HARRISON, N.Y. - In a normal year, Tiger Woods would have such a stranglehold over the Player of the Year award that even an irate New York cabbie could not wrestle the trophy from him. Woods has his 13th major, five wins overall and nine Top 10s in only 13 starts - in a year when few others have won more than once on the PGA Tour.
This isn't a normal year though. Instead it's PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem's great first FedEx Cup experiment.
And with Woods skipping out on the first of the four playoff tournaments, The Barclays, there seems to be some sentiment from his peers to punish Woods where it affects him most - in his legacy.
There has been talk at Westchester Country Club during the last several days that if a golfer not named Woods wins two of the four FedEx Cup tournaments, he could be Player of the Year. This scenario really takes on added legitimacy if that golfer is one of the other major winners - Padraig Harrington, Zach Johnson or Angel Cabrera.
While no one in that trio is mounting any sort of a challenge at The Barclays, just the fact there is talk from some of Woods' peers about the Player of the Year award going elsewhere is significant. To the third-ranked Jim Furyk, a Woods friend, it's also ridiculous.
"He's undisputedly the player of the year at this point," Furyk said. "It's not even close."
Phil Mickelson is just one of the golfers saying that two FedEx Cup tournaments wins is something that would have to be factored into Player of the Year talk though. "If somebody wins two of these four events, you have to weigh it heavily," he said. "You have the feel of a major championship here in terms of the fields. So you have to weigh the individual victories pretty strongly. It's not like you are just winning any regular Tour event. You are winning a big field, strong field event."
Harrington is probably the first guy who broached the notion that someone could block Woods from his ninth top player trophy. The British Open winner noted that he felt two FedEx Cup wins would give him a real chance at Player of the Year.
Realizing how Woods has gone out of his way to punish players who have doubted him on the scoreboard, Rich Beem wasn't about to jump in with any Woods rhetoric.
"Saying you want to take on the No. 1 player in the world?" Beem said. "Dive right in. But you'd better - you'd better bring it and then some. Because watching Tiger close hand against these guys - it's pretty funny.
"...I'm not going to say anything about Tiger except for 'Nice shot', 'Nice Putt' and 'It's your honor.' "
For all the legitimate talk about Rory Sabbatini being the Tour's biggest hothead, unlike many Tour players he does not blow off the press after a tough round. Sabbatini stood there and answered every question after he followed up his first-round 63 with an even-par 71 that completely muted any advantage he gained on the first day.
"Obviously, I had a bad day on the greens,'' Sabbatini said. "Seemed like I was hitting good putts, but I just couldn't get good reads and was just in the wrong positions all day."
Sabbatini isn't about to change his demeanor though. He did slam his putter after another miss on the second hole.
A few weeks ago, journeyman pro Jay Williamson fired his caddie in the middle of a round and finished the last four holes with a 69-year-old guy he pulled out of the crowd toting his bag. Williamson insists the caddie went way over the line in arguing with him.
Rich Beem can relate to the caddie troubles. The first time Beem played at Westchester Country Club in his rookie year, he asked his caddie for advice on a shot on the 17th hole on Sunday.
"Well, what do you think of this shot?" Beem inquired.
"Well, it doesn't matter," the caddie shot back, noting Beem was out of contention.
"Doesn't matter?" Beem mocked in retelling. "I moved up like 15 to 20 spots (after birdies on the last two holes with no caddie help). (The caddie) was on his way out already. Doesn't matter. 'Beemer I need a check from you?'
"'Oh it doesn't matter.'"
Beem ended up finishing 25th in that tournament, a huge milestone for him at the time.
Ben Curtis still draws some extra stares from golf fans on the practice range. He's still a name that jolts the memory, just like his out-of-nowhere 2003 British Open win jolted the golf world. As the years go on though, Curtis has become more and more of a footnote.
"I didn't even know Curtis is still around," one fan was overhead saying at Westchester Country Club about the 30-year-old.
Curtis isn't going to be around this weekend. While Beem, the surprise 2002 PGA Championship winner, is bringing back visions of the old magic, Curtis missed the weekend cut by a wide margin. He finished 7-over after a 75-74.
August 25, 2007
Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Davis Love III, who played the final 57 holes of the Children's Miracle Network Classic without a bogey, finished at 25-under 263 in the season-ending event played at the Walt Disney World Golf Resort in Florida. It has been a long road back for Love, who severely sprained his ankle late last year. After tearing ligaments, he needed surgery, and he's spent much of this year rehabilitating the injury.
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