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Two trophies are better than one, especially when one of them comes with $10 million. The PGA Tour’s season ends this week at the Tour Championship, and that means the end of the FedEx Cup season that began 342 days ago in California’s wine country. The top five seeds only have to win the tournament to claim the richest bonus in golf, though there has been three occasions that the FedEx Cup was won by someone else.
Bill Haas won it as the No. 25 seed, making him the inspiration for long shots. It sounds like a sure-fire recipe for excitement Sunday, and last year was proof of that. Rory McIlroy, the No. 6 seed, had to hole a shot from the fairway for eagle on the 16th hole to get into a three-man playoff that he eventually won.
This year holds the promise of split trophies — one Tour Championship winner, a different FedEx Cup champion — because the competition has been extraordinarily tight, and the depth of talent is greater than ever.
That hasn’t happened since 2009 , when Phil Mickelson (the No. 14 seed) won the Tour Championship and Tiger Woods (No. 1) seed won the FedEx Cup. “Let me see if I get this straight,” Mickelson said at the trophy presentation. “I shot 65, and he gets a check for $10 million.”
He was kidding. Jordan Spieth is the No. 1 seed for the first time, and that was important to him because of the potential for someone outside the top five to win. Every point matters. He is followed by Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Marc Leishman and Jon Rahm.
They earned those spots. Thomas, Johnson and Leishman won FedEx Cup playoff events. Spieth was runner-up in two of them and tied for seventh in the other. Rahm finished in the top five at all three of them.
The LPGA Tour has a week off after its fifth and final major of the year. The Web.com Tour Finals enters its third week ahead of its Tour Championship, which decides which additional 25 players earn PGA Tour cards for next season.
That next season starts 11 days later. TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP The PGA Tour is contemplating a change to the end of the FedEx Cup. One concept being explored is staging the Tour Championship, handing out a trophy, and then the top FedEx Cup finishers playing the next day over 18 holes to determine the winner.
That’s a long way off from becoming a reality, and it includes feedback from the players. One area of dissent is that the current system works fine. There certainly has been no shortage of highlights since it shifted to the current model in 2009.
Haas delivered the signature moment when he saved par from the lake on the second playoff hole against Hunter Mahan, and then got up-and-down from a bunker on the next hole to win both titles. Jim Furyk had his hat on backward when he saved par from a bunker in the rain. Furyk joined Tiger Woods as the only FedEx Cup champions who didn’t play the opening playoff event — Woods skipped The Barclays on purpose in 2007, Furyk missed it in 2010 when his phone (and alarm) died overnight and he missed his pro-am, which back then meant he was ineligible to play.
The rest have been decided by three shots or more. TV: Thursday-Friday, 1-6 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday, 12:30-2:30 p.m. (Golf Channel), 2:30-6 p.m. (NBC). Sunday, Noon-1:30 p.m. (Golf Channel), 1:30-6 p.m. (NBC).
DAP CHAMPIONSHIP The Web.com Tour is the main gateway to the PGA Tour. It also is a chance to groom players for the big leagues, and there is some significant grooming going on at the DAP Championship. It is being held at Canterbury Golf Club outside Cleveland, better that many courses they will see on the PGA Tour.
Canterbury is where Jack Nicklaus set the record for most majors at the 1973 PGA Championship , no matter how they were counted — his 14th, including two U.S. Amateur titles, to break the mark held by Bobby Jones; and his 12th professional major, breaking the mark of Walter Hagen.
The top 25 on the money list in the regular season already have their cards. The next 25 will get cards. Still with work to do are Hunter Mahan, the only Ryder Cup player in the field, and Sam Saunders, the grandson of Arnold Palmer who would rather not rely on sponsor exemptions that PGA Tour events are more than willing to offer.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday, 2:30-5:30 p.m. (Golf Channel); Sunday, 1:30-4:30 p.m. (Golf Channel). PURE INSURANCE OPEN The PGA Tour Champions has the most iconic venue for the week — Pebble Beach. As usual, there will be plenty of memories.
The field features Tom Watson, who famously chipped in on the 17th for birdie to beat Jack Nicklaus in the 1982 U.S. Open. Mark O’Meara is a five-time winner of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Also playing is Colin Montgomerie. He made his U.S. Open debut in 1992 and finished strong in a howling wind. Nicklaus was in the broadcast booth and practically congratulated him on winning. Alas, Tom Kite came through to win and Montgomerie wound up third.
Montgomerie never won a major, and he doesn’t need Pebble Beach to remind him of that.