NORTON, Mass. (AP) — Padraig Harrington has won the last two majors and is considered the favorite to be voted player of the year on the PGA Tour. But if he doesn’t play well the next two weeks, he might not even make it to the Tour Championship.
Then there’s Kevin Sutherland, who hasn’t won in more than six years and has never made it to the Tour Championship in his 13 years on tour. But he will tee off Friday in the Deutsche Bank Championship at No. 3 in the FedEx Cup standings.
The tour wanted more volatility in the second year of its playoff system.
But this much?
“It’s definitely created some excitement among the players,” Brett Quigley said Wednesday at the TPC Boston, site of the second round of the PGA Tour Playoffs.
He later was asked for a different description than “excitement,” and Quigley smiled.
“Concern … interest,” he said. “I think last year they didn’t have the points system quite right with guys not being able to move enough, a la Rich Beem. And this year, it seems like the players think it’s a little too much movement. But certainly, they’ve created some drama. Some guys are going to be thinking about just making the cut this week; guys wouldn’t probably be thinking about that normally.”
A year ago, Beem tied for seventh at The Barclays and barely advanced to the second round, moving from No. 134 to No. 113. Under this year’s points system, Beem would have moved up to No. 70.
The top 120 made it to the Deutsche Bank Championship, and only the top 70 after this week advance to the third round in St. Louis. There are only 115 players at the TPC Boston because of injuries (Tiger Woods, Luke Donald, Alex Cejka) and two Europeans who are playing in Scotland this week (Lee Westwood, Justin Rose).
Kenny Perry, who effectively began this postseason as the No. 1 seed with Woods out for the year, already began complaining about having three victories and not making it to the Tour Championship. But he tied for 48th and slipped only to No. 7.
The one who should worry is Harrington, the British Open and PGA champion, who missed the cut last week at The Barclays and plunged all the way from No. 4 to No. 23. Another missed cut at Boston and he’ll be out of the top 30.
But the Irishman isn’t worried at all. He actually likes the wild shifts in the standings.
“I think it’s a fair reflection that I dropped about 20 spots by missing the cut,” Harrington said. “I think it should be very volatile. That’s what a playoff system should be like. You’ve got to go produce.”
If he could change one thing, Harrington would make it even more combustible by awarding big points to the top 10 finishers in a tournament, minimal points for those barely making the cut.
Either way, he came to one conclusion in Year Two of this system.
“I think the FedEx Cup is working,” he said. “It’s got more players out here playing, more players interested at this time of the year. It’s creating a bit of a buzz. If players aren’t exactly happy with the system at the moment … no press is bad press. Something like that. People are talking about it, and that’s the main thing.”
Vijay Singh won The Barclays last week in a playoff over Sergio Garcia and Sutherland, and they now are Nos. 1-2-3 and will be in the same group the first two rounds on the TPC Boston.
Perhaps the biggest surprise – and the poster boy for how quickly the standings can change – is Martin Laird. The rookie from Scotland was at No. 164 going into the last tournament before the playoffs, then tied for fourth in Greensboro to barely qualify at No. 128. Laird then tied for seventh at The Barclays and moved all the way up to No. 67.
“I was thinking of going home to Scotland probably for 10 days or so over those first two tournaments, seeing the family, taking a break, recharging and coming back,” Laird said. “But those plans changed.”
Count him among the proponents of change.
“Obviously, I love it,” he said. “And I’m sure there’s a few guys that don’t love it. But you know, it’s the playoffs. It’s like any sport. You play to get there, and when you get there, it’s whoever is playing best at that time that comes out on top.”
But there was another wrinkle that some grad students over at MIT might what to calculate.
Two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen was the 144th and final player to qualify for the postseason. He tied for 48th last week, moving up to No. 119 to barely get into the Deutsche Bank. Say he finishes 10th the next two weeks and narrowly makes it to the Tour Championship, where he finishes last.
“Is it possible that Janzen could qualify for the Tour Championship, but still not earn enough money at the end of the year to finish in the top 125 and keep his card?” Quigley said.