Aug
22
2011
FedExCup Playoffs: A Collection of Competitors and Couch Potatoes
By Will Leivenberg under FedEx Cup

There’s about as many positive things said about the FedExCup as there are about Tiger Woods’ 2011 season. Just after we were forced to come to terms with Woods’ unrecognizable (and mediocre) play, so too did we (re)learn how significant the seemingly arbitrary (though improved) design (earn a chance to win an inordinate, ridiculous and borderline disgusting prize of $10 million) of the FedExCup were last Sunday at the Wyndham Championship.

The final event of the PGA Tour season was also the final opportunity for the pros to swing into the top 125 in the standings. While some were safe entering the week – like Nick Watney (No.1), Phil Mickelson (No.5), Dustin Johnson (No.19) and Graeme McDowell (No.93) – there were a bunch of players dangling on the edge of the end of their season. Sunday was actually a riveting sight to see as golf’s professionals who are typically stoic under pressure had to bare down and fight for their spot.

So just who will be competing and who will be on their couch watching?

Couch Potatoes:

Tiger Woods: Woods was not far out of the Playoffs standings (129) prior to the Wyndham, but after a ghastly missed cut at the PGA Championship, Woods was back to the drawing board. The next time we will see Tiger?  TBD, but quite possibly at Fall Series event. Captain Fred Couples said if Woods want to be a captain’s pick for the Presidents Cup, he needs to play more competitively. And that doesn’t mean showing up a week before the matches at the Australian Open in November.

Justin Leonard: Perhaps Leonard’s 11 missed cuts in 23 events were a precursor to his falling short of the Playoffs. Did I say fall short? We’re talking inches here, and six points to be exact. After beginning the week well behind in the standings (No.146), Leonard could sink his par-putt on the 18th Sunday and advance to the Playoffs in the 125th spot. The golf gods, however, had other ideas. Leonard missed the putt and closed the door to a season he’s now eager to forget.

Paul Casey: Needing a solid finish to climb in the standings, Paul Casey had a run-of-the-mill finish to cap of his mediocre, injury-laden season. Casey finished T47, bumping him just three spots in the standings from No.147 to No.144. Although there was hope initially with his opening round 65, Casey just couldn’t find his groove and will look forward to revamping his game for next season.

Matt Jones: Not only did Matt Jones miss the cut at the Wyndham, but to add insult to injury, Jones had to stick around to see the fate of the field. Beginning the week at No.122, Jones would suffer the same unfortunate outcome as Leonard, coming up a mere six points short of the 125th spot.

Competitors:

Camilo Villegas: The Columbian has taken a lot of heat for under-performing this season; just 11 of 22 cuts made and just two top 10s.  At the Wyndham, however, Villegas put his erratic season behind him and posted a terrific T9 finish, leaping from No.125 to No.109.

William McGirt: Who? Yah, I said the same thing. The pudgy North Carolinian was a blueprint for inconsistency in 2011, making just half of his cuts all season, 13 out of 26. Regardless, McGirt put together four crucial rounds of golf at the Wyndham and hit the nail on the head to earn the final spot, No.125, in the FedExCup Playoffs.

Ernie Els: The man who some believe boasts the sweetest swing in golf put finesse aside and was all focus at the Wyndham Championship. After an awful performance at the PGA Championship the week before, Ernie Els shot 8-under-par at the Wyndham and climbed in the standings from a fearful No.126 to safety at 118. Els played gritty, aggressive golf and may be able to ride this momentum into some top finishes in the Playoffs.

Padraig Harrington: After placing T64 at the PGA Championship, Harrington cancelled his family vacation to the Bahamas to play in the Wyndham Championship. Turns out it was a good decision as Paddy secured his place in the FedExCup playoffs after a T47 finish at the Wyndham, propelling him from No.130 to 124, the most substantial leap of any player outside the cutline. Although the three-time major champion has struggled to find his rhythm over the last few seasons, he will have a chance to compete against one of the year’s most talented fields during the Playoffs.

Other Noteworthy Highlights

Of the current top 125, only Masters champ Charl Schwartzel (No. 21) elected not to play The Barclays. Tsk, tsk (Don’t blame him — probably would prefer to extend his vacation a week with his family). Schwartzel is committed to the remaining three events of the Playoffs.

David Mathis (No. 123 to No. 129), Cameron Beckman (No. 124 to No. 130), and Matt Jones (No. 122 to No. 127) all missed the cut at the Wyndham Championship and fell out of the top 125, ending their FedExCup hopes for 2011.

–Will L.

(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)