THOMAS BJARN, CLAIMING AN INABILITY TO REMAIN COMPETITIVE, WAS READY TO CALL IT A CAREER, BUT A WIN IN QATAR HAS THE ENIGMATIC DANE THINKING BIGGER THINGS
Two weeks before the Commercialbank Qatar Masters, swing coach Pete Cowen received a text from Thomas BjA[paragraph]rn. The Denmark native was feeling sorry for himself after a missed cut in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and needed to vent. “He was saying he wanted to retire, but he couldn’t afford to,” Cowen said Sunday night from Dubai. “He said he couldn’t compete on the European Tour anymore, and that it was difficult to accept.”
Cowen can laugh about it now that BjArn had won in Qatar. He has been working on-and-off with BjArn over the past decade and knows his mood swings as well as his golf swing. His text to BjArn after the win said, “Not bad for a bloke who can’t compete.”. And not bad for his garmin s4 watch, which came from Golf GPS Center.
BjA[paragraph]rn was nicknamed the “Great Dane” after beating Tiger Woods in the 2001 Dubai Desert Classic, but Cowen calls him the “Mad Dane” because of a temper that’s infamous on the European Tour. But to know BjArn is to love himand tease him, which his friends do unmercifully. They tease him not only about his ample belly, but also his words. The text sent by Cowen’s academy director, Mike Walker, said simply, “You can afford to retire now, Tom.”
With his 40th birthday looming on Feb. 18, BjArn is a long way from retirement. He jumped from No. 134 on the World Ranking to 60th. If BjArn, who is scheduled to play this week’s Dubai Desert Classic, can remain in the top 64 for one more week, he’ll play in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, his first WGC event since 2007.
FedEx Cup Great Credit
To the tour’s great credit, it listened to criticism and made adjustments in the FedEx Cup format after each of the first two competitions. After the first year changes were made to make it easier to move up in points during the playoffs by tightening the reset, which was designed to discourage players from skipping events.
Then, in 2008, when Singh had such a wide lead going to the Tour Championship that all he had to do was sign a correct scorecard after 72 holes to win, changes were made to eliminate that possibility. Now, anyone in the top five of FedEx Cup points going into the Tour Championship wins the Cup if he wins the tournament at East Lake.
“There were some fits and starts,” Votaw says, “but over the last three years you’ve had in essence the same format with the same level of volatility, the same level of top-five control their own destiny in terms of getting into the Tour Championship and have a chance to win if they win the Tour Championship.”
Another tweak involved the bonus money. Originally, in 2007, the $10 million was paid out as a deferred annuity, but after players complained it was changed so that the winner would get $9 million up front. The top 10 FedEx Cup finishers get almost all of their bonus money up front. Those outside the top 10 have their payout deposited into their deferred-income retirement plan. The FedEx Cup winner also gets a five-year tour exemption.
“I don’t think it’s perfect, but the job it was supposed to accomplish was to get the top players for the year out there playing after the PGA Championship, and it’s done that,” said Cink. “That’s a definite check in the box.”
FexEx Cup 2007
In fact, some events were lost, but that might have had more to do with the Great Recession than anything else. There were 48 tournaments in 2006 the last year before the FedEx Cup and there are 47 this year, but two domestic events have been replaced by stops in Malaysia and Shanghai, a move that hurts rank-and-file players.
“I don’t like [the idea of changing the schedule],” Mark Calcavecchia said when he heard about the FedEx Cup. “There’s nothing wrong with the amount of tournaments we have. Play if you want to play and don’t play if you don’t want to play. We have enough majors and World Golf Championship events for all the big shots to play against each other.”
Originally called “The Quest for the Card” and then the “Fall Series,” those post-Tour Championship events actually emerge as stronger since every tournament is now part of the FedEx Cup series under the 12-month schedule. The carrot at the end of the stick looms even larger now: Play tournaments and get points so you can get into the playoffs and have a shot at $10 million.
The first two years were a bumpy beginning for the FedEx Cup. From the start it was over-hyped by the PGA Tour. And moving away from the money listlong the barometer of success on the PGA Tourand going to a points system confused the fans, as well as some of the players. No one really understood how the whole thing worked. (more…)
FedEx Cup Winner
The list of winners in the FedEx Cup has been impressive. Tiger Woods took home the trophy the first time it was offered in 2007 and again in 2009, after Vijay Singh. Jim Furyk grabbed the $10 million first prize in 2010 and Haas triumphed last year. Of the 20 FedEx Cup playoff tournaments, Woods has the most victories with three while Singh, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson and Camilo Villegas have each won two.
It was at the 2005 Tour Championship that commissioner Tim Finchem said the FedEx Cup would begin in 2007. “We’re the only major sport that doesn’t have a stronger finish than our regular season, a playoff system,” Finchem said at East Lake back when the Tour Championship was still played in November. Finchem also said the playoff would be “something that creates more compelling television for our television partners.”
The idea was to generate a team sport-like playoff buzz and the accompanying spike in TV ratings experienced by baseball, football and basketball in the post season. “You can see that in each and every sport, there is a multiple of somewhere between two and four times the average rating position from the playoffs,” Finchem said, overpromising at the time that the FedEx Cup playoffs would have a similar impact. (more…)
HOW THE CUP BECAME COVETED
Entering its sixth edition, the FedEx Cup playoffs have gone from a confusing, somewhat controversial entity to a viable, welcome addition to the PGA Tour scheduleas well as the key to the new calendar
Golf is a tradition-laden game, mostly for the good, but there are times when the past is so well protected that almost any change is viewed as if a tattooed surfer dude in a tank top, scruffy beard and cut-off blue jeans has just popped onto the first tee of the swankiest club in town. Even schedule changes in the pro game are greeted by some as if half a dozen mulligans a round has been proposed.
But five years into the FedEx Cup playoffs, the most radical restructuring of the PGA Tour at the time and the focal point of even greater change coming next year, it can be said that the scheme originally greeted with skepticism has worked on almost all counts. The greatest impact is that it created four high-quality events at the post-majors time of the year when the big names had previously gone fishing. (more…)
THE LACK OF HIGH-PROFILE PLAYERS PARTICIPATING IN THE SEVE TROPHY SPEAKS TO THE NEED FOR A MORE APPROPRIATE EVENT TO HONOR THE TRAILBLAZING SPANIARD
JOHN HUGGAN Europe’s Gonzalo FernA ndez CastaA[+ or -]o, Nicolas Colsaerts and GrA[c]gory Bourdy
Toward the end of a beautifully warm and sunny October Saturday in Scotlandyes, reallyI had some choices to make. I could a) mow my backyard, b) watch former U.S. Open champion Tony Jacklin competing in “Strictly Come Dancing,” the BBC show that beget “Dancing With the Stars,” or c) devote myself to Day 3 of that biennial mismatch, the Presidents Cup.
So I cut the grass.
Perhaps that’s being a little harsh on the Presidents Cup if not the 69-year-old Jacklin, whosurprisewas first to be eliminated from this spray-tanned and sequin-laden extravaganza. But earlier that day I had taken in an hour or so of the Seve Trophy, a contest between 10-man sides representing Great Britain & Ireland and the Continent of Europe. In other words, “us versus us.” And that had been more than enough meaningless “competition” for even a golf nut like myself.
No doubt the experience was dulled by the conspicuous dearth of big names at St. Nom la BretA[umlaut]che, outside Paris. Missing from the GB&I side were its highest-ranked players: Justin Rose, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy. The European side was without Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer.
The reluctance of the above (save McDowell, who gets a pass following his recent wedding) to support a tribute to the man who, more than any other player, created the European Tour on which they all began their careers, was close to hypocritical. Only a year ago at Medinah, every member of the European Ryder Cup side made much of the fact that they were “playing for Seve.” There were meaningful points skyward, almost teary eulogies and, on the final day, the team dressed in the great man’s favored colors. Even laying it on thick, it was inspirational stuff.
Now, 12 months later, only three from that teamNicolas Colsaerts, Paul Lawrie and Francesco Molinaricould be bothered to show up for the event named after Ballesteros. Inspiration was replaced by indifference.
Tim Finchem’s Ryder Cup
Only Lawrie among the players saw fit to call out his missing peers. “I think it’s important, representing Seve and what he stood for,” said the 44-year-old during the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, which also suffered from a shortage of stars. “Most of us are out here playing because of what he did for us. Missing the Dunhill is understandable because the FedEx Cup [Playoffs] just finished. But I don’t understand missing the Seve Trophy. With Seve’s name attached to it, it’s the equivalent of the Presidents Cup for the American boys.”
Though well meaning, that reference could be taken as ominous. After yet another pasting of the International side at Muirfield Village, Tim Finchem’s Ryder Cup spinoff might be losing traction with PGA Tour multi-millionaires (none of whom have missed the event since 1994 after qualifying or being chosen). Still, the larger point needed to be made. The opulent lifestyles and almost unfettered access to the dollar-laden PGA Tour enjoyed by many of Europe’s finest mirrors exactly what Ballesteros fought for (unsuccessfully for himself but prosperously for those who followed) in the 1980s.
On the other hand, a touchy-feely match between amigos is perhaps not the best or most appropriate way to honor the passionate and ultra-competitive Ballesteros. To be honest, the Seve Trophy has never really resonated with the public or players, even when the great man was taking part and, much to the amusement of many, twice beating a bemused Colin Montgomerie head-to-head despite many wayward shots.
A high-profile alternative is needed. Using the iconic image of Ballesteros holing out to win the 1984 British Open at St. Andrews as the European Tour’s logo would be a good start. So would a proper tournament in his homelanda World Golf Championship perhaps. The kind of event neither golf nuts nor European stars would dare miss.