Long memory serves Brandt Snedeker well
LEMONT, Ill. -- The memories are still fresh, and Brandt Snedeker maintains that lessons were learned here two years ago when he four-putted the final green at Cog Hill to cost himself a spot in the Tour Championship -- and thus a place in the Masters.
The excruciating finish to the tournament is never far from Snedeker's mind as he plays the BMW Championship, but this year other things are at stake as he begins play Thursday in the third leg of the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs.
He is fifth in the FedEx Cup standings, and if he can remain in the top five heading to next week's Tour Championship, he controls his own destiny at East Lake, where a victory then would assure him of the $10 million bonus.
Also at stake this week is a spot on the U.S. Presidents Cup team. Snedeker is 11th in the standings and only the top 10 are automatic. Making matters more tenuous is the fact that captain Fred Couples has already guaranteed one of the two at-large selections to Tiger Woods, who has not played since the PGA Championship and who at 29th in the standings is nowhere close to qualifying on his own.
You might understand if Snedeker were frustrated by the situation, but he takes the pragmatic view.
"Anybody who has a problem with it should have played better the last two years," Snedeker said of only one at-large selection still being in play. "We've had two years to make the top 10. If you rely on a pick, you're setting yourself up to fail anyways. I've got no problem with [Woods' selection] whatsoever. I think it's great for us, great for golf, great for the Presidents Cup. I look forward, hopefully, to being on the team with him."
The top-10 automatic qualifiers will be determined at the end of the BMW Championship, with points based on money earnings. Because this year's points are doubled, Snedeker is just $28,000 behind No. 10 David Toms -- who is just $14,810 behind No. 9 Jim Furyk.
With a 70-player field and no cuts, there is room for plenty of volatility -- although Snedeker is doing his best not to look at the numbers.
"I've played great for two years," he said. "I've got a great opportunity to play on the team. But I'm focused on that first tee shot and trying to make as many birdies as I can."
Snedeker's attitude stems, in part, from what happened two years ago. The extra two putts he took on the 72nd hole cost him roughly $100,000, which had him fall from 28th in the FedEx Cup standings to 33rd. Not only did he cost himself a bunch of money, but he squandered a chance to play in the Tour Championship, which assured a spot in the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open.
"I definitely changed the way I play on Sundays because of that," said Snedeker, who won the Heritage earlier this year. "Some guys play better when they know what they have to do. I've come to figure I play better when I try to birdie every hole and let the chips fall where they may.
"I think I got a little too much into scoreboard watching instead of the process I need to play well. I've made a conscious effort to play the best I can."
Tiger and the World Ranking
When Tiger Woods and those who run the Chevron World Challenge sought to have the event distribute world ranking points to competitors prior to the 2009 event, nobody in their wildest dreams ever considered the fact that the tournament host and biggest draw would ever fall outside of the top 50 -- thus making himself ineligible.
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But with less than a week to go before the tournament's top-50 cutoff, Woods is precariously close to falling out of the top 50 and leaving the tournament in a very precarious situation.
So far, tournament director and Tiger Woods Foundation president Greg McLaughlin has not addressed the "what if'' scenario, choosing to hope it is not necessary to even go down that road. Woods, who dropped to 46th in the world ranking this week, could very well remain among the top 50 when the rankings are released Sunday night.
But what if he doesn't?
Two years ago, the tournament sought to have world ranking points attached. Although it is considered unofficial in terms of prize money, limited-field events such as Chevron -- and the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa the same week -- are allowed to give ranking points as long as those in the field are ranked among the top 50 in the world.
The tournament has typically taken players right off the rankings list anyway, and then filled in remaining spots with sponsor exemptions. The Dec. 1-4 tournament, which pays prize money of $5 million with $1.2 million going to the winner, has an 18-player field with two sponsor exemptions. In the past, those could go to any player, but now must go to someone in the top 50.
What if Woods falls out? Could the tournament simply rescind the world ranking criteria and invite anyone it chooses, notably Woods? It is a question that is yet to be answered, but would seemingly be an easy call for the title sponsor, Chevron, which has had Woods in the field just once in its three years of sponsorship.
Three years ago, Woods was out due to injury, and two years ago he missed the tournament in the aftermath of his Orlando car accident which led to Woods admitting during Chevron week that he had been involved in extramarital affairs.
Woods returned a year ago, and seemingly had the tournament won, but coughed up a four-stroke lead during the final round to Graeme McDowell before losing to the Northern Irishman in a playoff.
A year earlier, McDowell used the ranking points he earned in the tournament to his advantage. A late entry when Woods could not play, he had fallen out of the top 50 when the tournament rolled around. A second-place finish moved back into the top 50 and helped him secure a Masters invitation. He went on to win the U.S. Open in 2010.
Last year when McDowell won, he earned 50 world ranking points. Compare that to Simon Dyson, who received 40 for winning the KLM Open last week on the European Tour. The points are not insignificant.
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But the world ranking points are hardly the compelling reason to watch the tournament. Woods is that reason, and no doubt Chevron would love to have him playing rather than watching because of a rather dubious notion that the tournament should be giving world ranking points.
If it comes to that, the PGA Tour's Andy Pazder said that a change in a tournament's eligibility would have to go before the PGA Tour's policy board -- and you figure with all that Woods has done for the game, and how the tournament lines players' pockets, that would be an easy call. Or perhaps the tournament asks those who administer the world ranking for a waiver.
Then again, perhaps for those involved it is best to simply hope that Woods does not drop out of the top 50.
Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.
Furyk's Uphill Battle
Birdies And Bogeys
1. Yani Tseng. Clearly the worldwide player of the year, Tseng won her fifth LPGA title when she captured the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in a playoff on Sunday. She has won eight worldwide tournaments this year, including two majors.
2. Rory McIlroy. That's two third-place finishes in a row -- the latest at the KLM Open -- after returning from the wrist injury suffered at the PGA Championship.
3. The Walker Cup. GB&I pulled off the upset in an amateur team competition that is vastly underrated among golf's big events.
1. Graeme McDowell. At No. 14, McDowell is the highest-ranked eligible player in the world not to advance to the third leg of the FedEx Cup. He hasn't had a top-20 finish since a tie for 14th at the U.S. Open.
2. Ian Poulter. At No. 18, the Englishman is the next highest-ranked eligible player who did not advance to the BMW. He hasn't had a top-10 on the PGA Tour since the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in the first week of January.
3. U.S. Walker Cup team. What is it about Americans and foursomes competition at international team events?
• Jim Furyk, the reigning FedEx Cup champion, is 35th in points and needs an 11th-place finish or better to advance to the Tour Championship, which he won last year.
• This is the last chance to make the top 10 for the U.S. and International Presidents Cup teams. The top 10 through Sunday automatically qualify, with captains Fred Couples and Greg Norman to make their at-large picks on Sept. 27.
• Ernie Els will attempt to make it to the Tour Championship after being outside of the number for each of the previous playoff events. He had to play his way into the Barclays, Deutsche Bank Championship and now the BMW Championship. He is 68th in FedEx Cup points and needs at a minimum to tie for fifth at the BMW to advance to the Tour Championship.
• Els is the only player among the 70 in the field who has not posted a top-10 finish this year.
• Simpson's victory at the Deutsche Bank vaulted him to No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings and was his ninth top-10 in 22 starts this season.
"Ten million is a ridiculously large amount of money, an unbelievable prize. We want to win golf tournaments, but when $10 million is at stake, you can't not think about that.'' -- Webb Simpson, who leads the FedEx Cup standings, on the bonus amount that goes to the winner of the points race at the end of the Tour Championship.
Catching up with '10 champ
Dustin Johnson rebounded from his disappointment at the PGA Championship to shoot a final-round 69 and defeat Paul Casey by one stroke at last year's BMW Championship at Cog Hill. It was Johnson's fourth career PGA Tour victory. It was his second victory of the year and helped him to finish fifth in the final FedEx Cup standings.
Johnson didn't notch his first victory this year until three weeks ago at The Barclays, a win that helped propel him to second in the FedEx Cup standings. Johnson again contended at a major championship, playing in the final twosome with Darren Clarke at the British Open, where the 27-year-old tied for second. Johnson enters defense of his BMW title having won more than $4.1 million this year.