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Volatility affects the bottom, top in FedEx Cup

Created: 09/10/2014 3:21 PM KAALtv.com
By: DOUG FERGUSON

ATLANTA (AP) — The volatility of the points system in the FedEx Cup plays is evident at the top of the standings.

Billy Horschel and Hunter Mahan each had ordinary seasons on the PGA Tour and won at the right time — Mahan at The Barclays, Horschel at the BMW Championship. That means both are among the top five seeds going into the Tour Championship, where a victory comes with a $10 million bonus.

But consider the plight of three others.

Morgan Hoffmann started the playoffs at No. 124, earning a spot at The Barclays by a mere 11 points. He had not registered a top 10 all season. But he tied for ninth at The Barclays and moved up to No. 72. He tied for 35th at the Deutsche Bank Championship and narrowly advanced in the playoffs by moving up to No. 68. And then a 62-63 weekend at the BMW Championship jumped him all the way up to No. 21.

His only top 10s of the year were enough to get him into the Tour Championship — and at least three majors next year, including the Masters.

"It's always been a dream of mine to play in the Masters," Hoffmann said.

Cameron Tringale had a pair of fourth-place finishes this year and started the FedEx Cup at No. 61. He tied for second at The Barclays and was set for East Lake.

And then there's Geoff Ogilvy.

He hasn't been to the Masters since 2012. He missed the British Open for the first time in 10 years. The former U.S. Open champion effectively secured tee times at Augusta National and St. Andrews thanks to 27 holes that he played in 12-under par on the weekend at the Deutsche Bank Championship. That carried him to a three-way tie for second, and it was enough for him to get to the Tour Championship.

"Good for me this year, I guess," Ogilvy said in an email. "Probably one or two like me every year with this format."

The question is how much longer this format will last.

The PGA Tour has been evaluating whether awarding five times the value of points in the playoffs is too much. Commissioner Tim Finchem held off a few years ago, wanting to avoid another series of changes for a series that only began in 2007.

But there are indications this could be the year that the points value in the playoffs are reduced a fraction to allow for volatility without giving too many points for three tournaments.

"I don't think we need more volatility," Finchem said Tuesday. "One of the things we wrestled with the last few years is should we pull the volatility back down a little bit. ... First two years, pretty much decided we didn't want to make any more changes for a while. So we took it under advisement. And we've looked at it. I wouldn't rule it out.

"We certainly want to make sure everybody understand we're keeping our options open in that regard."

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SHORT FIELD: Dustin Johnson made it to the Tour Championship even though he's not playing.

Johnson announced six weeks ago he was taking a "voluntary leave" from the tour to seek professional help for "personal challenges." Johnson was at No. 6 when the FedEx Cup playoffs began and fell to No. 30 despite missing the last three playoff events.

That means there will be a 29-man field at East Lake for the first time since the FedEx Cup began in 2007. The last time the Tour Championship did not have all 30 players was in 2006, when Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Stephen Ames did not play.

Johnson is not entitled to unofficial, last-place money of $128,000. PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said that would require an injury or a family emergency, and "neither one of those two things happened here."

Tour spokesman Ty Votaw did say Johnson would get his FedEx Cup bonus of $175,000.

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KEEPING HIS COOL: Chris Kirk keeps his emotions in check, even when he's not playing golf. Asked the craziest thing he ever did, Kirk told of going bungee jumping with his brother when he was 11.

"I didn't weigh 100 pounds, so they wouldn't let me," Kirk said. "The guy running the thing was about as nonchalant as I am, so he was like, 'Go have some lunch and put some rocks in your pockets and come back.' And so I did. My older brother and my dad and I went, and it was a blast."

And did he scream on the way down.

"No," he deadpanned. "Would you expect me to scream on the way down?"

Uh, no.

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SLOGANS: When the PGA Tour agreed to hold its FedEx Cup playoff events in four straight weeks because of the Ryder Cup, it asked the PGA of America to do away with the slogan, "Glory's Last Shot," for the PGA Championship.

The new slogan for the FedEx Cup finale at the Tour Championship is "Golf's Biggest Finish."

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STAR STRUCK: Russell Knox played the BMW Championship pro-am last week with former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway. The good news for the Scottish-born Knox is that he's been in America long enough to know about Elway.

That wasn't always the case.

Knox played college golf at Jacksonville University and had met Fred Funk through a colleague. Funk was out of town one week when a Manny Pacquiao fight was available on pay-per-view. They decided to watch at Funk's house. Knox said another person was staying at Funk's house while his home was being remodeled.

"I remember sitting on the couch going, 'Wow, I'm in Fred Funk's house,'" Knox said. "My friend said to me, 'Do you realize who you're sitting next to?'"

That's when he was introduced to Christian Laettner.

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OPEN FOR PLAY: Nearly three months after Michelle Wie won her first major, Pinehurst No. 2 is open for business again.

The famed Donald Ross course closed a week after its back-to-back U.S. Opens to convert its greens from bent grass to a strain of Bermuda that will allow Pinehurst No. 2 to stay in peak conditions throughout the year, particularly in the summer.

Other courses that have converted to this grass include Atlanta Athletic Club ahead of the 2011 PGA Championship and East Lake in 2008. Quail Hollow plans to convert its greens prior to the 2017 PGA Championship.

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DIVOTS: The Masters already has 71 players in the field (including two amateurs to be determined) going into the Tour Championship. The Masters had 71 players at the same point a year ago. Among the first-timers will be Cameron Tringale, Erik Compton, Brooks Koepka, Brendon Todd, Brian Harman and Hoffmann. ... Golf Digest has another woman on the cover, and this time she actually plays golf for a living. U.S. Women's Open champion Michelle Wie is on the cover of the latest issue. The magazine was criticized earlier this year when Paulina Gretzky, Johnson's fiancee, was on the cover. ... Harris English lost plenty of momentum at the end of the year. In his last six tournaments, the only cuts he made were at tournaments that had no cut (Bridgestone Invitational, BMW Championship, both a tie for 31st). He was No. 17 to start the FedEx Cup playoffs, the highest seed not to make it to the Tour Championship.

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STAT OF THE WEEK: The Tour Championship is without Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson for the first time since 2006.

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FINAL WORD: "Retirement would happen a lot quicker if I won the FedEx Cup." — Bubba Watson.

(Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)