FedExCup Playoffs III
Conway Farms Golf Club
Lake Forest, Illinois
Yards: 7,216 as per the scorecard
Par: 71 (36-35)
Greens: Bentgrass; 5,000 square feet on average.
Rough: Kentucky bluegrass at 3”; Fescue in places
Water Hazards: 5
Course Architects: Tom Fazio (1989)
Winner’s Share: $1,440,000
FexExCup Points: 2,500 to the winner
Defending Champion: Rory McIlroy won for the second consecutive week at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind., as he defeated Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood by two shots.
Dates: September 12-15
Notes: The top 70 players will play 72 holes this week without a cut. The top 30 at the conclusion of play on Sunday will advance to The TOUR Championship next week in Atlanta. #goforbroke
Conway Farms is Luke Donald’s home course and is hosting its first-ever TOUR event.
The BMW Championship was played at Cog Hill in Lemont, Ill., before being rotated out during the FedExCup Playoffs. Last year the event was outside Indianapolis and next year, it heads to Cherry Hills outside of Denver. What does this mean? It means horses-for-courses and previous results in this event have little to no meaning this week. It’s not very difficult. Big-time players win Playoff events and this week is not any different.
With his T6 at The Barclays, Jim Furyk now has the most top 10 finishes in Playoff history, 11.
Hunter Mahan has now played every possible playoff event. #consistency
Steve Stricker, Mickelson and Mahan are the only three players to play The TOUR Championship in all six Playoff seasons. They enter this week No. 8, No. 6 and No. 18 respectively and look to make it all SEVEN seasons.
There have been 38 tournaments this season. The Stars and Stripes have won 30 of them. The rest of the world, Australia and Sweden, have won the first two playoff events. McIlroy and Justin Rose are the last two winners of the BMW.
There have been 12, first-time winners this season and just five players with multiple victories (Woods, Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker and Scott).
The winners on TOUR have been Johnson, D (28), Henley (24), Gay (41), Woods FIVE times (37), Mickelson (42) TWICE, Snedeker (32) TWICE, Merrick (30) Kuchar TWICE (34),Thompson, M (27) Brown (29), Streelman (34), Points (36), Laird (30), Scott (32) TWICE, G-Mac (33), Horschel (26), Ernst (22), Bae (26), Weekley (39) English (23), Rose (32), Duke (44) Haas (31), Blixt (29), Austin (49), Woodland (29), Dufner (34), Reed (23), Stenson (37) and 19-year old Jordan Spieth. The young folks (30 and younger) now have 14 victories; the 30-somethings have racked up 19 victories, and the “old folks” (40 and up) have FIVE wins.
In the six seasons of the Playoffs, a rookie has played in The TOUR Championship each season. There has been one each year. That’s weird. Jordan Spieth, who finished T4 last week, DROPPED from No. 9 to No. 10 is the only rookie inside the top 30 as of Monday.
Conway Farms Golf Club was completed by noted architect Tom Fazio in 1991 and opened that year in August. The club is used as the “home course” for Luke Donald when he spends his time in Chicago during the warm months of the year. This tells me two things: Donald doesn’t think it’s too long and it must be a course where short game matters as that is his bread and butter. The greens are only 5,000 square feet, undulating and running 12’ on the Stimpmeter. They will be defended by Kentucky bluegrass rough, 88 bunkers and fescue which will punish those on the inaccurate side.
According to Indiana University Golf Coach Mike Mayer, a friend of mine whose teams have played this course in tournament play, this design is a combination of links-style holes, which are wide open, mixed with some target golf holes as trees and doglegs come into play. He describes it as a combination of parkland/farmland and links style course and a very fair test of golf. He also remarked that if the weather is benign and the greens are soft, guys can get after it and post low numbers. That being said, if the wind kicks up and the greens are kept at 12’ he could see scoring being more difficult. He concluded the winner would be a player who has a very steady, all-around game and one who can navigate around the greens.
This was the list of winners of Playoff events before last week. We add Henrik Stenson to the list so not much has changed. Big players win big tournaments at the biggest time of the year.
2009: Stricker (DBC), Woods (BMW) and Mickelson (TC)
2010: Matt Kuchar (Barclays), Charley Hoffman (DBC), Dustin Johnson (BMW) and Jim Furyk (TC)
2011: Johnson (Barclays), Webb Simpson (DBC), Justin Rose (BMW) and Bill Haas (TC)
2012: Nick Watney (Barclays), Rory McIlroy (DBC, BMW) and Brandt Snedeker (TC)
2013: Adam Scott (Barclays), Henrik Stenson (DBC)
Here are the top 24, based on points, entering the penultimate week.
The players in ITALICS should be on your radar this week.
Henrik Stenson (1): The folks who might have thought that Stenson burned out at The Barclays might not have seen the total picture by just looking at his T43 finish. As I mentioned, he had four bad holes that week and that was it. He bounced back quite nicely at DBC with a tournament-record tying 22-under-par winning score. His T43 is the ONLY finish in his last SIX tournaments world-wide where he’s NOT been on the podium. That’s Tiger Woods-ian, that is.
Tiger Woods (2): He played with a bad back all week at Liberty National and missed an 18-foot putt for a playoff. He was healthy last week at DBC where he shreds yet he finished T65 so that kinda killed the “horse-for-course” theory with Woods. That theory will be tested again this week but the opposite direction. The simple strategy at this point is to leave him until East Lake because he’s familiar with the track. When the money is on the table, there’s no chance I’m leaving him out. None.
Adam Scott (3): The Masters champ backed that finish up with T3 at The Open and T5 at the PGA so his pedigree is without question this year. Sadly for gamers, he cashed one week early at The Barclays instead of saving that performance for the DBC where he has raked it in in the past. He’s absolute class and there’s no reason I can find to write him off in ANY tournament. If he’s in, I’m on board.
Matt Kuchar (4): He was one shot of the lead heading into Saturday at the PGA before a Saturday 76 knocked him back. He was in the final group on Sunday at The Barclays before a final round 78 knocked him back to T19. He fired 66 three times at DBC to hit the top five (T4). I hear you knocking, Kuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuch.
Graham DeLaet (5): He’s first in ball striking and total driving and also ranks inside the top 50 in total putting. HOW HAS HE NOT WON A TOURNAMENT YET? After finishing 83rd at The Open he MC at the RBC Canadian, his country’s national open and he MC at the PGA. He didn’t handle the pressure of his country’s national open but he’s responded in the playoffs with T2 at The Barclays and a solo third at the DBC. Those two finishes vaulted him up the ladder from No. 34 to No. 5. He’s fired at 65 at the Barclays and 62 last week so I’m not sure if he can keep that up. I’m not sure anyone can.
Phil Mickelson (6): Are you ready? Here’s the last 10 for Mickelson: third, MC, T2, T2, MC, WIN, T21, T72, T6 and T41 at DBC after opening with 63. Yep, just about what we gamers expect. He needs to post a number this week if he would like to guarantee himself a chance at $10 million next week in Atlanta. Remember, only the top five entering next week will win the $10 million with a victory; everyone else will need help. You think he’s going to bottle it with a chance for $10 million on the line? No. Way.
Justin Rose (7): His worst finish on U.S. soil this season is T33 at the PGA. He had a putt to win the Barclays and finished T16 last week. He’s my horse for Atlanta but remember he won this event in 2011 at Cog Hill on the south side of Chicago. He’s won a FEC event, a WGC event, a Ryder Cup singles match and a major in the last three years. Giddy. Freaking. Up.
Steve Stricker (8): If he’s playing, I’m buying. He shot his best round of the year, 63, last time out at DBC to finish second and clinch a spot on the Presidents Cup team. I guess he likes his new limited schedule!
Brandt Snedeker (9): His best finish in his last six events is T33. He’s in a slump, plain and simple. I’d save him for next week if he’s in your plans as he hasn’t had a round lower than 68 since his victory in Canada.
Jordan Spieth (10): In his last eight events he’s won, lost in a playoff, fired a final round 62 to finish T4 at DBC and posted solo sixth at AT&T. He was also a captain’s pick for the Presidents Cup. He’s been 20 for just over a month. How’s your summer been?
Keegan Bradley (11): Bradley hasn’t been able to find the winner’s circle in 2013 but his pair of second place finishes and five other top 10s have kept him hovering around the top 10. If you need a solid pick this week, I can’t argue against Bradley.
Jason Day (12): When the going gets going Day is usually in the middle of it and this summer hasn’t been much different. He backed up his three top 10s in majors this season with T25 at The Barclays and T13 at the DBC. He’s made over $3 million this season and the only thing that’s missing is a victory. Yes, please.
Jason Dufner (13): Better late than never for the PGA champion as his season didn’t get jump-started until his T4 at the U.S. Open. He waited longer than Zach Johnson to start paying back gamers in 2013 but he’s been simmering ever since. His T4 the week before the PGA was just a preview and his T9 at the DBC (after a closing round 71) shows that he’s found it. He was T56 GIR and third in strokes gained-putting at the DBC. That’s backwards.
Gary Woodland (14): His steady play from mid-March through July saw him rack up 13 of 14 weekends but not a single finish inside the top 15. His victory at Reno-Tahoe changed all of that. Three weeks later he racked up T2 at The Barclays and he was on his way. His T41 last week cemented his trip to Atlanta so he can swing it pretty freely this week. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
Jim Furyk (15): What a whirlwind 18 months for Furyk. So many close calls, a Ryder Cup disappointment and a Presidents Cup snub plus a ton of top 10s have kept gamers on their toes. His final round 73 at DBC knocked him out of a fifth straight top 10 finish. Furyk is a resilient grinder and it’s no wonder why he has the most top 10s in Playoff history.
Kevin Streelman (16): His breakout season saw him post a win, second and a third in a six tournament stretch from St. Patrick’s Day through Mother’s day. In his next 10 events, he’s made six cuts and has only two finishes inside the top 40, T12 (PGA) and T19 at The Barclays. In a field of only 70 players with no cut you can do much worse.
Bill Haas (17): After taking three weeks off after back-to-back MCs in May, Haas caught fire in June with T4 at Memorial, WIN at AT&T, T9 at Greenbrier and T7 at WGC-BI. In his last four events he’s been T25 twice, T20 and MC last week at an easy set up in Boston. He might be out of gas. I’ll let you decide.
Hunter Mahan (18): His only finish this summer outside the top 25 was T57 at the PGA when a 78 on Saturday sank any chance he had of posting a solid finish. With T25 at the Barclays and T13 last week, he’s showing why he’s played in the most consecutive Playoff events and is heading to Atlanta for the 6th season in a row. His game travels so I’m aboard this week and next.
Boo Weekley (19): He’s only found the top 25 once in his last seven starts and that was T12 at the PGA. If you would have told me in January that Weekley would have been above Simpson, Johnson & Johnson and Garcia heading into the third Playoff event, well, I would have giggled. This is his best season since 2007 but his putter scares me to death.
Webb Simpson (20): Another solid if not spectacular season from the 2012 U.S. Open champion sees him with a foot firmly in the door for next week. At the DBC he was in the bottom five in GIR and strokes gained-putting and was T58 in driving accuracy. He can’t possibly be worse this week, right?
D.A. Points (21): He’s made 13 cuts and missed 13 cuts in 2013. So is that lucky 13 or unlucky 13. If I can’t figure that out, there’s no way I’m endorsing him this week. His T6 at Barclays was backed up by MC at DBC. He’s never made it to Atlanta.
Billy Horschel (22): His wonderful 2013 has come to a screeching halt since his T4 at the U.S. Open. In the eight events he’s played following that fantastic performance, he’s made five cuts and he has one finish, T30, better than T44. He fired three rounds OVER par last week on one of the easiest courses on TOUR.
Dustin Johnson (23): I’ve given up. I can’t figure him out so I’m leaving him alone. He has the old Mickelson mojo right now where it’s top 10 or rubbish. He has the talent to win every time he tees it up. This is a recording.
Sergio Garcia (24): He played spectacularly for three rounds last time out at the DBC as he played himself from No. 55 to No. 24 with his T4 finish. Garcia has enjoyed golf around the Chicago area as evidenced by the Ryder Cup last year, the 1999 PGA, 2003 U.S. Open and his times at Cog Hill. He’s staying at Luke Donald’s place and he knows quite a bit about this track!