The Best Golfer in the World Right Now Just Fired the Opening Salvo in the FedEx Cup
Are you kidding me? Jason Day fires a 62 on Sunday to back up his 63 on Saturday to blow away the field in the first round (The Barclays) of the FedEx Cup playoffs. The six stroke victory was reminiscent of Tiger pre-Thanksgiving 2009. Unlike the prior week at the Wyndham Championship (more on that later), this was a loaded field. Rory McIlroy aside, the top 125 FedEx points earners were competing. The leaderboard was littered with the top ranked players in the world. With the course playing tough, it was amazing Day was able to shoot 19 under par. Jason has now won three of his last four tournaments, and is cumulatively 73 under par in his last five. Absent the vertigo that plagued him at the U.S. Open, he might be the player with two majors this year. It is rare that a player excels at all parts of the game, but his length and accuracy off the tee is among the best, with a short game to match Jordan Spieth. Is Day the Player of the Year?
Speaking of Spieth, what happened last week? I have no idea. Seven birdies in two rounds (he is second on tour in average number of birdies per round…number 1? See above), below his average, but more concerning, were the number of bogeys, or worse…12. Was it a letdown after the PGA, or was the nasty rough at Plainfield too much for him to handle? He missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego (also nasty rough), but over the next seven tournaments had six top tens, with two wins (including the Masters) and two seconds. After his other missed cut at the Players, he had two firsts (Including the U.S. Open) a second, a third and a fourth over the next six tournaments. I think he will be okay. Still the favorite for player of the year but the gap is narrowing.
This brings us to World Number 1 (by default, with Spieth’s missed cut), Rory McIlroy. The soccer injury seems to be healed, but he remains an enigma. Until Day’s recent run, Rory showed the most complete game on tour, winning at will when the putter was working. With only one tournament under his belt since June, it is anybody’s guess how he will do. My guess is that he will finish inside the top 100 this week (Not a hard prediction given there are only 100 qualifiers.) Absent the “major” this year, despite being number 1 he is unlikely as Player of the Year.
There are a lot of great players that could contend this week, but the “Big 3” have distanced themselves from the field. That said, look for someone else to win the tournament. These guys cannot win everything…can they? Based upon absolutely nothing, I am going with Dustin Johnson this week.
A quick word about earlier Wyndham Championship and Tiger’s “return to form”. I think this is a great event because it provides a last gasp for someone to qualify for the FedEx Cup (top 125). That said, it does not exactly draw the strongest field. Sure, there were a few big names, but primarily, the players are the same ones you find at the Mayakoba Classic or Barracuda Championship. That is to say…not very strong. I have cheered for Davis Love III for many years...too many years. He qualifies for the Champions Tour. It was great to see him win, but did anyone really expect him to be competitive at The Barclays? Like seven of the top 12 from the Wyndham, he failed to make the cut. Amongst that top 12, the highest finish was T30. Of the top 10 from The Barclays, only two played in the Wyndham Classic (Zac Blair and Daniel Summerhays).
What does this say about Tiger’s T10? Not much. After an uninspired Saturday and disastrous first 12 holes, while still in contention on Sunday, I am not a buyer. Perhaps he can distinguish himself at the Frys.com tournament to start the 2016 season.
Weekly Observation: Expect great golf for the next two rounds of the FedEx Cup, but “buckle up” for the Tour Championship at Eastlake in the final tournament of the season. September 24-27 figures to be special.
Paul Laubach is completely unqualified to provide expertise with respect to golf course rankings and design, however, he is a highly opinionated golf addict who believes everyone should be entitled to his thoughts. He has recently released Confessions of a Golfaholic: A Guide to Playing America’s Top 100 Public Golf Courses; now available in hardcover edition. Please visit tophundredgolf.com regularly for more (im)practical information.