PGA Tour Confidential: The Tour Championship

PGA Tour Confidential: The Tour Championship

Jim Furyk got up and down on 18 to secure the title.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Every week of the 2010 PGA Tour season, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group will conduct an e-mail roundtable. Check in on Mondays for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.


Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Jim Furyk won his third tournament of the year and the FedEx Cup. Is he the player of the year?

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: It’s debatable, but I think you’ve got to give it to him. Three wins, including the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup. Nobody else on Tour did better than that over the course of the season.

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Three wins topped by an up and down for $10 million? I’m hopping off the D.J. train and riding shotgun with Gentleman Jim. He’s POY.

Charlie Hanger, executive editor, With that pile of cash, who cares about POY voting? I’m sure Furyk won’t.

Morfit: Good point. The money and/or FedEx Cup clearly meant something to him. I haven’t ever seen Furyk react like that.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Might as well be Furyk. No one else has three wins, or the FedEx Cup.

Click here to submit a question for Alan’s next mailbag.

Hack: And if the man had a working alarm clock, he cruises to the FedEx Cup crown.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Yes, you have to put him in the mix, but aside from winning the FedEx Cup and whatever he might do at the Ryder Cup, he hasn’t had a particularly sexy season. Wins at second-tier Tampa and Hilton Head events, and the Tour Championship is a tiny-field crap shoot. Missed cuts at Masters and British. Don’t think Furyk is my first choice.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I’ve got to put an asterisk next to win No. 3. Beating 29 guys in a lucrative outing doesn’t count as a full win. Furyk earns best American player of the year, but player of the year still goes to Martin Kaymer, who had two European wins to go with a major championship.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: It kind of sums up what kind of year it has been. But I think you still have to give it to Furyk. Delivering in those conditions with all that cash on the line says something.

Herre: I simply don’t think winning the Tour Championship is that big a deal. Sure, you get $10 million, but so what? There are only 30 guys in the field. I bet any pro would like his odds in a 30-man field over a full field.

Hack: The guy won three times. At 40. In this era of bombers and youngsters. And for the record, Innisbrook is a beast, Hilton Head is more than worthy and East Lake needs no introduction.

Van Sickle: I agree, the courses he won on were terrific. The fields he beat were anything but.

Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: The majors are too important to give POY to Furyk. Nothing against the Transitions and the Verizon Heritage, but they’re not big events. Dustin Johnson had a breakout year, two wins and was in the thick of two majors. The true player of the year is Martin Kaymer, but he’s not on the PGA Tour, so I’m staying on the Dustin Johnson train.

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Furyk didn’t have a Top 10 in the majors this season, missing the cut badly in the Masters and the British Open. I don’t know how he can be the POY under those circumstances. But I won’t be surprised if he gets it in what has turned out to be a year of missed chances for Dustin Johnson.

Hack: I understand that logic, but in a year with four different major champions — none really more worthy than the other — I’m going with the guy with the volume. I just don’t see why Phil should be POY over Graeme, or Graeme over Louis, or Louis over Martin, or Martin over Phil.

Morfit: Thirty is not enough players for the Tour Championship, I agree. The Tour got lucky in that the FedEx bonanza went to the guy who won the Tour Championship, and it came down to the last putt, but all in all I thought the Tour Championship lacked sizzle, as it often does. Even with Tiger playing, it gets back to the too-small size of the field.

Van Sickle: If you make the field bigger, you make it more likely that you don’t lose as many big names in the cut-downs. A field of 50, and Tiger is still playing, just as he would’ve been in my cumulative par system.

David Dusek, deputy editor, In a year of parity, deciding POY should be hard. I know that Dustin Johnson was in the mix in the majors, but the bottom line is the guy didn’t win any of them. Two wins on the PGA Tour is a very strong year, but I can’t vote for the guy who almost won a few majors.

Morfit: Agreed. Johnson produced the most legitimate highlights and agony-of-defeat highlights, but you’ve got to actually hang on to win the tournament for it to count in POY terms.

Walker: Then you can talk me into Phil Mickelson, but a vote for Furyk is drinking Kool-Aid out of the FedEx Cup. Really, we have no good choices this year.

Gorant: Furyk should get it just for refusing to put on his rain jacket in the downpour. Man’s man.

Godich: Not to mention the nice touch of flipping the cap around.

John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: My POY ballot is blank. Can I consider the Ryder Cup in my deliberations?


Morfit: I keep thinking about that crazy swing. The guy is coming up on $60 million in career earnings with a move that Feherty likened to an octopus falling out of a tree. If Jim Furyk isn’t the game’s greatest overachiever, maybe the greatest of all time, I don’t know who is.

Evans: Furyk has been a great player since he was a junior. He’s sneaky long and a consistent winner. How is he an overachiever because his swing isn’t pretty? He gets the clubface square at impact a lot and he does the same on putts. That’s all that matters.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: There’s no such thing as an overachiever. That word is totally misused sports. Achievers achieve. Period.

Van Sickle: Just because a guy’s takeaway is odd-looking doesn’t mean it’s a bad swing. You heard Johnny Miller talk about Furyk’s ball-striking, which stands on its own accord. Arnold Palmer’s swing was no work of art, but nobody thinks less of his records. Furyk has always looked good in the impact zone, as the teachers like to say. With his many second-place finishes, he might be a slight underachiever. He could’ve won a few more tourneys and a few more majors. Not an overachiever at all, just an achiever.

Morfit: Everyone you meet in your formative stages says you’d better tear apart your swing and start over. You end up winning the U.S. Open and 16 tournaments. You end up (eventually) going into the Hall of Fame. You’re an overachiever.

Shipnuck: Furyk’s not in the Hall yet. If he’s stuck on one major, he better win at least 20 tourneys.

Gorant: That should be the standard, but it’s not. Gary, tell the man…

Van Sickle: I agree with Alan. Was it Johnny who said that a FedEx Cup put Furyk over the edge and into the Hall? I don’t buy this win being the deciding factor for the Hall of Fame. Furyk is a contender for the Hall, though. Still got some good years left.


Gorant: I went back and looked, no one on this forum picked Furyk to win during last week’s session, which is not surprising since he missed the Barclays and was sitting in 11th place. Was this that big of an upset, or does it speak to the wide-open nature of the playoffs?

Morfit: I thought Furyk peaked in the spring. Guess not. A lot of the guys who had been playing well in the playoffs looked fried at the end.

Evans: If I fully understood the FedEx Cup points system, I could better answer your question.

Morfit: I’m pretty sure Nick Watney would have taken home the $10 million if Zach Johnson had won, Kevin Na had finished 12th and Bubba Watson had gone home and shingled his golf bag with flapjacks.

Van Sickle: I thought it was hilarious when Dan Hicks was trying to inject some tension into a bogey putt for Bo Van Pelt, already three over and way out of it, on the premise that it was going to affect Kuchar, who needed to move up from 26th to a solo 25th, or whatever it was. Really, we’re watching Van Pelt putt for bogey to stay at three over par, about 12 shots back? I’m not buying it.

Morfit: Exactly. We’re suddenly on Bo Van Pelt watch and we’re expected to be on the edge of our seats? Come on. Message: The FedEx Cup: Hey, this thing is totally random!

Dusek: It speaks to the FedEx Cup playoff system being too wide open. If you get disqualified from one round of the playoffs, or miss a cut, that should ruin your chances of winning the Cup. Period.

Van Sickle: Right, Dave. We’re back to the age-old question: Do we want real playoffs or not? In real playoffs, the favorites get eliminated in the first round sometimes. Not in the FedEx Cup.

Evans: Remember that they reset the points at the start of the playoffs. If they don’t do that, Kuchar wins the Cup easily.

Van Sickle: Best point nobody has made so far, Farrell. Kuchar was running away with it until the reset backed him onto the same lap. Just as it happened with Tiger.

Godich: And then he went out and won the first playoff event, followed it up with an 11th and a T-3 … and still didn’t win? He backed up his play in the regular season with arguably the strongest play in the playoffs.

Shipnuck: Kuchar couldn’t close the deal. He plays better and the $10 million is probably his, but he practically finished DFL.


Gorant: This is the second time in four years that someone has won the Cup without playing in the first event. Should the scoring system be reconfigured, again?

Godich: As I said before, something is wrong when guys who finish 100th in the regular season get to Atlanta without winning one of the playoff events.

Van Sickle: If anything is a red flag in the scoring system, it should be Steve Sands pressed into service to try to explain the permutations. Until the end, when the permutations dwindled to two — Donald or Furyk — it was gobbledygook. The Tour was lucky it actually came down to an either-or. A playoff with Donald and Furyk and the FedEx Cup title at stake would’ve been the ultimate. But how exciting would that playoff have been if, say, Nick Watney or Charley Hoffman already had the FedEx Cup title in hand? Gotta go with score in relation to par. It’s the only thing that is understandable to viewers.

Herre: I understand and can easily follow the points system through the first three events as they cut the field to the final 30, but I have issues with the Tour Championship. You might as well not even pay attention to who’s doing what the first three rounds. Then on Sunday there are simply too many permutations. As Kuchar said, he wasn’t paying attention to any of the FedEx stuff on Sunday. Too complicated. He was simply trying to shoot a score and wait for the pointy heads to tell him if he won.

Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Furyk was DQ’d from the first playoff event but still won the FedEx Cup; Casey, Goosen and Donald didn’t win a single PGA Tour event all year yet were in the mix all day; and Hoffman didn’t play in one major championship but was right there, too. I’m still not understanding this thing.

Shipnuck: It’s like a 10 seed in the NCAA that gets hot. Just because a team went 18-12 in the regular season doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong in the Final 4.

Lipsey: Don’t even try and compare this sleeper thing with March Madness. The only madness here is that they call it a playoff series.

Van Sickle: It’s the wild-card team factor. But here’s how it should work: your excellent play during the season gets you into the playoffs, and from there you start at zero and play your brains out for three or four weeks for $10 million. Lowest score wins it all. Then we don’t have any issues about it being a reward for a great season or care if Hoffman played in any majors.

Walker: Yes, they should probably tweak the scoring, but the biggest problem was the week off, which killed any momentum the playoffs had created.

Van Sickle: Scheduling is a problem. Without a week off, though, you’d have five weeks in a row with the Ryder Cup. No one wants that. The logical week off is after Boston, which finishes on a Monday. Simpler solution, as I’ve said, is to cut it to three weeks, which I believe was the original master plan.

Morfit: I like Gary’s idea to have only three playoff events. Less is more. With the off-week, the Cup now lasts five weeks, which feels almost as endless as the NBA playoffs.

Shipnuck: Don’t hate me, but I liked the scoring system. The volatility made each week’s results a big deal. There should be a built-in prejudice for the guy who wins the final event.

Dusek: It has to be re-worked. I’ll be fascinated to see what the PGA Tour does now because the TV contracts are set to be renegotiated in 2011, so it needs to show that the playoffs can be a ratings producer. People, including the players, don’t get it. That’s a big problem.

Hack: The system is a mess. Playoffs in pro sports have divisions, leagues, conferences and brackets. The FedEx Cup has…math.


Gorant: What does Furyk’s win mean going into the Ryder Cup, and to address John Garrity’s earlier question, should Ryder play come into play when making POY choices?

Evans: No way. Playoffs are excluded in every sport from POY voting.

Garrity: Well, if playoffs are excluded, than the FedEx Cup shouldn’t count. I guess I can vote for Mickelson, aka “Mr. Spring.”

Herre: Ryder Cup play definitely should count in POY. The Ryder Cup is the best event in golf!

Lipsey: Except the Tour doesn’t own it. They barley even recognize it in their media guide.

Herre: So what if the Tour doesn’t own it? Has nothing to do with anything. The PGA of America has been naming a POY longer than the Tour, whose award is kind of a popularity contest.

Morfit: Furyk’s play is a big bright spot for Pavin and the Americans. (Maybe the only bright spot, but still, a bright spot.) As for the second part of the question, if the Ryder Cup is going to count toward POY, then the Presidents Cup has to, also. Better to just leave them both out.

Herre: Why leave out the team events? These are great events and many players have made their reps in them. Simply a different, and usually a much more interesting and entertaining, animal than stroke play.

Morfit: One reason to leave out the team events: it’s not always clear who’s carrying whom in fourballs and foursomes.

Van Sickle: Whoever wins the most alternate-shot matches is POY? No. Ryder Cup has no more bearing than next week’s conflicting event, the Viking Classic.

Dusek: I think Ryder Cup play should help settle debate between players in contention, but since players not born in the United States or Europe can’t play in it, I don’t think it’s fair to have Ryder Cup be a huge factor. Obviously, if Furyk plays well, it helps his case, and maybe the same could be said for Mickelson if he goes crazy and wins five points. But I think the PGA Tour’s POY should be decided based on play during the PGA Tour season.

Van Sickle: If Paul Casey plays great in the Ryder Cup, that could lock up his Player of the Year case. Oops.

Godich: I don’t think you can factor in the Ryder Cup. Totally different format, partners, etc.

Van Sickle: As to Jim’s other question, Furyk’s play bodes well. Stricker’s putting doesn’t. Nor does Dustin’s play, Kuchar’s fade or Mickelson’s showing. But it’s just one week. Wales is a new week, a new course, greens with a different kind of grass. Not sure how much you can really read into it. But if I’m Pavin, I really wanted Stricker and Mickelson to light it up at East Lake.


Gorant: Of Corey Pavin’s four captain’s picks. Who will do the most for the team, Stewart Cink, Rickie Fowler, Zach Johnson or Tiger Woods?

Lipsey: Johnson or Cink, probably Johnson.

Morfit: Johnson or Fowler. I’ll go with Johnson, given how he finished the Tour Championship this weekend.

Godich: I’ll take Tiger, largely by default.

Evans: Rickie Fowler will perform the best of the captain’s picks because no one expects him to do anything.

Walker: I expect Fowler to rise to the occasion, but Tiger is a huge question mark.

Van Sickle: Probably Tiger. I think he’ll play well enough and give his team a boost.

Shipnuck: Tiger. He’s rested and has been grinding on his game. And he has a ton to play for.

Dusek: Woods has the potential to do the most because playing well would provide a psychological boost, but I think Zach Johnson will be the biggest contributor of the captain’s picks.

Herre: I hope it’s Fowler because I love to see the young guys really get into it and have success. That sells them on the event for their entire careers and helps the U.S. cause. Sometimes young players go the other way — Tiger being the prime example — and never really become a force for the American team.

Van Sickle: Ditto that, and I hope Rory McIlroy gets into it for the Euros. His comments of late seem to indicate that he doesn’t think it’s a gigantic deal.

Herre: Yeah, Gary. That’s a mistake by young Rory. I hope he changes his tune.

Gorant: Seems like a lot of them do after they play in it. See: Mahan, Hunter.

Lipsey: Money and globe-trotting sometimes dull the home-team fervor that has driven so many Euros to Ryder Cup success.

Van Sickle: Playing in one — either winning one or losing a close one — will change Rory’s mind.

Dusek: I don’t think it’s possible to understand the passion the Ryder Cup creates until you go to one in person. I’ll never forget seeing Darren Clarke on the first tee at the K Club, or the chanting of the crowd (“Soccer sucks! Soccer sucks!”) a full hour before the first shots were hit at Valahalla. Players who talk about it not being a big deal haven’t experienced it yet. If anything, it’s becoming too big a deal.


Gorant: Final question, who wins at Celtic Manor?

Dusek: Europe.

Van Sickle: The team with the best putters wins a close match. That’s the U.S.

Godich: In a year when there is no clear-cut favorite for POY, the Ryder Cup will end in a tie, and the debate will start on why there is no playoff at the Ryder Cup.

Van Sickle: Nothing wrong with a tie, in golf or in football. Never heard anyone come up with a remotely plausible plan for a Ryder Cup playoff. Ties are OK.

Walker: Europe. The home field will count for a lot. Plus, I know the captain stuff gets overplayed, but Monty will have the Europeans playing as a true team. That loony Captain Ahab stuff, like sound-proofing the team room, is going to work.

Evans: Europe wins because it’s on their home turf, despite Tiger’s going 5-0 in the matches.

Herre: I’m sticking with my original pick, Europe, not that I’m happy about it. There’s something about Cap’n Corey that gives me pause. And the best Americans have been in and out all year. I look at the Europeans and see more consistency. Of course, Gary is right — it always comes down to the putting. (What golf tournament doesn’t?) I hope it’s a tight match, and would love to see an upset. But I’d take a tie, for sure.

Lipsey: USA, thanks to Tiger’s dramatic play in team and singles matches. After a year of blah, it will end back where it was before the fire hydrant crash

Dusek: It will be interesting to see how the U.S. team reacts to Corey Pavin’s ban on Tweeting during the Ryder Cup. @stewartcink, @ZachJohnsonPGA, @RickieFowlerPGA and @bubbawatson won’t know what to do with themselves.