Stuart ApplebyChris Condon/PGA TOURStuart Appleby just might reach the Tour Championship for the first time since 2008.

Strong play at the right time can help in the playoffs, no matter what the sport. Such was the case for Stuart Appleby on Sunday at the Barclays.

With a back-nine 31, the nine-time PGA Tour winner posted a final-round 65 to tie for second, his best finish since he won the Greenbrier Classic in 2010 with a 59 over his final 18 holes.

His finish at Ridgewood Country Club earned him 1,083 FedEx Cup points, making him the big mover of the day. Appleby started the playoffs at 98th (only the top 100 moved on to this week's Deutsche Bank Championship) so a missed cut outside New York City could have ended his 2013-14 season. Instead, he jumped to 19th place.

Appleby hasn't gotten past the second leg of the playoffs since 2010 and hasn't played at East Lake -- host site of the Tour Championship -- since 2008.

Other big movers Sunday included Barclays winner Hunter Mahan (62nd to first) and Cameron Tringale, who rose 51 spots to 10th in the FedEx Cup standings with a T-2 finish on his 27th birthday.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the biggest drops came from Brian Stuard (now 64th after he failed to make the secondary cut), Scott Brown (70th, after an MC this week) and Jason Dufner (74th.) All three dropped 17 places, although Dufner didn't play at the Barclays due to a neck injury that also forced him to withdraw from the PGA Championship two weeks ago.

That makes Brown the proverbial "Bubble Boy" for next week at TPC Boston, with the top 70 players in the FedEx Cup standings advancing to the BMW Championship at Cherry Hills in Colorado.

PARAMUS, N.J. -- He did it again. For the second straight day, Phil Mickelson hit his tee shot at the par-4 hole fifth hole left of the fairway, the ball bouncing into a hospitality area from where he was able to play his second shot.

Unlike Friday, when Mickelson hit a wedge off the carpet from the temporary venue over the green and made a bogey, on Saturday he got the shot on the green and 2-putted for par.

But unfortunately for Mickelson, 44, it was not a good day. He shot 4-over-par 75 and missed the secondary cut that was in play because the Barclays field had more than 78 players through 36 holes.

Despite the poor showing, Mickelson is projected to be among the top 60 in FedEx Cup points, meaning he will easily qualify for next week's Deutsche Bank Championship (top 100) but might have to sweat out making it to the BMW Championship in Denver (top 70).

Throughout his career, Phil Mickelson continuously dazzled fans with different trick shots. In Round 2 of the Barclays on Friday, he might have one-upped even himself.

Channeling his inner "Tin Cup," Lefty decided to play a shot from a hospitality area to the left of the drivable par-4 No. 5 green at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, New Jersey.

"If you hit it off line enough, you're going to see those spots," said Mickelson, who admitted it wasn't the first time he hit a shot from the grandstands. "[I] just hit the shot a little bit too far. I hit it clean. Just hit it too hard."

Upon realizing his tee shot had come to rest in a carpeted area, the five-time major winner announced to no one in particular: "I'll try to play it from there."

The crowd cheered with excitement.

After wading through fans and moving aside a few tables and chairs -- and a few beer bottles, too -- Mickelson eventually got to his ball. Once there, he drew a club and launched a wedge shot that carried roughly 10-15 rows of fans before coming to rest in the far greenside bunker.

"I hit a crappy drive, hit the cart path and went into the grandstands and my drop was going to be in hay," Mickelson said. "I had a clear lie on nice ground there and played it. I hit it a little too hard, went over the green, hit a bunker shot to 20 feet and made bogey."

Mickelson settled for arguably the most interesting bogey of the day, but after his round of 1-over 72, explained what happened.

"It wasn't hard to make contact," he said. "It was hard to hit it on that skinny little green and get it to stop. That was it. Just a bad tee shot.

"It's a great hole. It's the only hole you can reach under regulation here. The par-5s are not reachable. So you get really excited to get to that hole. I hit it great yesterday on the green. Had a great chance for eagle and then today hit a terrible shot." senior golf writer Bob Harig contributed to this report.


Experts' picks: The Barclays

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20

Each week of the season, our experts share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories: Horse for the Course (a golfer who knows the track inside and out), Birdie Buster (a guy who could take it low this week), Super Sleeper (a player who could unexpectedly contend) and Winner.

This week, the PGA Tour heads to Ridgewood Country Club for the the Barclays in Paramus, New Jersey.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, senior golf analyst: Sergio Garcia
It's all but impossible to have this category for this event, because it's only the third time it's been played here. That being said, Garcia didn't play here in 2010, but in 2008, he finished runner-up to Vijay Singh, so he's got really good vibes here. That, along with this little nugget: Since the week before the Masters, Garcia's worst finish in a non-major on the PGA Tour has been third. (Yep, you're going to want to read that again.)

Farrell Evans, senior golf writer: Kevin Streelman
With a tie for fourth in 2008 and tie for third in 2010 in the Barclays held at Ridgewood Country Club, the 35-year-old two-time winner has the best cumulative record for the event at the A.W. Tillinghast design.

Bob Harig, senior golf writer: Matt Kuchar
He was the last to win at Ridgewood in 2010, beating Martin Laird in a playoff and getting on a run that continues to this day.

Birdie Buster

Collins: Rory McIlroy
No way he can win four in a row, right? A win this week would give him a winning percentage of 28.5 for the year, better than the 2001-2003 stretch for ... you know (blasphemy to Tiger Woods lovers). Yep, start typing, knuckleheads, but first go back to Tiger's 2002 season where he had five wins (including two majors) and then tell me how different the stats are. Fact is, Rory's worst finish this year on the PGA Tour is 25th, so a top-three this week isn't a stretch.

Evans: Nick Watney
In the midst of swing changes with his new teacher, Todd Anderson, the 33-year-old five-time PGA Tour winner has had a mostly inconsistent year. But he's had top 10s in two of his last three starts, including a tie for fifth last week at the Wyndham Championship.

Harig: Rory McIlroy
Who else? Even after a week off, he comes into the first playoff event as the hottest player, having won his past three starts. Does a hangover set in, or does he carry on?

Super Sleeper

Collins: Paul Casey
Talk about having your game come around at just the right time. It's been a long, tough road back for the Englishman. Not a bad year by many standards (11-for-15 cuts made with eight top-25s), but disappointing for a guy who was expected to win multiple times on the PGA Tour. Still, with all the injuries he's battled, just making it to the playoffs this year is an accomplishment. Now it's on to the Deutsche Bank Championship after this top-10 finish.

Evans: Kevin Na
The 30-year-old South Korean hasn't had a top-10 since he lost a playoff in June at the Memorial, but he is pumped up this week because with high finishes over the next two events, he could put his name into consideration for one of Tom Watson's three captain's picks for the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Harig: Paul Casey
The Englishman was on the bubble heading into the Wyndham and managed to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs after a nice year that saw him regain form. He'll need another strong week to advance to the Deutsche Bank Championship.


Collins: Jim Furyk
Remember in 2010 when he was DQ'd from the tournament for missing his pro-am tee time? That was at this course. Now he comes back as the guy who seemingly just needs a good back nine on Sunday to get his first win of 2014. He's won the FedEx Cup once before, and this will be a great start to going after Cup No. 2.

Evans: Rory McIlroy
Looking for his fourth consecutive victory, the 25-year-old has been run through the media gantlet with several high-profile appearances in New York. So, perhaps he is a little tired coming into this first leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs. Until someone beats him, it's hard not to pick him to win.

Harig: Nick Watney
That sting from that final drive at the Wyndham is unlikely to go away anytime soon, but Watney has played very well of late, with top-10s in four of his last five tournaments. Could a victory get him on Tom Watson's Ryder Cup radar?



Why have one superstar golfer take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge when you could have two?

As they continued their media tour through New York this week, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy decided to join the fray that has taken over most Facebook feeds in recent weeks.

Current world No. 1 McIlroy and former No. 1 Woods were nominated by Nike's Mark Parker. The pair, in turn, called out Nike's Phil Knight and Rafael Nadal (by Woods) and former President George W. Bush, Wayne Rooney and model Meghan Markle (by McIlroy.)

To add a small twist, the two decided to dump the icy buckets of water on each other, with Woods getting doused first.

The impact of this global phenomenon has clearly affected awareness of the disease and its charitable contributions. In 2013, the national ALS chapter raised $23.5 million. In the past 22 days, the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised $22.9 million by the ALS Association and its chapters.

Rory McIlroy at Old TraffordJohn Peters/Getty ImagesRory McIlroy brought the oldest major championship trophy in golf to Old Trafford to celebrate the opening of the English Premier League season with Manchester United.

After winning the Open Championship in July, Rory McIlroy announced to the crowd at Royal Liverpool that he appreciated the kindness of the fans, even though he was a supporter of Manchester United of the English Premier League.

On Saturday, it's safe to say he got a warmer reception at Old Trafford.

And after meeting some legendary names at the home of Man United, McIlroy got into a comical Twitter back-and-forth with Arsenal fan and fellow Ryder Cupper Ian Poulter.

Experts' picks: Wyndham Championship

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13

Each week of the season, our experts share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories: Horse for the Course (a golfer who knows the track inside and out), Birdie Buster (a guy who could take it low this week), Super Sleeper (a player who could unexpectedly contend) and Winner.

This week, the PGA Tour heads to Sedgefield Country Club for the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, senior golf analyst: Carl Pettersson
Sometimes all you want is to be home. That's where Pettersson is this week. Although I realize he missed the cut last year here, the previous time he did that at this event, he followed it up with two fourth-place finishes. Since 2007 he's also got a win and a fifth-place finish. I'd say he likes being close to home. (Raleigh is only an hour away.)

Farrell Evans, senior golf writer: Webb Simpson
The 2012 U.S. Open champion took the 2011 Wyndham at Sedgefield CC with an 18-under total. Last year, the Raleigh native had a 63 in the final round of the event to finish in a tie for 11th.

Bob Harig, senior golf writer: Carl Pettersson
He's the all-time earnings leader at the tournament, won the first one played at Sedgefield and has two top-five finishes since.

Birdie Buster

Collins: Brian Harman
In 2012 on the practice green of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, this guy told me, "They're going to have to shoot me to get me off this tour man. I'm serious dude. I ain't ever going back to the Tour unless they try and drag me there." I believed him then and he reinforced it with his win earlier this year. Now coming off the 41st-place finish at the PGA Championship, he'll be tired but ready to make one last charge before the playoffs.

Evans: Ernie Els
Since missing the cut last month at the Open Championship, the 44-year-old four-time major winner has had a tie for 12th, a tie for 26th and a tie for seventh last week at the PGA Championship.

Harig: Ernie Els
A last-minute entry, Els made a run up the leaderboard on Sunday at the PGA Championship, shooting a front-nine 30 and finishing with a 65.

Super Sleeper

Collins: John Huh
Coming off three straight missed cuts, he finished third in the Barracuda Championship in Reno the week before the PGA Championship. Even though he missed the cut at Valhalla, Huh comes to a course where he finished third last year. Two years removed from his rookie win, he has fallen off most people's radar and for good reason after missing 11 of 24 cuts and being 93rd on the FedEx Cup points list. That is why he's a sleeper.

Evans: Ben Curtis
At 131st in the FedEx Cup standings and in the last season of a two-year exemption for winning the 2012 Valero Texas Open, the former Open Championship winner needs a good week to avoid going to the Tour four-event series to earn his 2014-2015 card. Last year in Greensboro, he missed the 36-hole cut.

Harig: Trevor Immelman
The 2008 Masters champion is on the outside looking in at the FedEx Cup playoffs, 143rd in FedEx Cup points. He not only needs a big week to qualify for the playoffs, but also to avoid returning to the Tour Finals, where he went to earn his card a year ago.


Collins: Brian Gay
A withdrawal and two missed cuts is the kind of run he's on right now. Did I mention he's missed the past two cuts at this event and he's 135th in the FedEx Cup outside the playoffs? But that's what this week is about ... a chance to be that guy to go from not playing until October to being in the playoffs. It's too great a story not to happen. It doesn't hurt that his win in 2013 means he has a job regardless next year.

Evans: Brian Harman
The latest Georgia Bulldog to win on the PGA Tour in July at the John Deere Classic, the 27-year-old Savannah native finished third at the 2013 Wyndham Championship. With six top-10s on the season, he comes into Greensboro 21st in the FedEx Cup standings.

Harig: Brandt Snedeker
A tough year has seen him display stronger play of late, with top-15 finishes at the Bridgestone and PGA Championship. A win here makes Snedeker and easy at-large pick for U.S. Ryder Cup team captain Tom Watson.



Ernie ElsAP Photo/David J. PhillipErnie Els surged to a 6-under 66 in Sunday's final round at Valhalla.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Out of left field, Ernie Els was Ernie Els again. The Big Easy was playing big and making it look easy.

He was out of the tournament at 5-under at the start of Sunday, 8 strokes behind Rory McIlroy, a leader who looked unstoppable. But something funny happened on the way to a backdoor top-10 at Valhalla.

The 44-year-old Els got so hot, he started thinking the unthinkable. He started thinking he could win the PGA Championship.

"I felt like I could birdie every hole," Els said.

He ripped off four in a row on holes No. 3 through 6 to get to 9-under, and he felt like a brand-new man. After tying for fourth at the 2013 U.S. Open, Els had failed to finish in the top 25 in his past five majors, missing the cut three times.

But he switched back to a short putter at the start of the year, waited to find a rhythm with it and, voila, finally found it on the front nine of his final major round of the year. Els failed to birdie No. 7 and missed a brutal 5-footer at No. 8, and yet felt so confident in his rediscovered game that he turned to his caddie and said, "Let's get to 14."

He meant 14-under, not the 14th hole.

"That meant I needed to make five birdies in 10 holes," he said. Els threw everything he had at Valhalla in a desperate attempt to claim his fifth major title but ended up tied for seventh.

The heavy rains had left the venue an inviting and vulnerable target. "The course was as gettable as you can get ever," Els said. "This is a great course, great spectator course, but for a major, this was as gettable as you are going to get."

Els pushed it to 11-under on the 11th hole before running out of steam. Four consecutive pars and a bogey preceded his closing birdie for a round of 65 that felt more like a 62.

"It could have been something real special," the Big Easy said.

Ernie Els was back to being Ernie Els. That was special enough.

Ian PoulterAndrew Redington/Getty Images)Ian Poulter knows a thing or two about the Ryder Cup after having led the Europeans to victory in 2012.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Before leaving Valhalla and boarding his plane home, Ian Poulter addressed the growing sentiment that Team Europe will be the overwhelming favorites late next month at the Ryder Cup. Poulter, of course, is a longtime points machine for the Europeans.

"My thoughts, well, obviously I think there's been a couple of injuries for the American team at the minute," he said, referring to the absence of Dustin Johnson (personal issues) and the possible-to-likely absence of Tiger Woods (back). "But listen, it's Ryder Cup and a weak team or a strong team, doesn't matter who is it playing, who is not playing. It's going to be a really difficult week."

Poulter led the amazing comeback in the Miracle at Medinah in 2012. So he knows a little something about Ryder Cups.

"Whether we are favorites is irrelevant," he said. "It's the Ryder Cup. And you know, we have seen guys go in there and demolish people that are much higher in the world rankings. It doesn't mean anything when it comes to it. It's Ryder Cup. Guys are going to play with passion and both teams are going to be fighting really hard."

Poulter finished even-par for the PGA Championship.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- If this was the end of the major championship line for Kenny Perry, he finished in fine fashion at Valhalla on a course he has always loved in his native Kentucky.

Perry, 54, shot three rounds in the 60s and finished with a 68 on Sunday in the 96th PGA Championship at the venue where he lost a playoff for the 1996 PGA. He was also a member of the victorious U.S. Ryder Cup team here in 2008.

"I'm glad. I'm ready for it," said Perry, who has 14 titles on the PGA Tour and another seven on the Champions Tour. "Thirty years of trying to make 3-footers, I'm ready to do something else. It's been great. I had my time, had my chance and my opportunities. It was awesome. I enjoyed every bit of the ride.

"I'm still going to play the Champions Tour some. I will still play competitively here and there. I've got two grandkids, another one coming in February, so a lot of things are changing in the Perry household."

Perry nearly became the oldest winner of a major championship when he lost the 2009 Masters to Angel Cabrera in a playoff.