The TOUR Championship is the final event in the PGA TOUR playoffs and culminates, on Sunday, September 23, 2012, with the presentation of the FedEx Cup. Being played less than a week before the Ryder Cup, some of the individual pairings between members of Team USA and Team Europe are intriguing. In Thursday's opening round, Team USA claimed a commanding 4-0 lead.
What follows are the results of three head-to-head contests from Friday's second round action:
Phil Mickelson vs. Rory McIlroy: In stroke play, McIlroy dominated this pairing 68-71. In match play however, they would have been all square through 14 holes. McIlroy moved ahead with an eagle at #15, but Mickelson caught up again with a birdie on #16. Mickelson's bogey at #17 was decisive, as Rory McIlroy claimed a 1 up win. USA 0 - Europe 1.
Dustin Johnson vs. Sergio Garcia: Johnson was totally dominant on this day, winning by six strokes (67-73). WIth his third consecutive birdie, at the 15th hole, he ended the match with a 4 and 3 victory. Dustin Johnson also defeated Lee Westwood on Thursday (note to Captain Davis Love III). USA 1 - Europe 1.
Tiger Woods vs. Justin Rose: This stroke play battle, between the first round co-leaders, was not even close. Rose posted 68 and is one shot behind the leader, Jim Furyk. Woods fell to a 73 and is now six shots off the pace. In match play, like Mickelson and McIlroy, this one would have been even after 14 holes. Following a Rose birdie at #15, and a Woods' bogey at #16, the match was dormie in Rose's favor. Both players made bogey at #17, and the match ended as a 2 and 1 win for Justin Rose. USA 1 - Europe 2.
For the two days combined, Team USA has a 5-2 lead, with three more matches coming on Saturday:
12:00 p.m. - Keegan Bradley vs. Sergio Garcia
12:50 p.m. - Tiger Woods vs. Luke Donald
2:00 p.m. - Jim Furyk vs. Justin Rose
In the TOUR Championship proper, Jim Furyk is the 36-hole leader following a six-under par 64 in the second round. He is seven-under overall, one shot ahead of Justin Rose, with Bubba Watson and Bo Van Pelt each two shots behind.
Rory McIlroy came into the tournament ranked #1 in FedEx Cup points, is seventh in the TOUR Championship (four shots behind Furyk), and is currently in position to claim the Cup on Sunday.
Tiger Woods outdueled Rory McIlroy by three shots when they played head-to-head on Thursday, but McIlroy had the lower score by five when they were not paired together on Friday. This has become the norm in 2012. Woods wins head-to-head, but McIlroy wins when they play apart. I don't know if Woods loses focus without McIlroy, or if McIlroy is intimidated head-to-head, but it is an interesting phenomenon.
Harold Andrews has played golf for nearly 50 years. He considers Jack Nicklaus the greatest of all time.