Sep
6
2011
DBC Leftovers: More Belly, Watney’s 11 and PLAYOFF FEVER…?!?
By Stephanie Wei under FedEx Cup

Webb: God wanted me to make that putt!

Apologies for the lack of posts, but it was my travel day. Phew — it doesn’t look like I missed too much with regards to the 24-hour news cycle!

I should be way more cranky right now after driving the last 4.5 out of 5 hours in torrential downpour, but I’m actually just relieved I made it back safely. Tackling I-95 in heavy rains ain’t fun and it sucks the US Open was rained out today.

Since we have a “bye” week, I’d love to check out the tennis. Now if only some tickets would miraculously show up…#shamelessbegging

If you haven’t read Golf.com’s PGA Tour Confidential, I’d check it out. Most of my thoughts from last week can be found there. Naturally, we talked a lot about the belly putter debate…

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Greetings, fellow Confidentialists. Another interesting week in our global golf village. In Boston, Webb Simpson (and his long putter) wins again. In Ponte Vedra, the Tour players win again (with their new TV contract). On the Euro Tour, the Great Dane, Thomas Bjorn, wins again.

But the news of the week really has to be long putters. Golf’s original Independent Thinker, Mr. Phil Mickelson, went to the long wand in Boston, and the stigma against the broomstick is fading fast. What do we think, folks, about the belly putter? Is it good for the game? Will it someday become as commonplace as the 60-degree wedge? I, for one, can’t stand it. I’ll be buying one immediately.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: There was a point this weekend when I thought to myself, “I wonder if I should try a belly putter?” I guess that says it all.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I’m not buying that it’s an advantage, but it certainly works. So does The Claw, as Chris DiMarco once proved. The guy who is selling an extension to turn any putter into a belly putter is a guy in the right place at the right time with the right product. I will be writing about him shortly.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: It’s a bad look but ultimately not that big of a deal. It’s legal and available to everyone. Time to stop kvetching and get used to it because at this rate half the Tour will be using one next year.

Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: I hate it. But if my livelihood depended on making five-footers, I would use everything under the rules of golf to make ‘em.

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I can’t stand the belly putter. I think it should be abolished. Putting is a difficult skill, and the best putters always seemed to overcome those tingling fingers and hands we all feel over a short putt. The broomsticks and bellies fundamentally change what that all-important 14th club is supposed to do and be.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: So many guys are rock solid from tee to green, but we all know that tournaments are usually won or lost on the greens. With so little separating the guy who wins from the guy who comes in 30th, why wouldn’t you try a belly or long putter? I’m only surprised that it has taken this long for a run of long-putter wins to happen.

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: This weekend I stuck a club in my belly and made some practice strokes. Now I understand what everyone means when they say you can’t miss short putts. I’d consider trying one now, and I wouldn’t have a few months ago.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: The long putter has been around for what, 30 years? It’s here to stay. Look for a long-putter guru to make a killing showing us civilians how to use it.

Wei: Was anyone really that surprised Phil turned to the belly putter this week? C’mon, you all had to have seen it coming!

Herre: I didn’t. Phil was, arguably, the best putter of his generation. A sea change.

Van Sickle: Had Phil used a belly putter well at the British Open, he might have won it by four.

Bingo. I noticed there’s a healthy discussion going in the Webb Wins post, but feel free to continue it here. Have you considered trying/buying one recently? I want to know if this trend is catching on in the amateur game.

Also, has playoff fever caught on yet? Like I mentioned last night, I find the storylines about the bubble guys most intriguing, but with the start of college football season, have you caught the playoff bug yet? Or will you?

Bamberger: I am simply not feeling any sort of playoff anything. A nice golf tournament in Boston, but what was playoffish about it? Where was the win-or-go-home quality? Week 2 of this FedEx thing is maybe the most problematic. I really believe it is a marketing disaster and has to be re-thought. How about you all?

Herre: As Alan likes to point out, the best stories during the playoffs are those that deal with players at the cut line. We’re used to looking at the top of the leader board, not the bottom.

Van Sickle: It was another exciting FedEx Cup finish, once again entirely unrelated to the FedEx Cup points race. You can’t argue with the results, though.

Wei: I thought it got kind of intense with guys on the bubble to make the top 70. Ernie Els had to birdie the 18th. So did Geoff Ogilvy. They both made it. Ernie said the pressure he felt on 18 today was more intense than being in contention. If you screw up with the lead on 18, you still get a nice check for second place, whereas he would have been sent packing.

Van Sickle: It was only sort of intense since we didn’t know for sure. The point totals are mere projections, not final facts. Pretty hard to get excited about who might finish 70th while the tourney leaders are duking it out on the course. It’s a small sideshow, that’s about it.

Morfit: Jobe birdied his last four to make it to Chicago, and was told so by a Tour official, but the last I saw him he was gazing into the computer in the locker room, seemingly mesmerized by the FedEx machinations.

Dusek: I’ve noticed a significant decrease in the word “playoff” coming from the PGA Tour folks. The Golf Channel was still talking up the concept of “win or go home,” but it isn’t fooling anyone. We’ve seen more big-name players competing after the PGA Championship in recent years, and that’s a great benefit, but I think it’s about the only benefit. No mas!

Shipnuck: It’s four great tourneys at a time of year that used to be dead. The points are fun to follow as guys are fighting to survive. But as far as capturing the imagination of the average fan, it’s a total dud.

Hanger: They’re never going to make it feel as interesting as a major, and it’s never going to compete with football, and fans are never going to get too into the idea of the “playoffs.” That said, I think the Tour has done pretty well considering all the cards stacked against it. Like we say every year in September, at least there’s something to talk about.

Wei: For real playoffs, I think the format needs to be match play, but that would never happen since it leaves too much chance for someone like Tiger or Phil to get knocked out in the first round. Oh wait, Tiger didn’t even make the so-called playoffs. There was definitely less buzz at TPC Boston without him this year.

I’d love to see the Tour Championship battled out in matchplay format. Two guys playing each other head-to-head for $10 million? That might make it a little more interesting. I guess the fear with that is they’ll end up with two relative unknowns in the finals.

*Thomas Bjorn captured the European Masters in Switzerland for his second win in a row. My apologies that I forgot to include him as the third hottest thing in the game right now (along with Webb and belly putters). That’s pretty incredible and inspiring, especially for a golfer who talked about “fighting demons” after losing the Open in ’03.

*Nick Watney posted an 11 on the par-5 No. 2. He started the day in contention, only three shots out of the lead, but that quickly changed after the second hole, which he eagled in the previous round. Well, it was a 9 until Watney was notified by a rules official on the 10th tee that he was assessed an additional two-stroke penalty because he slammed his club inside the hazard and his ball was still in the hazard. You see, Watney’s second shot went over the green. He then chipped over the green again and into the hazard. He attempted to play his fourth shot, but it hit a rock and bounced back in the hazard. Watney let out his frustration by striking the ground, forgetting he was still in the hazard.

After signing for a nine-over 80, Watney didn’t stop to talk to reporters, but The Boston Herald’s Tom Layman caught up with Ryan Moore, who was playing with Watney.

“You feel bad,” said Moore, who shot a 1-under 70 in the final round and 9-under 275 for the tournament. “Honestly, he didn’t hit a bad golf shot. He got punished by a very, very severe green that probably is a bit too severe around the edges.”

“He hit an absolutely perfect pitch shot from where he was,” Moore said. “He couldn’t have drawn it up any better. He couldn’t have landed it in a better spot. The ball was barely moving as it went past the hole and rolled 35 feet farther. It barely trickled off the green and then it goes in the hazard.”

*Dustin Johnson finished first in driving accuracy and driving distance and tied for seventh in greens hit, but he placed T42. How in the world does that happen? Tournaments are won on or near the putting green and DJ has admittedly struggled with the flatstick all year. He ranked T71 in putts per round.

*Phil Mickelson, who shot a two-under 69 Monday to T10, will continue to practice with the belly putter: “I thought that the last couple of days especially, but throughout the whole week, from six feet on in, I felt very good with it. I made a lot of good ones. Because of that, I think I’m going to practice with it a little bit more from the 10- to 25-foot area where I need to make some of those, and I really didn’t make one this week. If I can do that, if I can get effective with that, I think I’ll try to stay with it. But I’d like to — I think it had some merit, and I’m going to practice with it a little more and see if I can get a better feel, a better touch with it.”

*FedExCup Update – Eight players entered the week ranked Nos. 71-100 in the FedExCup standings and played their way into the BMW Championship:

Player Deutsche Bank Current FEC Rank Prior FEC Rank
Chez Reavie 2 No. 9 No. 87
Blake Adams T10 No. 57 No. 81
Chad Campbell T21 No. 58 No. 73
Andres Romero T31 No. 59 No. 72
Johnson Wagner T25 No. 67 No. 88
Ernie Els T16 No. 68 No. 99
Geoff Ogilvy T25 No. 69 No. 91
Chris Stroud T42 No. 70 No. 75

The following players entered the week ranked inside the top 70 but were eliminated from the Playoffs:

Player Finish/Deutsche Bank Current FEC Rank Prior FEC Rank
Kevin Na MC No. 71 No. 57
Kevin Streelman MC No. 72 No. 58
Robert Garrigus T59 No. 74 No. 67
Pat Perez T61 No. 75 No. 63
Harrison Frazar MC No. 77 No. 64
Charlie Wi MC No. 78 No. 65
Anthony Kim MC No. 79 No. 66
Kris Blanks MC No. 80 No. 68

Current FedExCup Rankings (Top 10)

1. Webb Simpson                            4,711

2. Dustin Johnson                            3,814

3. Matt Kuchar                                 3,124

4. Luke Donald                                2,875

5. Brandt Snedeker                          2,869

6. Jason Day                                  2,357

7. Nick Watney                               2,291

8. Steve Stricker                              2,205

9. Chez Reavie                                2,088

10. Phil Mickelson                            2,040

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)