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This week in golf

Teeing Off

Five things to look for on the professional golf scene:

August 23, 2007|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

1 The playoffs begin today, or at least the PGA Tour's version of a golf playoff system, and it's probably a little short-sighted that there's more focus on who's not playing than who is.

Chances are that's going to change, but Tiger Woods' absence from the Barclays, the first of the $63-million, four-tournament FedEx Cup playoff chase, hasn't helped the concept get much lift in its debut.

One way to look at it: When they start playing, he won't be a distraction. Maybe some of the weekend will be spent trying to figure out how the FedEx Cup scenario will work out and whether the players, media and fans understand any more about it than they have been letting on, which isn't much.

The FedEx Cup might not be the best idea in the history of golf, but it could be just fine once it plays out, so everyone should stop bashing it even before it begins. It's going to rise or fall by itself.

2 Handicapping the FedEx Cup playoffs, it might be worth noting that Vijay Singh has won on three of the four tournament courses -- a total of five times. Singh opens as the No. 2-seeded player with 99,000 points, 1,000 points behind Woods. The points were re-set after the Wyndham.

Also, No. 3 Jim Furyk has never played in the Deutsche Bank Championship, the second of the four events, and neither has No. 4 Phil Mickelson. The BMW Championship is the third event and the Tour Championship the last in the playoffs.

3 Woods is taking some serious heat in the New York Post, which called him "selfish," and said his missing the Barclays at Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y., was "slapping the PGA Tour across its cheek" and he had placed the future success of the FedEx Cup playoffs in peril.

That's probably not enough to interrupt Tiger's tranquillity on his yacht. But "selfish?" Does anyone really think the pros would be playing four consecutive tournaments with at least $7 million in prize money, with $35 million in bonuses if Woods weren't around to drive up the interest in golf?

4 It has happened only eight times before -- a player winning three tournaments on the Nationwide Tour and being promoted directly to the PGA Tour -- but that's what Nick Flanagan did. Flanagan, the 2003 U.S. Amateur champion and a 23-year-old Australian, won his third event of the year, the Xerox Classic, over the weekend. That means he is conditionally exempt on the PGA Tour the rest of 2007 and fully exempt in 2008.

But as hot as Flanagan is, here's something to cool him off: Because the FedEx Cup playoffs are just getting underway, he must wait a month before there are any PGA Tour events he can enter.

5 Pat Hurst is the defending champion and Natalie Gulbis (who won the Evian Masters) and Michelle Wie (who is having trouble making cuts) are in the field, but Lorena Ochoa is still the player to watch at the Safeway Classic. Ochoa, who has won five times this year, won the Women's British Open and the Canadian Women's Open in back-to-back tournaments and could be the first player to win three straight since Annika Sorenstam two years ago.

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