PGA Tour Champions considers change to Schwab playoffs
By DOUG FERGUSON
LOS ANGELES (AP) The problem with a postseason bonus program in golf is making the system volatile enough to come down to the final tournament while rewarding the player with the best season. The PGA Tour Champions might have a solution for the Charles Schwab Cup.
The tour is considering a proposal that would eliminate the reset going into the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, according to two people with knowledge of the plan. They spoke on condition of anonymity because it is still in the process of being approved.
Bernhard Langer last year won seven times, including two majors and the first two playoff events. Kevin Sutherland won the final tournament, which enabled him to capture the Schwab Cup and the $1 million bonus. It was Sutherland's first victory on the PGA Tour Champions.
Much like the FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour, points are reset going into the last event so that all 36 players in the field have a mathematical chance to win the Cup, and the top five only have to win the tournament to claim the big bonus.
But this wasn't a response to Sutherland winning.
What made officials rethink the playoff points system was that two players, Paul Goydos and Lee Janzen, had a reasonable chance on the last day to win the Schwab Cup even though they were outside the top 20 in the standings. That would have looked even more awkward in light of Langer's big season.
Tour officials pored through various models and proposed a system that would put greater emphasis on the playoffs and still keep the finale in doubt. The proposal is for points (each point is worth $1 in earnings) to be double for the first two playoff events, and points would be triple the value in the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
Langer, who tied for 12th in the final event last year, would have won the cup under that proposal. Langer's season was so stellar that he would have won in just about any model that was considered.
Under the proposal, it's still possible that a player can wrap up the Schwab Cup before the final event. But looking over the last 10 years, it would be rare.
The plan still has to be discussed among the players and go before the Player Advisory Council. The hope is to have the full board vote on it as early as next month.
ASSISTANT OR PLAYER: Tiger Woods had a reasonable start to his latest comeback when he tied for 23rd at Torrey Pines in his first PGA Tour event in a year. He hopes to play a full schedule, by his standards, though it's still not clear where he will play next.
The question is whether he can win this year. Another question to ponder is his role in the Ryder Cup.
For example, what if Woods were to play well enough to finish around 20th in the Ryder Cup standings? Would that be enough to make him a captain's pick? Or is Woods better off being an assistant captain? That's the role he played at Hazeltine in 2016, and at Liberty National for the Presidents Cup last year. And by all accounts, Woods did some of his best work when it came to motivating, his role in the team room and his thoughts on pairings.
"Both," Woods said with a smile.
Woods said that would be up to Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk, and while he says he has spoken with Furyk, "He didn't say anything."
Furyk is expected to be name two more assistant captains for the Ryder Cup matches in France this year. Woods and Steve Stricker are likely to be appointed.
Woods has been a part of only two winning teams - one as a player (1999), one as an assistant captain (2016).
STRICKER'S SCHEDULE: Steve Stricker played in the penultimate group at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, three shots out of the lead until he was done in by consecutive double bogeys on the front nine. He closed with a 76 and finished 10 shots behind.
He still can contend at age 50. He is a past champion at Riviera.
And he has gone to Florida for the week to make his debut on the PGA Tour Champions.
But he'll be back. Stricker hopes to play as many as 15 times on the PGA Tour this year provided he can get into a major or two, even if he has to qualify. So much for that semi-retirement he talked about in 2013.
"The challenge is age more than anything," he said. "I still feel like I'm getting it out there. Some of the scoring clubs, I'm not as good as I used to be. I feel good. The body feels good. The back feels good."
Stricker said one reason he cut back was that his older daughter, Bobbi Maria, was in her final years of high school. It was the right time for him to be home. Plus, he didn't want to burn out on golf before turning 50 and becoming eligible for the PGA Tour Champions.
So it worked. Bobbi Maria is a sophomore at Wisconsin. His younger daughter and wife are traveling more. And he's excited to play.
"The biggest thing is I want to be out here," he said. "I didn't want to be like, `I've got to go play again' and have it be a downer to be on the road. I wanted to be excited each and every time. And I am. When you're excited to play, it shows up in your game."
CANTLAY'S PROGRESS: Patrick Cantlay returned to golf last year at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am after being gone for three years with a back injury. He tied for 48th and finished 16 shots out of the lead. One year later, he is a PGA Tour winner and among the top 40 players in the world ranking.
But that's not how he measures progress.
"It's just feeling healthy all the time," Cantlay said. "In the last year, I can still see an upward tick in how I feel all the time, how strong I feel. I don't get tired in the middle of rounds anymore. I feel good all the time. I didn't know if I was going to get back to a spot like that."
Cantlay said it took him until last summer to get through a tournament where he wasn't losing energy and a little focus. The back was fine, but the routine of tournament golf required some adjustments.
"I just wasn't used to being engaged for six hours, walking, the whole deal," he said. "It's something that you can get out of touch with if you're taking as much time off as I did."
Winning in Vegas wasn't one. Confidence has never been an issue with Cantlay.
"It's just nice to wake up every day and feel like I can go out and do my best," he said.
DIVOTS: Ted Potter Jr. is nowhere to be found in the Ryder Cup standings, even though he earned 1,332 points for his victory at Pebble Beach. That should place him 10th in the standings. The reason? He is not a PGA of America member. Potter was out of golf for two years with a broken ankle and was on the Web.com Tour last year. It's not unusual for PGA Tour players to forget to rejoin the PGA of America, and Potter's points will be retroactive when he joins. ... Abraham Ancer had his best finish (tie for 9th) at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, and now he can bank on another return to his native country. Ancer is No. 253 in the world, making him the highest-ranked player from Mexico. That will get him a spot in Mexico Championship next month. It will be his first World Golf Championship. ... Tiger Woods still doesn't know if he's playing the Honda Classic next week. Woods said his feet were sore after Torrey Pines, and he wants to be sure if he can go at it as hard as he wants after only three days off between the Genesis Open and Honda Classic.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Dustin Johnson and Jason Day each played their first full year on the PGA Tour in 2008. Last week at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Johnson became the fifth player to surpass $50 million in career earnings. Day became the 15th player to go over $40 million.
FINAL WORD: "I love the golf course. I love the layout. It fits my eye. And I play awful. It's very simple." - Tiger Woods on Riviera, the course he has played the most times on the PGA Tour without winning.
Updated February 13, 2018
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