Though Justin Rose’s two-shot victory at the BMW Championship was perhaps career-defining, there were a fair number of storylines that may have overshadowed it a bit. As I’ve mentioned, there was a lot more riding on the results of the third leg of the FedExCup playoffs than a paycheck — entry into the Tour Championship, which basically sets players up for the following year, and the Presidents Cup.
What started out as a ho-hum day — I got a message from a friend saying, “Every time I check the leaderboard, I want to take a nap.” — turned out to be quite interesting because of all the sub-plots.
Oh, my apologies for the lame “Birdies and Bogeys” headline for this column, but I’m nearly out of creative juices with all the writing I’ve done Sunday night. Please feel free to pass along suggestions as I might make this a weekly column! Like the idea? Hate it? Let me know!
The 30-and-Under Crowd
*Justin Rose: He started the week No. 34 in FedExCup points and knew he needed a strong finish to make it to the Tour Championship — his wire-to-wire win jumped him to No. 3 in the points standings going into the finale and in a good position to take home the $10 million prize. Oh, and his eight-under 63 in the first round was ridiculously good. Until the last year or so, Rose’s abilities to close a tournament with the 54-hole lead came into question. He was 0-for-5, but he’s turned it around in the past two seasons, and he’s been 2-for-3 since winning the 2010 AT&T National and now the 2011 BMW Championship. Rose and his wife Kate have something extra to celebrate in the upcoming holidays — the couple is expecting their second child, a girl, on Christmas Day.
*John Senden: The Australian made a big jump from No. 55 in the FEC standings to No. 9 with a runner-up finish at the BMW. He put some pressure on Rose on the back nine, too. Senden also acknowledged the extra goodies he won with getting in the Tour Championship: “I’m excited about the majors next year, and to be competitive in the majors, you’ve got to make sure that you’re in all of them or getting the best experience in the big ones,” Senden said.
*Geoff Ogilvy: Arguably the biggest winner this week and he didn’t even win the tournament! So far, Ogilvy is the MVP of the playoffs, in my humble opinion. Of the eight players who entered the Deutsche Bank Championship Nos. 71-100 in the FedExCup standings and played their way into the BMW Championship, two advanced to the Tour Championship, Chez Reavie and Ogilvy, who knew he needed to finish third or better and he did just that.
“I was viewing the weeks as a win-win really,” said Ogilvy, who battled injuries at the beginning of the year. “If I did well enough to get to Atlanta, then there was a bonus, I get Atlanta and I get another golf tournament, and finishing in the top 30 is always a feather in your cap on the Tour because it’s very hard to do. It’s been a bit of a rough year, so to get to Atlanta with a rough year is kind of nice.”
It’s been an exciting run for Ogilvy, who needed to birdie the 72nd hole at TPC Boston to advance to the BMW. He wasn’t sure at the time, but he had a feeling since a large group of reporters and cameramen were watching keenly next to the 18th green. Ogilvy also locked his spot on the International team for the Presidents Cup, which is being held in his hometown at Royal Melbourne.
“The fact that we go to Royal Melbourne in Australia this year, we’ll have the crowd on our side,” said Ogilvy. “It’s my hometown, and on a golf course I grew up right next door to and played quite a lot of times. It’s going to be pretty special.”
*Y.E. Yang: The South Korean was on the bubble entering the week and had a good idea of where he stood going into the back nine at Cog Hill Sunday. He chipped in on 16 and judging from his reaction, he knew that it was a massive birdie. Yang will enter the Tour Championship at No. 28 in the FEC points standings.
*Jason Dufner: The runner-up at the PGA Championship was inside the top 30 at No. 29, but he started the day projected to finish outside of the top 30. He needed a solid day to secure a spot in the Tour Championship and he delivered. He shot a respectable three-under 68 in tough conditions to move up the leaderboard to T6 and No. 22 in points. “I looked at (the FEC projections) last night before I went to bed,” said Dufner. “28 I think starting today, so I guess I needed a good day, but you never know, certain guys could move back a spot and they might go from 26th to 40th the way the points are set up. It’s hard to guess where you’re going to be, but you know that you need a good round.”
*Luke Donald: After kicking off the tournament with a four-over 75, the world’s No. 1 bounced back and shot rounds of 66, 67 and 68 to finish fourth, his 12th top ten of the season. He’ll go into the Tour Championship No. 4 in points, which as you may have heard, gives him the advantage of “controlling his own destiny.” Donald said, “I didn’t play my best today, but I got a lot out of it. Three-under was as good as I could have done probably out there. It wasn’t easy, but I grinded it out pretty well. After that start I was pretty proud of myself to at least give myself a chance.”
*Aaron Baddeley: He toyed with falling outside of the top 30, especially after shooting a disappointing 75 in the third round. Baddes stepped it up and made three birdies on the back nine to finish strong and shoot a solid four-under 67. Making it to the Tour Championship gives him another opportunity for a good week to show Greg Norman before he announces his captain’s picks for the Internationals in the Presidents Cup.
*Jim Furyk: Huh? He posted a disappointing five-over 76 and shot his way out of defending his title at the Tour Championship, but he handled it with grace and class. While most guys jetted out of Cog Hill as quickly as possible, Furyk stuck around and fielded his press responsibilities. As a consolation prize, he secured a spot on the Presidents Cup team, which was very important to him.
“Not my best day, and I’m disappointed I won’t be at the Tour Championship,” he said. “I probably didn’t need to play that well today; probably shooting 1‑ or 2‑over par would have gotten me in. So thinking about it that way, it’s disappointing.
“But we’ll see what happens with The Presidents Cup. I would still love to finish top 10, and hopefully it doesn’t come down to a pick. But I had my opportunity, and we’ll see how it falls.”
*The Fans: Big props to the sizable crowd at Cog Hill on Sunday that braved the wet weather, especially when they could have stayed warm and dry in the comforts of their couch while watching the Chicago Bears game.
*Tiger Woods: What? He didn’t play. Hell, he didn’t even make it to the playoffs! But he came out a winner still, dropping only two spots in the world rankings to No. 49, which makes him eligible for the Chevron World Challenge, the tournament he hosts in December. He had to be in the top 50 to give himself a sponsor’s exemption. I think everyone from Tiger to the tournament directors are happy they don’t have to change the rules so Tiger could play in his own tourney.
The Over-30 Crowd (even if they advanced to the Tour Championship)
*Bill Haas: It was painful to watch Bill Haas fall apart on the back nine at Cog Hill and shoot 42. Bill, whose dad Jay is the assistant captain on the U.S. Presidents Cup team, really wanted to make the team on points, but he came up short. He only needed to shoot a 75 or better, but the disastrous back nine resulted in a 78. Ouch. I’m pretty sure the whole Presidents Cup situation was in the back of his mind, which put even more pressure on him than finishing in the top 30 in FEC points. Haas dropped 13 spots down the leaderboard from where he started Sunday morning to T16, but he safely made it to the Tour Championship at No. 25. He has one more shot to give Captain Couples a good reason to pick him. Problem is, it’s complicated due to his dad’s position. We’ve already got cronyism with Freddie choosing Tiger. Ah, heck, we all know nepotism is alive and well in pro golf, anyway.
*Charl Schwartzel: I’m still trying to figure out how the Masters champ didn’t make it to the Tour Championship. I know he skipped The Barclays, but as history has shown, you can still win the FedExCup if you miss the first event (Jim Furyk last year and Tiger Woods in ’07). I’m guessing the Tour’s response to that would be the FEC rewards consistency, but uh, Schwartzel was T9 at the US Open, T16 at the British and T12 at the PGA after winning the Masters. He notched three top-ten finishes and 10 top-25 finishes. Seems pretty consistent to me, but I guess he only has himself to blame. He played pretty un-clutch coming down the stretch on Sunday, carding three bogeys in the last four holes. He nearly dunked it in the water on 18, but he was at the very edge of the hazard.
*Sergio Garcia: You know, for a moment, it looked like he was making a run at placing well enough to get into the top 30 and the Tour Championship — even though he said Saturday, “I just want to get done.” Sergio is a little burnt out, which was evident with his attitude early in the third round. Let’s see, on No.11, his second hole of the day, he broke the tee marker somehow and then on No. 15, he snapped his 3-wood over his knee (which is hilarious because he ended up pitching in for eagle). Sergio made an appearance on the leaderboard after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11, but a buried lie in the bunker on No. 14 led to a double-bogey and Sergio lost it. He made another double on No. 15 and then a bogey on No. 16. He couldn’t have darted faster from the scoring trailer to the locker room.
*Camilo Villegas: He made an impressive run and shot the low-round of the day with a five-under 66, but knowing the importance of the four-footer on 18, he missed the putt badly and bogeyed — a sour note to finish after an otherwise great round. Villegas, who noted he’s had “a pretty crappy year” until the last month, placed tied for 9th at the Wyndham Championship to ensure a spot in the post-season (he was No. 125 going into the final regular-season event). It would have been mighty clutch for Camilo to have started the playoffs at No. 109 and play his way to the Tour Championship. Camilo had a feeling that last putt was going to cost him big, but if it’ll help him sleep better, turns out it wouldn’t had made a difference. Had he made par on 18, he still would have finished outside the top 30. Hope that tidbit gets back to him since that yip would haunt me for a while.
*Dustin Johnson: The defending champion played awful this time around. We expected so much more from him because of the way he dominated the course last year and his distance was supposed to be an advantage at Cog Hill, especially in the soft conditions (that said, it doesn’t help if you’re hitting it sideways). DJ shot scores of 76-72-73-77 for a T65 (out of 69) finish. Yikes. Good news is it didn’t hurt him in the FEC points standings — he’s still No. 2, the same position he entered the week.
*Martin Laird: Hard to knock a guy who made a 40-footer on the last hole to give himself a chance to get in the top 30, but it was too little, too late. The Scotsman started the week No. 31 in FEC points and stayed there. Ouch. Sucks to be the guy who just missed.
*Kyle Stanley: Actually, it sucks way more to have a bad week when you started the week in the top 30 — even if it was No. 30. The rookie, who really stepped it up after hiring Dustin Johnson’s former looper Bobby Brown, missed a kick-in during his round and eventually finished at No. 34. He finished T22, but had he needed one less stroke, he would have placed T16, which may have been enough to sneak in. As a young player, it’s tough to lose a spot in next year’s Masters, U.S. Open and British Open.
*Rory Sabbatini: Also played his way out of the top 30 with an dismal T59 finish.
*Brandt Snedeker: After a solid first two rounds, he shot five-over during the weekend, which potentially cost him a spot on the Presidents Cup team. He also dropped out of the top five in FEC points to No. 6 — obviously not the worst place to be, but as they say, the top five going into the Tour Championship control their destiny. When you think about it in terms of $10 million bucks, it could turn out costly. Good news is he’ll have another week for a chance to impress U.S. captain Fred Couples for the final spot on the team.
*Phil Mickelson: Despite his choice words for the Rees Jones’ redesign, Phil finished T8 at Cog Hill last year. In the last month, the four-time major champion has made strong comments criticizing Jones. It’s one thing to have your opinion, but it’s another to come across as having an agenda to ruin someone’s reputation. I mean, it’s gotten personal, which crosses the line. Phil seemed eager to finish on Sunday — on the 18th hole while Charl Schwartzel was deliberating over his shot on the edge of the hazard by the green, Phil, who was in a fairway bunker, decided to hit. His ball found the drink, but it was only about 10-to-15 yards from where Schwartzel was standing. Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see them wave Phil up. Anyway, Lefty made double to close his round and post a 75.
(AP Photos/Nam Y. Huh)