He got sick at a most inopportune time, the morning of the third round of the Tour Championship, but Adam Scott was feeling a bit more upbeat come late Sunday afternoon.
Four back and solo second to start Round 3 at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Scott went out in 40 against Henrik Stenson’s 31, so he fell 13 behind. Game, set, match.
But when he finished with a 69 Sunday to get into a share of 14th, Scott was in good spirits, pushing his thoughts forward.
To the Presidents Cup, yes, but also to his first trip back to his native Australia since winning the Masters. He appreciates the buzz that his return figures to make and that many will want to see the famed green jacket.
Only thing is, Scott is scheduled for four straight weeks of tournament play – the Aussie PGA, the Aussie Masters, the World Cup and the Aussie Open.
One solution for that quandary? “Do you think they’d be upset if I play in it?” Scott asked with a laugh.
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HOMEWARD BOUND: Likely Henrik Stenson was the happiest of the 30 players who teed it up in the Tour Championship. Of course, he had 11.44 millions reasons why.
But chances are, Sergio Garcia was a close second, and it had nothing to do with the money he earned for finishing joint ninth ($227,733) or his lucrative share of the FedEx Cup pool ($215,000 for being 22nd).
No, sir. All Garcia has been thinking about for weeks is closing out the 2013 PGA Tour season and getting back home to Spain. After two days of corporate commitments following East Lake, Garcia was scheduled to head across the pond, not likely to be back in the U.S. until next February at either the Northern Trust Open or WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
The Tour Championship was Garcia’s 17th PGA Tour event of the year, and though the season had a few highlights – he made it into the weekend of every tournament, including all four majors, had six top-10s, earned $2,251,139 – more likely the off-course controversies weighed him down. The fallout of the “he said, he said” spat with Tiger Woods at The Players Championship was bad enough, but it got worse when it took on racist overtures a week later.
Garcia never seemed to be happy in the golf theater the rest of the year, and here’s hoping a little European flavor (he’s presently 10th in the Race to Dubai) recharges his batteries and serves him well for a better frame of mind in 2014.
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EAST LAKE LEFTOVERS: Some final FedEx Cup morsels:
• Henrik Stenson won two of the four events, but Steve Stricker was a perfect 3-for-3, with top-10 finishes in each of his starts. Roberto Castro was the only other player to record three top-10s.
• Four players took part in all four tournaments but failed to register a top 10: Keegan Bradley, Bill Haas, Kevin Streelman and Boo Weekley.
• No reason not to continue to call Steve Stricker “Mr. September.” All he’s done is play in 27 of the 28 playoff tournaments since the FEC began in 2007, record two wins, 13 top-10s and play 105 rounds in 183 under.
• Stricker, Hunter Mahan and Phil Mickelson are the only ones to have played in each Tour Championship since 2007.
• Mahan is the only one to have played in all 28 playoff tournaments, though he has missed two cuts. so he has only taken part in 107 of the 111 rounds.
• No one made a bigger move than Watney to get into the Tour Championship. He began the playoffs 66th in the rankings, but got into the top 30. Others who started outside but moved inside (with their regular-season FEC standing): Gary Woodland, 60th; Sergio Garcia, 59th; Luke Donald, 55th; Brendon de Jonge, 51st; Roberto Castro, 41st; Graham DeLaet, 34th; Charl Schwartzel, 33rd.
• And the eight who started the playoffs inside the top 30, but fell out and made room for those mentioned above? Harris English, 19th; Patrick Reed, 22nd; Russell Henley, 24th; Jimmy Walker, 26th; Charles Howell III, 27th; Graeme McDowell, 28th; Jonas Blixt, 29th; John Merrick, 30th.
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CHANGE OF PLANS: Jim “Bones” Mackay will be headed off to work Phil Mickelson’s two tournaments in Asia, after all. He told Golfweek that he had changed his mind about having surgery on his right big toe, a procedure that had figured to sideline him.
But after hearing another doctor’s advice that the best course of action is to just deal with the pain and discomfort of a big toe that was displaced more than 10 years ago, Mackay will accompany Mickelson to the CIMB Malaysia (Oct. 24-27) and the HSBC Champions in China (Oct. 31-Nov. 3).
Not that their overall 2013 Tour Championship was memorable – Lefty finished T-12 in the tournament, ninth in the FedEx Cup – but there was a par-save at East Lake’s 16th in Round 4 that had them smiling.
Wider than wide left, Mickelson had a chance to save par only because a diligent marshal found the ball under a car near a maintenance facility. “My caddie eyes pegged it as a 1998 Honda Prelude,” Mackay said, but after a drop that caromed badly in a wrong direction, Mickelson had no option other than pitch out sideways.
Though he then ripped an 8-iron inside of 3 feet and made the save, Mickelson could not give it a perfect 10. “It was probably a nine, only because I had to chip out. Any chip-out is just not cool.”
Still, recovering from an area around parked cars – a la his idol, the late Seve Ballesteros – had Mickelson smiling. “He told me, ‘That was just like Seve,’ ” Mackay said.
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PLAY AWAY: A par 5 of thoughts, observations, and curiosities . . .
• Curious thing, this thing called perspective. Stenson is the rage, looking young and eager and fresh and vibrant at the age of 37. But Tiger Woods? At 37, he looks old.
• Ah, how times change. Jordan Spieth has one win under his belt and everyone seems to agree that he deserves this Presidents Cup chance. When Arnold Palmer teed it up in his first Ryder Cup, in 1961, back when you had to wait an apprentice-like five years for your chance, he already had won 27 times, including a U.S. Open and two Masters.
• Last time Mark Wiebe and Vijay Singh teed it up in the same stroke-play event, they were worlds apart. Wiebe shot 220 for 54 holes and missed the cut at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Singh opened with 203 and went on to win. That was 2004, when Singh won nine times, or seven more times than Wiebe did in his entire PGA Tour career. Last week in his Champions Tour debut, Singh was three strokes off of Wiebe’s winning score.
• Gosh, darn. Had to clean the bathroom tile so was forced to miss the Ryder Cup captains press conference. Thank goodness there are 23 more scheduled between now and next September.
• Conducting a golf tournament in the great outdoors, where Mother Nature is an unbeatable foe when she wants to be, is a difficult, almost impossible task. It leaves PGA Tour officials in a vulnerable position sometimes when they try to re-work tee times around the weather. Naturally, when they don’t get it exactly right they are ripped. But when they do nail it, like Saturday at the Tour Championship (tee times were moved way up so that a great chunk of the play was well underway before the really heavy rain arrived), there’s barely a word of credit.
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WINNING TICKET? NOT ALWAYS: Is winning overrated? Methinks not, but these 12 players got into the Tour Championship without benefit of a victory: Steve Stricker, Graham DeLaet, Jim Furyk, Nick Watney, Jason Day, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Charl Schwartzel, Luke Donald, Roberto Castro, Sergio Garcia and Brendon de Jonge.
And these 14 won, but didn’t get to play at East Lake: Russell Henley, Brian Gay, John Merrick, Michael Thompson, Scott Brown, Martin Laird, Derek Ernst, Graeme McDowell, Sang Moon-Bae, Harris English, Ken Duke, Jonas Blixt, Woody Austin and Patrick Reed.
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COMING FROM FAR BACK: No question, Jordan Spieth was the longest of longshots to make it into the Tour Championship, if you based the odds on where players were in the Official World Golf Ranking at the end of 2012. Spieth was 807th.
But here are the others who traveled a long road, with their year-end ranking in parentheses: Billy Horschel (308th), Boo Weekley (303rd), Roberto Castro (277th), Kevin Streelman (215th), Graham DeLaet (175th), D.A. Points (149th) and Gary Woodland (139th).
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SMILING WHILE CONFUSED: He was in good spirits, but isn’t Matt Kuchar always upbeat? Yet after closing with a 71–283 to finish T-26 at the Tour Championship, he expressed some befuddlement.
As a Georgia Tech product, he has a good feel for East Lake GC and insists “I like the golf course.” Yet for a fourth straight Tour Championship appearance, Kuchar was never in contention. Only once has he finished better than 20th, that being a T-10 last year.
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HOLY HOLE-OUT, BATMAN: That back-and-forth thing between Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner put a little fun in the final-round festivities at the Tour Championship. With a side wager as to who would have the most hole-outs during the season, Bradley held a 10-9 lead going into the final round of the year, and because they were paired together, it was perfect.
They were razzing each other early in the round, and Dufner kept threatening to pull even, at least until Bradley ended the competition when he holed out with an 8-iron from the middle of the seventh fairway. Yes, it prompted Bradley to do a little “Dufnering” right then and there, but the best retort came later from Dufner, who said, “It’s tough to hole out when you’re hitting 18 greens.”
For the record, Dufner did miss one green Sunday as he closed out his year in style, a near-flawless 65–275 to tie for ninth.
It did generate a little curiosity, however, and so off to the “hole-out” category we went. No surprise, those who sit at the top of the list are those who give themselves the most chances, meaning they miss a lot of greens. Brian Davis led with 20 hole-outs, but he had 620 opportunities since he ranked 157th in greens in regulation (1,638 holes played, 1,018 greens hit).
No. 2 in hole-outs with 18? Brian Gay, who ranked 180th in GIR and thus had 616 chances in 2013.
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KUALA LUMPUR IN THE PLANS: Minutes after a solid T-9 finish in his first Tour Championship, Roberto Castro wasn’t looking to catch his breath and unwind from a productive, though long, PGA Tour season. Instead, he was poring over a reporter’s notebook, looking at the regulations to see where he stood for getting into the field at the upcoming CIMB Classic in Malaysia (Oct. 24-27).
It’s the third tournament of the 2013-14 season – after stops at the Frys.com and the Shriners in Las Vegas – and the good news for Castro is, he’s likely to get in. In fact, nearly half the field from the Tour Championship seems to be in line to play in Malaysia, including Phil Mickelson, Keegan Bradley, Sergio Garcia, Bill Haas, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker and defending champ Nick Watney.