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Play-offs pale in shadow of Ryder Cup

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Iain Carter | 11:49 UK time, Monday, 27 September 2010

For the money then the glory - the tale of two weeks in professional golf.

Jim Furyk's win in the PGA Tour's Tour Championship on Sunday earned him more than £7m. If the American was to repeat his feat of two years ago and close out victory for his country in this week's Ryder Cup, it would be a much bigger deal.

There were a few sore heads among American golf fans come the climax of the FedEx Cup play-off series in Atlanta - and they had nothing to do with excessive consumption of alcohol to celebrate Furyk's lucrative triumph.

Instead, it was the headache that accompanies excessive use of the brain in trying to keep up with the higher mathematics required to work out who was winning in the Tour's big-money play-off system.

OK, I exaggerate, we're talking advanced arithmetic rather than pure maths. But even Furyk wasn't sure he'd landed the jackpot as he closed out his rain-sodden victory.

There were plenty of contributing factors that had to fall into place beyond winning the final tournament of the play-off series for Furyk to secure golf's most lucrative cheque.

Matt Kuchar had earlier failed to match the champion in getting up and down from the greenside bunker at the last. This dropped shot - and the fact that Steve Stricker parred the last two holes to tie Kuchar in 25th place in the season ending Tour Championship - opened the door for Furyk to cash in.

jf595.jpgFuryk celebrates his big-money win in Atlanta. Photo: Getty Images

Those scenarios - and the fact that Paul Casey didn't finish in second place on his own - enabled the American veteran to claim the massive bonus on offer for winning the play-offs - a series that had ironically begun with the disqualification of Furyk for missing his pro-am tee-time.

At least this week we only have to count up to 14 and a half. The team that reaches that magic figure wins the Ryder Cup but not a penny or a cent in prize money.

Therein lies the beauty of the biennial transatlantic dust-up. The fact that it is all about the match and not the money is at the very heart of why we find it such an attractive sporting concept.

By engaging the sporting public like no other golf event, it ironically becomes a huge cash cow for the organising bodies, the European Tour and PGA of America. They can sell it at a hefty price to the TV companies, corporates and the the 45,000 fans a day who will pack Celtic Manor all week.

That said, this year it has been a struggle to shift all the corporate packages. These are tough economic times, as Europe's captain Colin Montgomerie repeatedly tells us as he tries to justify why it is so important for his team to win.

A European victory might help the Tour shore up a few deals but salving the effects of the credit crunch is not the role of Captain Monty and his team. They are in Wales to win - and so is Captain Pavin (and Mrs Pavin) and his/her American side.

We have a contest where there is no need for 7m reasons to win. One gold trophy is all that is required - and that currently rests in American hands. From a European perspective, this merely ups the ante.

Give me the Ryder Cup over the FedEx anytime but it should also be acknowledged that the play-offs provided an engaging month of Stateside golf even if the final day resulted in a severe case of brainache.

The biggest mistake is to think of it as a reflection of the year on the PGA Tour. The temptation is to make the winner of the play-offs the Player of the Year, when in fact success in the series is more a qualification for a Player of the Month award.

May has the Players' Championship, June the US Open, July the Open, while the US PGA highlights August and September now belongs to the play-offs.

They have tweaked and tweaked and the Tour are getting there with the format, though they came perilously close to having a player in Casey running off with the booty after failing to win a tournament all year long.

This would have happened had the Englishman finished second on his own at East Lake. That runners-up position went to compatriot Luke Donald, with Casey ending up in a share of fourth place.

And now, as we head to the first days of October, it is clear that Donald and, of course, Furyk are in fine fettle as the focus switches to Celtic Manor. Zach Johnson (9th) was the only other Ryder Cup man to finish in the top 10 in Atlanta.

World number two Phil Mickelson continues to look anemic, weighed down by the unfulfilled quest to overhaul Tiger Woods at the top of the world rankings. Kuchar ran out of steam in Atlanta, Stricker was all over the place and Jeff Overton finished in next to last place.

They have three practice days in Wales to rediscover form before the Ryder Cup begins.

Donald and Padraig Harrington were the only Europeans in action in the week leading up to the Celtic Manor clash. Harrington will be buoyed by the Friday birdies that helped him make the cut at the Vivendi Cup as well as the closing 64 that gave him a top-10 finish.

Monty will have been delighted with the Irishman's performance and, although he will never say it, will also be relieved that Casey could not force the win in Atlanta that would have heaped more pressure on Europe's captain after the Englishman's controversial omission from the Ryder Cup.

Casey will be hurting this week - this match is one not to be missed.


  • Comment number 1.

    Why should Montgomerie "be relieved that Casey could not force the win in Atlanta"?
    Such off the wall thinking aloud says more about the writer than the subject.
    Shame on the BBC for that.

  • Comment number 2.


    The reason being that it would have shown Casey being in good form, and as a consequence, make Montgomerie look like he'd made the wrong decision in not picking him. I think your comment shows you didn't read it through properly before jumping in with both feet and making a slightly irrational comment. Its not brain surgery if you read it through a couple of times, whilst remembering the kerfuffle around the wild card picks.

    Why on earth you think "shame on the BBC for that" is beyond me.

    To paraphrase yourself, I think your comments show more about you, than they do about this article.

  • Comment number 3.

    Can someone remind me how Poulter managed to qualify for the team, automatically.

    Given his recent slide down the world rankings, it appears that the bulk of his earnings/points were due to his sole WGA event win earlier this year, with attendant double counting of points for both Euro & US Tour....

    The fact that Casey could have won the Fedex Cup without winning a tournament suggests that the PGA still haven't got it right....

  • Comment number 4.

    You are correct in your slaying of #1 - one would have thought it is obvious.
    Can't wait for the weekend - does anyone know what price a 14-14 tie?

  • Comment number 5.

    I think #1's point was merely that it's wrong to suggest that Monty would be so ignoble as to be relieved that Casey, a fellow Englishman, didn't win just so that his Ryder Cup selection doesn't look bad. I'm sure Monty would in fact agree. All of us, including #1, understood Iain's logic, it's just that, shocking as it may seem, some people hold a different opinion to you.

  • Comment number 6.

    #2 and #4:
    Of course I read Iain Carter's piece, and of course I know the "pick" circumstances.
    But it's not difficult to feel the British Press makes an absolute meal out of what they think about Montgomerie, exactly as they did when they crucified Faldo at Valhalla.
    (And that exhibition by the British Press in Faldo's team news conference was utterly grisly stuff - hope you both saw it.)
    If you want idle speculation casting aspersions on Montgomerie's character and captaincy, this is clearly the article for you.

  • Comment number 7.


    With the main event on the horizon I was wondering if you could give us your thoughts on the potential pairings for the opening foursomes/fourballs? Although some pairings looks very certain it is quite interesting to look at the relative strengths and weaknesses of the players (especially on the American side) and try to work out which players would work well together.

    For the record my predictions are:



    Donald/ Harrington








  • Comment number 8.

    #5 I have no problem if #1 holds a different opinion to me, but his short comment seemed to indicate he hadn't grasped the point that was being made at the end. I guess it depends how cynically you think of Montgomerie and the image he would like to portray from his wild card choices. I don't necessarily believe Montgomerie would have been bothered had Casey won, but then I don't know Colin Montgomerie, so who's to say.

    #6 Surely so much discussion about sport, or any other subject matter, is due in no small part down to speculation, particularly when "we" are not privy to all the discussions behind closed doors, and Montgomerie's own thoughts. Its not unreasonable to speculate that he might be relieved in feeling that his wild card choices have been vindicated further by Casey not winning - its surely human nature to want to feel you made the right choices over something so important to you? As I say, whilst Montgomery may not have been bothered either way, you couldn't necessarily blame him for having a secret thought that Casey not winning makes it a bit easier for him in justifying not picking him.

  • Comment number 9.

    #5 - Montgomerie is Scottish, so Casey can't be "a fellow Englishman", even though Scotland has been part of England since the Act of Union 1707.

  • Comment number 10.

    Playoffs??? Playoffs eliminate participants who play such thing here. You can miss the cut in the first 2 events and still win.
    Pathetic attempt at corporate greed, made for TV farce.

  • Comment number 11.

    Monty is already having a nightmare - I can't believe he has written a loser's speech ( and admitting it) and also telling the Press which players in the US Team he would like to have in the European Team .

    Would Seve have ever done anything like this ??
    I think not .

    If we win back the Ryder Cup it will be achieved despite Monty as Captain .

  • Comment number 12.

    #9 - You are half right...........the Kingdoms of Scotland and England joined form one larger country with the "Act of Union". Scotland, so far, has never been part of England.

    Now to the golf, Casey has conducted himself very well since finding out he wasn't to be picked for this Ryder Cup team. Had Monty had the US system available to him or had Molinari not produced his great finish to win at Gleneagles, Casey, I am sure, would have made the team. Time will tell if Monty got it right.

    Who cares what Seve would or wouldn't have done, he isn't Captain this time and there was plenty of criticism for him at Valderamma for being to involved and not leaving the players alone to play their own games.

    Every Captain has there own style. Jacklin, Seve, Gallagher, Torrance, Woosie, Langer have all been very different in their approach yet seemed to get the job done.

  • Comment number 13.

    A bigger deal if Furyk were to hole the winning putt at Celtic Manor than winning close on 7 milion quid?
    Are you living in the real world?
    Rose, Casey and Harrington made their priorities clear by playing in the Fedex Cup ahead of Mickey Mouse tournaments in Europe, regardless of whether they made the Ryder Cup team or not.
    The Ryder Cup has become a biennial bore, over hyped by Sky as usual,and is well down the list of priorities for the top bracket of players.

  • Comment number 14.

    Just to clear up my comment re Casey - I was not suggesting that Monty was hoping Casey wouldn't win. They actually get along very well and share the same manager. The point I was making was that a casey victory would have heightened the scrutiny of Monty's decision not to pick him. Therefore the captain would be quietly relieved that this didn't happen.

  • Comment number 15.

    Am I the only one who thinks £7m for winning a golf tournament is quite repugnant?..more so at a time when 1 in 7 Americans live under the poverty line and where the deep recession for most people continues to cause misery.

  • Comment number 16.

    Perhaps I'm alone in thinking that the entire European Team (Captains and Vice Captains included) would have welcomed a Casey victory (or a win from Donald, Laird or Rose) at East Lake. So be it!

    Let's face it, if there was a mistake, it was in the qualifying criteria and timing; Montgomerie was certain to be second-guessed who'd ever he'd've picked.

  • Comment number 17.

    Gus wrote:
    Am I the only one who thinks £7m for winning a golf tournament is quite repugnant?..more so at a time when 1 in 7 Americans live under the poverty line and where the deep recession for most people continues to cause misery.

    Not only do I believe that the money being ploughed into golf, which is, after all, a game, rather than a sport, has exceeded the boundaries of common sense, but I am also aggrieved by the US TV-driven practice of having the winner's family run to him at the end. Thank god this stupidity doesn't extend to this side of the Pond (yet). However, are golf's WAGs going to be part of the Ryder Cup, to placate the US viewers?

  • Comment number 18.

    Good old Monty, getting it right again!!

    Casey again proves he has a complete lack of 'bottle'. Give me a pumped up Molinari any time, Casey would crumble under the pressure. How many times has he had the opportunity to close out events and stalled.
    How many tourney wins this season for smug, up himself Casey?
    How many for self effacing Molinari?

    Well done Monty, you're a legend!!!!!

  • Comment number 19.

    #15 & #17 I don't disagree with what you say, most people wouldn't, but I was moved by Jim's speech last night when he recalled how his parents worked extra jobs to fund his Golf development which led to him getting into College via a scholarship. (I presume as they could not afford to pay for him to go)

    Good stuff, that's the american dream and if it acts as a spur to other young people out there its a good thing.

    After all, lets face it, if this cash was not put into Golf or other sport, it wouldn't suddenly be used for good causes, it would just vanish into a dark hole somewhere in the corporate balance sheets.

  • Comment number 20.

    Also, anyone else notice Poulter's video tweet about the fire alarm last night has been deleted from his timeline. Has he has his collar felt by the twitter cops that are enforcing a ban this week?

    I must admit I can easily see why, lets say the Celtic Manor owner would not want anything like this to show his investment in a bad light, but it is what it is and if Poults did not delete it on his own accord, that just makes it worse.

  • Comment number 21.

    I would always prefer to play Golf than watch it.
    For me, the Ryder Cup is the only Golf I can enjoy watching on TV. This is partly because of the relative freedom from the (apparent) obsession with how much money is up for grabs. I believe some players have gone on record as saying they think it ought to have prize money. Well, that's their opinion.

    Personally, if I got a thrill from watching someone earn a lot of money, then I would watch Bill Gates, not Tiger Woods.

    How many of the winning Spanish football team were merely playing for money in the recent World Cup? I have my own thoughts and opinions on the matter, but I don't really know. They have their reasons for playing, and I have my reasons for watching.

    The biggest monetary prize for a single match in British football, is said to be the play-off final for promotion to the Premier League. Does this make Blackpool the best team in the land? They were not even second best in the Championship. (But they certainly do have the most entertaining coach, in my opinion).

    As the first post, and the responses, highlight, many different motivations and interpretations (of players AND spectators) can co-exist side by side. I often wonder about the motivations behind articles in "The Press", but I'll certainly give Iain the benefit of the doubt in this instance.

  • Comment number 22.

    #1 is SPOT ON. Mr. I. Carter is known for not letting facts get in the way of a good story. Most of the BBC editors are the same in this. Whether it's Peston, Robinson, they often go for the "maybe, might could & can" scenarios, rather than stick to what is known.
    Even in this article, Mr. Carter claims, "...and the fact that Paul Casey didn't finish in second place on his own - enabled the American veteran to claim the massive bonus on offer for winning the play-offs - a series that had ironically begun with the disqualification of Furyk for missing his pro-am tee-time".

    Really? The last time I had a look, Luke Donald did finish on his own in second. Retief Goosen finished in 3rd also on his own and Casey was tied for 5th with Nick Watney.

    So, are we expecting a correction and an apology from Mr. I. Carter? I certainly won't be holding my breath...

  • Comment number 23.

    The wierdest swing on tour wins the biggest prize - encouragement for hackers everywhere. "It's not how it's how many"!

  • Comment number 24.


    You're shortsighted my friend. Poulter has had a very good year and has finished solidly.

    If you look at his record since this time last year he has had:

    2 Wins
    3 Top Fives
    5 Top 20's

    Not bad and has become a proven winner. Apart from that he played a blinder at the last RC. Don't worry about Poults, but try commenting a bit more fact based and less about what happened over the last 2 weeks.

  • Comment number 25.

    Poster #18. A few examples of Casey being 'up himself' would be illuminating.
    How many tournaments has Molinari won? Surely that means he 'bottled' every single other tournament right? Couldn't close it out right?
    Wow, I never had Molinari down as a staller. Shows how little I know about these sportsmen.

  • Comment number 26.

    #22. Er, Ian Carter is EXACTLY correct. Did you watch the coverage and the scenarios of the Fedex at all?
    Additionally do your maths. If there was one player for positions 1 to 3, Casey and Watney share 4th. Not 5th. It's NOT DIFFICULT.

  • Comment number 27.


    I agree, the fact that anyone of the 30 players who qualified for the Tour Championship could have won the big prize makes a mockery of the preceding tournaments. The USPGA should make their minds up: Is the FEDEX Cup a points scoring system over 4 tournaments (where winning tournaments doesn't actually matter) OR is it a 3 Tournament Qualifying system with a grand final where all enter equal.

    In it's current hybrid form, it's just confusing and not that exciting really.

  • Comment number 28.

    @#22 - It pays to be cautious when making such bold statements of so called facts. Two glaring errors in your post would normally be glossed over, but when declared with such confidence, can lead to you looking foolish beyond belief.

  • Comment number 29.

    @#28 - I found it very frustrating that half of the coverage from NBC last night was taken up by Mr Sander working out various scenarios (of which all but one were always guarenteed to be a total waste of time) on a school whiteboard. Any chance we could watch some golf instead?

    I would like to see far less weight on the fedex events points - keep them slightly higher than regular season points but make performance all year very important. A player like Martin Laird who has been poor all year should not get to the tour championship courtesy of losing a playoff in one tournament. Thats bordering on a farce.

  • Comment number 30.

    Excuse me the last post was directed at number 27 not at myself!

  • Comment number 31.

    #26 & 28 - I'm happy to admit that the Case & Watney in 5th WAS a typo. But both ended up in 4th. Even 3rd wouldn't have won the Fedex Cup for Casey. The BOTTOM LINE is that Casey was not 2nd.

    As for Iain Carter (please note the spelling), he was lousy as a tennis correspondent and equally bad at golf.

    #29 & 30 - shows that some people even have trouble seeing their own blog posting !

  • Comment number 32.

    #22 I think you think I was suggesting Casey finished in a share of second place. I wasn't. I was saying he didn't achieve the outright second spot that would have enabled him to win the FedEx Cup. Apologies for any confusion caused.

  • Comment number 33.

    Fedex Cup is a bore. Contrived points system that confuses and offers vast rewards for someone who plays well in 3 or 4 tournaments. Finchem may think finding a company daft enough to put up this huge sum adds some interest to the tail end of the season; for me, it doesn't achieve anything beyond lining the mult-millionaires' already bulging wallets. The old tour championship when the top 30 players over the whole season teed up made more sense, but problem was that the top players like Woods & Mickelson might give it a miss.

  • Comment number 34.

    here lies another article proving to me ian carter doesn't "get it" when it comes to golf...or maybe he does but can't express it????

  • Comment number 35.

    #32 - Thanks and whilst I appreciate that you've a)bothered to reply b) corrected yourself, I'm afraid you're still wrong.
    Had Matt Kuchar or Charlie Hoffman or Dustin Johnson, finished 3rd, one of them would have won the Fedex Cup even if Casey had finished 2nd.
    In other words, the only way Casey could have guaranteed himself winning the Fedex Cup would have been by winning at East Lake. Second MIGHT have been good enough but only if Messrs. Kuchar,Johnson and Hoffman didn't finish 3rd.

  • Comment number 36.

    Call me greedy but I enjoyed the play-offs and I'm planning on enjoying the Ryder Cup too. Both events have their own appeal and the attractions of one does not detract from the other.

    The play-offs may need a bit more tweaking to make them perfect but qualification for the final event is by doing well in the regular season OR by doing well in the early stages of the play-offs (for which you have to qualify in the first place). That seems reasonable to me. All duel winners in the regular season (Mahan, Rose, Stricker, Els and Furyk) made it, despite variable early-stage play-off performance, as did the three winners of the play-offs (Johnson, Hoffman and Kuchar).

    The arithmetic did get tricky and that is the biggest drawback; the performance of two golfers having bad days (Van Pelt and Stricker) is a distraction from the main focus but in the end none of that mattered. Furyk added to his two regular season wins with incredible nerve to win a big stack of cash. He'll probably make as much as the top 20 Premier League player from earnings alone now... but he'll be the only one that does!

  • Comment number 37.

    #35 My piece centred around the events of the final round round, where none of the scenarios you outline were going to happen, other than Casey perhaps making it into second place.

  • Comment number 38.

    #18, i could not agree more.

    I'm afraid the US Tour has made people like Casey and Donald who they are. Only bothered about finishing Top 10, pick up $100,000 and move to the next tournament. Jeff Overton hasn't won a Tournament all year yet is now a millionaire. Fair enough give the winner his $1,000,000 but then dramatically reduce money from there. Casey along with Westwood and Donald with never ever win anything of any real substance, yes give Westwood his 2 OOM but he'll never win a major, Casey for sure will never win a major and donald will see his name at the Top of a major and say to his caddy, in a very girly voice, "another top 10 guaranteed, yippee!!".

    Come on Rory/Graeme, best 2 players on our team by a long way.

  • Comment number 39.

    What total bilge. So Westwood hasn't won anything of 'real substance' right? McDowell would still be bracketed with Luke and Casey if he'd have missed a couple of putts in the US Open?
    Where do you armchair warriors get off in labelling and criticising these great players?
    Their time will come. It will for Westy, it will for Luke, Casey and Justin. I think Poulter has the minerals too. And good luck to them.

  • Comment number 40.

    Armchair warrior?? haha. do you actually play golf primitive pants? you've just answered your own stupid-ness, if, and its a massive if, mcdowell had missed those putts? that is my point, he didn't miss those putts. Westwood would have missed and casey and donald would have dunked it in a bunker and made 7!!!
    i play off plus 2 and actually play some steady golf, so mr 21 handicapper primitive pants, now go!!!


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