Playoff tension fills air at Cog Hill

Charlie Wi misses a par putt on No. 18 during the final round of the BMW Championship. Moments later, Dustin Johnson celebrates his victory.

Charlie Wi misses a par putt on No. 18 during the final round of the BMW Championship. Moments later, Dustin Johnson celebrates his victory.

LEMONT, Ill. – When the emotions overflowed, Charlie Wi did not stack, nor did he tilt. Instead, he bolted.

But not until he refused to talk.

Having started the day just one off the lead, Wi had visions of outrageous paydays dancing in his head – $1.35 million for the BMW Championship, $10 million for the FedEx Cup.

Instead, his day ended with back-to-back bogeys and not only were his BMW chances by the board, but his invite to the Tour Championship and FEC finale was rescinded.

Needless to say, Wi was crushed. So much so that he refused to speak with either PGA Tour media officials or reporters. His inward 39 and final-round 74 left him tied for eighth in the BMW and 33rd in the FedEx Cup standings, just 12 points behind No. 30, Bo Van Pelt.

Had Wi made par at 18, he would have finished T-7 at the BMW and 30th in the standings, good enough for an invite to East Lake and the Tour Championship. Instead, he pushed his drive wide right, pitched out, and failed to get it up-and-down from 87 yards.

Wi’s mishap opened the door for Van Pelt to make it into his first Tour Championship.

photo

Bo Van Pelt

Van Pelt stumbled home in 77, fell to joint 54th at the BMW, but still had enough to edge Bill Haas by seven points in the FEC standings.

Haas was just one of a handful of heartbreaking FEC storylines on a day when Dustin Johnson’s brilliant talent shined through for a BMW Championship victory.

Also falling short was Rickie Fowler, who at No. 32 was just eight points behind Van Pelt. Among the notables who also missed were J.B. Holmes (34th), Rory McIlroy (36th), Brandt Snedeker (37th), Stewart Cink (38th), Ian Poulter (39th), Anthony Kim (41st), Tiger Woods (42nd), and Sean O’Hair (47th).

It’s the first time Woods has failed to qualify for the Tour Championship, while Cink will miss his hometown event for the first time since 2005.

Actually, it’s not all bad news for Cink, because he’s still got a date at East Lake. “But it’s for a charity event (Monday) not the Tour Championship,” he said.

While Wi refused to talk about his fall short of the East Lake starting field, Holmes expressed his disappointment. “Ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous,” Holmes said as he removed his hat and scratched his head.

There was good reason to sympathize with him, given that Holmes has authored a season in which he’s missed just two cuts in 23 starts, finished second once, third once, top 10 three times, top 25 a dozen times, and pretty much done very little wrong.

“They have it set up (so that) you take people who have played hard all year and they happen to have a bad couple of tournaments (and get eliminatd),” Holmes said.

When the playoffs started, Holmes was 18th.

“I missed the cut (at The Barclays) and fall from 18th in points to 29th. How is that fair? It’s not fair at all.”

Though he was T-11 at the Deutsche Bank Championship, Holmes was still 24th in the FEC standings entering this week. By shooting 12 -over 296, Holmes was T-60 at BMW and fell outside the top 30 and is still waiting for his first trip to the Tour Championship.

“You get people who haven’t played well (all season) and if they get second (in a FEC playoff event) they’re automatically in the Tour Championship,” Holmes said. “If they win, they’re going to automatically be in the top 5.”

Holmes’ references were to Martin Laird and Charley Hoffman.

Laird had but one top-10 finish in a full-field event and entered the playoffs 95th in the standings. But he lost in a playoff at The Barclays and that pretty much got him through to the Tour Championship on a breeze. He enters in ninth place.

Hoffman? He had three quiet top 10s, but didn’t play in a major championship and missed five cuts. So, what happens? He wins the Deutsche Bank Championship and despite T-27 and T-30 finishes in the other majors, he’s third in the overall standings and in great position to take the $10 million bonus prize.

Unfair?

Not according to Kevin Streelman, one of the surprises to this postseason stuff. Starting the playoffs 102nd, he went T-3, T-45, and T-43 and somehow wound up 29th when all the FedEx Cup points were crunched.

“I think it works,” Streelman said. “If you want to have a playoff system where you reward players playing well in the playoffs, then you have to have a lot of volatility. I understand the guys who say if you’ve had a great year, you deserve to be in the Tour Championship, but you wouldn’t get through the NFL playoffs if you didn’t play well in the playoffs.

“So, if we want a true playoff, we need to have a lot of volatility.”

Geoff Ogilvy, who started the playoffs 39th and went MC, T-2, T-24 and vaulted to 12th, agrees with Streelman.

“Look, there is no exact, perfect way to do it,” Ogilvy said. “If you finish the year in the top 10 (of the FedEx Cup standings), it’s almost impossible to miss Atlanta. That’s pretty good. And if you’re 125th (in the standings), you can still win. There’s a pretty good balance.”

Pointing to the players who’ve won the FedEx Cup championship – Tiger Woods in 2007, Vijay Singh in 2008, Woods again in 2009 – Ogilvy shrugged. “It’s finding the right winners.

Though Wi’s collapse was most painful, there were other finishes that made you watch with a bit of anxiety. Robert Allenby was teetering on the bubble when he birdied the par 4 17th to push into 27th place and earn a spot in the Tour Championship. Nick Watney hit was looked to be a brilliant approach just over the flagstick at 18, only to watch in shock as the ball spun back past the hole, down the slope, and into the water.

Double-bogey.

“I hadn’t spun a ball back all day,” Watney said after shooting 2 under 69.

Having been comfortably inside the top 30 through 17 holes, Watney fell to 28th and had to sweat it out. It worked out in his favor, so he’ll be at his second straight Tour Championship.

As for Fowler, who started the week 25th and moved inside the top 30, only to fall outside with a double-bogey at 13 and a bogey at 18, there was always perspective, which comes easily when you’re 21.

“Obviousy, I would have loved to play in the Tour Championship,” said the rookie. “But I’ll be preparing (next) for the Ryder Cup.”

Where? And against whom? Fowler’s eyes lit up. He had found a great way to combat FedEx Cup disappointment – he was going to head to Stillwater, Okla., and spend a few days with his former teammates at Oklahoma State.

 

FedEx Cup playoff picture

Name Final ranking Moved Previous ranking
Bill Haas 31 down 3 28
Rickie Fowler 32
down 7 25
Charlie Wi 33 up 4 37
J.B. Holmes
34 down 10 24
Vaughn Taylor 35 down 3 22
Rory McIlroy 36 down 7 29
Brandt Snedeker 37 down 6 31
Stewark Cink 38 down 3 35
Ian Poulter 39 up 5 44
Carl Pettersson 40 down 1 39
Anthony Kim 41 down 7 34
Tiger Woods 42 up 9 51
Tom Gillis 43 up 5 48
Marc Leishman 44 up 13 57
Michael Sim 45 up 8 53
Heath Slocum 46 down 4 42
Sean O'Hair 47 up 3 50
Rory Sabbatini 48 down 3 45
D.J. Trahan 49 down 13 36
John Senden 50 down 12 38
Brendon de Jonge 51 down 11 40
Stuart Appleby 52 down 9 43
Brian Davis 53 down 6 47
Brian Gay 54 up 2 56
David Toms 55 up 12 67
Greg Chalmers 56 up 6 62
Vijay Singh 57 up 6 63
Fredrik Jacobson 58 down 3 55
Justin Leonard 59 -- 59
Bryce Molder 60 -- 60
Angel Cabrera 61 down 12 49
Jason Bohn 62 down 16 46
Matt Jones 63 up 1 64
Ricky Barnes 64 down 10 54
Jason Dufner 65 -- 65
Tim Petrovic 66 -- 66
Y.E. Yang 67 down 6 61
Stephen Ames 68 up 1 69
Andres Romero 69 down 1 68
Scott Verplank 70 -- 70
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