)

“You can calculate the distance gain you will experience (compared to sea level) by multiplying the elevation (in feet) by .00116. For example, if you’re playing in Reno, at 1 mile elevation (5,280 ft.) the increase is about 6% (5,280 x .00116 = 6.1248). If you normally drive the ball 250 yards at sea level, you will likely drive it 265 yards in Reno.”

Not every player will be making changes to their bag, and some will instead focus on the types of shots they are hitting instead. When speaking to Adam Scott earlier this week, I was able to ask if he planned on making any changes heading into Mexico the week after his win at the Genesis Invitational.

“It’s very rare for me to make club changes week-to-week beyond playing in the Open Championship and adding a longer iron. The one thing I focus on when playing at altitude is avoiding partial shots where I’m trying to reduce the spin because as spin goes down the ball doesn’t want to stay in the air. I’ve experienced partial shots with longer clubs that end up 25 yards short, and because of that I want to hit as many full shots as possible”

With Club de Golf Chapultepec sitting just over 7,800 feet above sea level, we’re looking at 9.048 or an increase of just over 9 percent. That makes this 7,341-yard course play 6,677 yards (+/- where the tees are placed).

 

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