<
>

Tiger's playoff hopes iffy at best

7/28/2014 - Golf Tiger Woods

The PGA Tour schedule is jam-packed for the remainder of the summer, starting off this week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, with the FedEx Cup playoffs just on the horizon.

So will the world's most well-known golfer get an unsuspecting sabbatical in August or will he play his way into the Barclays?

Our scribes dive into those topics and more in the latest edition of Four-Ball.

1. Fact or fiction: Tiger Woods qualifies for the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Fiction. Either win or finish no worse than third in two straight events? I know we all want to see Tiger "flip the switch" like he's done in the past, but he's in a dark room without a light switch right now. It's similar to an NFL cornerback saying, "I've got my speed back." Great, then how come every wide receiver is beating you deep?

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Fiction. Tiger has to drive the ball in the fairway and score for him to succeed in his next two scheduled tour events at Firestone and Valhalla. And he hasn't proved he can do those two things over four rounds this season. Then if he doesn't qualify through those events, he could in Greensboro at Sedgefield, Country Club, where he has never played in an event.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Fiction. It's just too much to ask. Woods basically needs to average top-3 finishes at the Bridgestone and PGA Championship. Even if he were to finish second at Firestone, that still likely means a top-six finish at the PGA. It's unclear whether he has even one of those finishes in him, let alone two. Expectations need to be tempered. To think that he is suddenly going to find his game at this point is unrealistic.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Fiction. The numbers simply stack up too much against Woods when it comes to qualifying points. Granted, he's won on both courses that he's playing in the next two weeks (Firestone and Valhalla), but what in his recent form has shown that he's fully captured that explosiveness he talks so much about? It's simply too soon after major back surgery to expect him to post any seriously high finishes.

2. Two weeks before the U.S. Ryder Cup team automatic spots get locked down. Give us a player outside the top nine who has the best shot to make the team on his own.

Collins: Brendon Todd is going to make the team. Since winning the Byron Nelson, he's finished inside the top eight in every PGA Tour event he's played, other than a T-17 at the U.S. Open and a streak "worst" T-39 at the Open Championship. The points he'll earn from the WGC-Bridgestone should catapult him into the fray and the PGA Championship will secure the spot.

Evans: At 12th in the standings, Brendon Todd has a win this season at the Byron Nelson and six other top-10 finishes, including five top-10s in his last seven starts. He didn't handle the pressure very well at Pinehurst in the last group with Martin Kaymer after a third-round 79, but he had a nice 69 on Sunday to finish in a tie for 17th.

Harig: Keegan Bradley. He's a former winner of the Bridgestone, and is motivated to play well and make the team on his own. He had a good week at the Open Championship and you can bet he will be pushing hard to make it these next two weeks.

Maguire: Keegan Bradley. This guy eats, sleeps and breathes competitions like the Ryder Cup, so motivation won't be an issue. Plus, on this week's venue -- Firestone Country Club -- Bradley owns a win, a second and a T-15 in three starts, so that's working in his favor.


3. How would you grade the first iteration of the LPGA Tour's International Crown event?

Collins: Disaster. Michelle Wie? Nope. Lydia Ko? Nope. It's OK, though, because Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson will put on a great show, right? Uh ... so much for making that awesome first impression. Secretary: "Mr. Commissioner, someone from the Depression Anonymous hotline is on Line 2. Says they're returning your call? Are you OK? ... Yes, I'll put them right through."

Evans: A. The women's game should be commended for trying to grow its international brand through team competitions like this event. And the golf was excellent and compelling.

Harig: B-plus. A very promising start to a unique new try at a team competition. This was a fun format and the only negative was that the teams were picked too early. That is something that can be easily fixed.

Maguire: As for inaugural events, I'll give it a B. The event itself was great and the concept was long overdue. I don't want to hear about how it was diminished because the Americans didn't make it to Sunday. It reminds me of that old golf adage: play better. That's not the format's problem; it's the Americans' issue. What can be faulted is how two of the game's biggest stars -- Michelle Wie and Lydia Ko -- never even got a shot to tee it up. That's a situation that should be rectified before the next staging of the International Crown.


4. The RBC Canadian Open: Tim Clark won it or Jim Furyk lost it?

Collins: Tim Clark won it. Shooting a bogey-free 30 on the back nine of a tournament to win is exactly what defines the meaning of snatching the trophy. Furyk didn't do anything wrong (he also had a bogey-free back nine), but when it was time to grab the brass ring, Clark grabbed it with two hands.

Evans: Clark won the event with a back-nine 30 to shoot 65 on Sunday. Meanwhile, Furyk just made two birdies in his round for a 1-under 69. That's not going to be enough to win most weeks on the PGA Tour, but Clark deserves the credit here.

Harig: Clark won it. He rallied with five birdies on the back nine and Furyk in no way handed it to him. That said, Furyk, with a 3-shot advantage and seeing what everyone was doing, has to convert that lead into a victory. Of those who finished in the top 10, his 1-under 69 was the worst.

Maguire: Clark flat-out beat Furyk. The South African bogeyed his first hole Sunday, but didn't have another blemish the rest of the way. And that back-nine 30 -- with only four 4s on his card -- showed he hasn't forgotten how to win when the pressure was at its greatest.