The PGA Tour makes its way to Illinois and Cog Hill for Round No. 3 of the FedEx Cup playoffs at the BMW Championship, and once again the tournament will be as notable for who isn't playing as for who is teeing it up.
After winning the Deutsche Bank Championship and assuming the lead on the FedEx Cup points list, Phil Mickelson chose to skip this week's event. Tiger Woods will be there, as will Ernie Els, Rory Sabbatini and Steve Stricker, who won the FedEx Cup's first playoff tournament, The Barclays, and sits in the No. 2 spot on the FedEx Cup points list ahead of Woods.
Here Woods and Els talk about what they expect from the tournament and the FedEx Cup as the PGA Tour makes its annual stop in the Chicagoland area.
Q. What is it about this course and being in Chicago that brings out the best in you?
TIGER WOODS: Well, one, I played here as an amateur. This is the first time I ever made a cut on the PGA Tour was here. I've just always enjoyed this golf course. It's always fit my eye. Certain golf courses you say fit your eye; well, this is one of them for me.
Q. How did the course play today from what you remember since the last time you played here?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, the fairways were probably a touch faster as of right now before the rain, and the greens were definitely a lot quicker. We don't normally see them this kind of scalped down a little bit. You see some of the cut lines, which you normally don't see around here. But overall the golf course is in fantastic shape. It's playing probably a little more difficult than what we normally see it.
Q. In terms of how it stands leading to Atlanta, the field has shrunk by 50. Any sense of building toward that illustrious climax?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I guess the positive thing is I'll make the cut this week (laughter). Everything is starting to shape up now. We're starting to understand and get a feel for how the points work, and that's one of the things I think we all didn't really know how it would go. We had never experienced it before, and now we're starting to get a feel for what it takes and how important Ws are.
Q. Has the format been working out? There were concerns about how many weeks in a row you'd have to play, but it seems like players have been able to schedule a week off at some point.
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, a lot of guys are taking weeks off. I took the first week off, Ernie took last week, Phil and Paddy are taking this week off. If you combine the total for the guys who are playing The Presidents Cup, it's seven out of nine weeks, end of the year, end of the summer. Guys are finding it out to play seven out of nine weeks, except for Vijay. He's the only one.
Q. When this things was pitched to you, the idea that the schedule was going to be so bunched, did you express reservations about your ability to play that many in a row?
TIGER WOODS: We all did. We all didn't think it was in the best interest for us as players to play that much. We normally don't play that much, especially towards the end of the year. Most of the guys usually shut it down post-PGA, and maybe the only time you start playing a lot is maybe trying to get ready for the Ryder Cup.
Q. Should the Tour maybe have listened a little bit more to you guys instead of scheduling the tournaments the way they are, especially going into next year when you have the Ryder Cup right after that?
TIGER WOODS: Yeah, it's going to be interesting to see what happens. It's a lot of golf for a lot of guys. These are all big events. It's not like these are small events. They're all big events that you have World Golf Championships follows by a major, and then you have these four events and then you have The Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup.
It's a bunch of big events. It's not like you have events where most of the guys like at Kapalua take it easy out there and go have fun at night, and if they play good golf, great. That's not the case.
Q. What did you take out of last week, and are you kind of bummed that Phil isn't here this week so you could keep that thing going that you had with him?
TIGER WOODS: We understand it, why he's not here. Hey, we had a great run together on Sunday. It was fun. I mean, anytime we get in that position, which we have in the past, it's fun for both of us. But hey, he's taking the week off, and he should be ready for next week.
Q. Does it seem strange that it's early September and the Tour Championship is like next week already instead of two months away?
TIGER WOODS: You're right, that does seem different. Plus also, I think a welcome change for all of us, too. Most of us are going to take some time off and shut it down -- some of the guys, Vijay will still continue to play.
But some of the guys it's nice for them to take a break before they head down to Australia and support their Tour or South Africa and support their Tour. You know, Phil has usually built in his break post-Firestone event. But I think it's great for a lot of guys. It's a time for them to take some time off before they have to go out and support their Tours and travel all over.
Q. Looks like you're in pretty good position going into that final event, 14th on the FedEx Cup after two events.
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I only moved back I think four spots. I was 10th after the Barclays, and then I took last week off and I only moved back four spots. You know, I'm really looking forward to trying to play a good event here this week and let next week take care of itself. I'd like to play four good rounds.
Q. Just talk about your decision not to play last week.
ERNIE ELS: You know, I finished the Barclays on Sunday, and I could feel the way I felt about my game, the way things were going. I started to get a little frustrated. I felt that I was doing a lot of good things there, but things weren't quite working out.
I've gone through this kind of - through that similar time before in my career where I've played where I should have taken off, and I felt that, you know, it's important for me to do well in the FedExCup Points race, but I need to give myself the best opportunity to play well.
I felt I needed to take a week off just to get myself refreshed, so to speak. I've also had my family with me for seven weeks on the road, and it was kind of tough on them, too, to spend their summer holidays with their old man on the road (laughing). So I felt like I wanted to take them home.
It was a very late decision. It was a Sunday evening decision. It wasn't anything planned. That's the way I felt, and I felt I needed to take a week off.
Q. Do you think maybe scheduling four weeks in a row is just one too many?
ERNIE ELS: You know, as we said, when I announced all the changes at the end of last year, beginning of this year, everybody was like, what do you think, what do you think, and we all said, let's see how it all pans out. Nobody knows exactly how this thing is going to work. Let's see how it works out.
Obviously the way things have been going, I haven't realized really through the year, but since the U.S. Open we've had big events upon big events, right through until now. The guys that play Europe events like myself, we played the Scottish Open before the British Open, so there's another two weeks. And then you come over and then there's the Bridgestone, then the PGA. Then we had a week off, and then before now, and then we get a week off and then we play The Presidents Cup. Next year they have the Ryder Cup. I don't know what they're going to do next year.
As we said, nobody really knew how this thing was going to pan out, and obviously now with guys playing and making up all our excuses, but that's the way we feel. Otherwise we can't give it our best shot, so that's the way it is.
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September 6, 2007
Coming off his thrilling British Open victory over Sergio Garcia in 2007, Padraig Harrington sat down to discuss his game and his chances at the 2008 U.S. Open. "I have spent my last 10 years trying to adapt my swing to play U.S. Open golf," Harrington said. "I'd say the last two years, that and the Masters have attracted my attention more than anything else."
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