Fountain of youth

Brian Murphy
Yahoo! Sports

Hey, did you hear the incredible news?

Johnson Wagner’s tie-15th at the Deutsche Bank jumped him 23 spots on the FedEx Cup points list – he made it to 55th and will play this week at the BMW at Bellerive. I’m not kidding!

And – are you sitting down? Ben Crane’s tie-10th vaulted him 35 spots to 57th. He made it to the BMW. Again … I’m not kidding!

Oh, wait.

I’m sorry.

I confused you for somebody who gives a heapin’ hoot about the PGA Tour “playoffs."

Let’s be honest. The FedEx Cup is good for giving us high-quality fields in a post-majors setting, and for that, the PGA Tour gets a golf clap from us. But let us never confuse it with a major championship, and let us never pretend that the points system – modeled, apparently, on the high school nightmare double combo platter of trigonometry and calculus – compels us in any way.

Sports Fan At Bar: “Vijay Singh has 120,500 FedEx Cup points – some 12,225 more than his closest pursuer, Sergio Garcia!”

Fellow Sports Fan At Bar: “So what? The NFL starts on Thursday.”

First Sports Fan At Bar: (sits in silent shame)

I’m not trying to be Snarky Guy here. In fact, I detest the word “snarky," so I’d deserve a sock in the nose if I delved into too much snarkiness. There’s that word again. My larger point is, if we’re going to derive any meaning out of what we say on Monday, out of Vijay Singh’s final-round 63 – born likely out of a Faustian bargain for a putter hotter than beach sand – it’s not going to be about the FedEx Cup points race.

More important from TPC Boston were two developments:

1: Vijay’s Blowout: He’s not part of the “Young Guns” at age 45, but he’s re-defining what golfers should and can accomplish midway through their fifth decades on the planet. Singh doesn’t just have three wins in his last five starts; he has them because his work ethic remains surprisingly fierce even though his bankroll is massive, and he has them because he constantly demands more from himself even when his ball-striking and putting appear pure and world-class. Did you see that contraption he had hooked up to his ears and back pocket on the driving range, as caught by an NBC camera? Something about hearing his golf swing electronically? It looked like something from a 2 a.m. Golf Channel infomercial, but Singh, ever the student, and ever up at 2:20 am watching the Golf Channel with his credit card at the ready, was trying to make himself better.

Or, put another way, if Vijay won the Masters next year, would you be shocked? No, you wouldn’t. And yet, he’d be 46 years old – same age as the Golden Bear’s miracle in ’86.

2: Where the heck were the Americans? I hate to be Mr. Nag here, but helloooo? Does anybody remember a little thing called the Ryder Cup? With the Faldo-Zinger sumo smackdown looming in a little over two weeks, it would have been nice to see a little red, white and blue on the leader board. Instead, every time NBC threw up the top-5 graphic, I saw: SINGH/WEIR/GARCIA/ELS/VILLEGAS.

Shoot, take Sergio out of that mix and I’m already fearful of the U.S. chances in the ’09 Presidents Cup, let alone our chances in the biennial beatdown known as the Ryder Cup.

I know a player can rise to the moment and, perhaps, there is a young American Ryder Cup star waiting to be tapped by Cap’n Zinger today, but here is the cruel truth of play under pressure from American prospects, knowing Zinger was watching:

Sean O’Hair: Missed Cut.

DJ Trahan: tie-60th.

J.B. Holmes: Missed Cut.

Rocco Mediate: tie-69th.

Given that backdrop, we must heap praise on the likes of Steve Stricker (tie-13th), Hunter Mahan (tie-15th), and Brandt Snedeker (tie-27th) for daring to crack the top-30 in the final event before the Ryder Cup picks are made.

And to think, Zinger’s whole game plan was to load up with four wild card picks, the better to form a team of “hot” players. Perhaps his new game plan is to trade 3 of his wild-card picks and a pick to be named later for Darren Clarke and Colin Montgomerie.

Speaking of which …

Mulligan of the week

Maybe Cap’n Zinger’s best game plan isn’t the Parade o’ Missed Cut Wild Card Picks. Instead, maybe Team USA’s strategy is this: Sit back and let Team Europe implode.

I always thought it curious that Nick Faldo, who exuded all the charm of a tax auditor when he was winning majors, would be the man to rally Team Europe to another Ryder Cup win. The gut feeling here was, Team Europe was bound to start feeling pressure after all those stirring wins over the U.S., and would enter the ’08 Cup slightly uneasy as the heavy favorite. Throw in Faldo’s ability to spar with the media and his fellow Euro Tour players, and you had a combustible mix waiting to explode like a bad high school chemistry experiment.

Zinger got just what he wanted when Faldo, apparently enamored by a friendship with Ian Poulter, stiffed the enormously popular Clarke for the spiky-haired dude in the Union Jack pants. This set the British media back into a familiar and comfortable place: attacking Faldo.

Word out of Europe is, Faldo loves the fact that Poulter, too young to feel the full icy wrath of Faldo the Player, actually looks up to Faldo the Cap’n. Thus, Faldo could pick Poulter – legitimately, a fiery competitor who showed well at Birkdale – and avoid having Clarke, and even another spurned pick, the Ryder Cup lion Montgomerie, sit in the back of the room giggling when Faldo tried to fire up the troops.

Now players like Sergio Garcia and even American Jim Furyk are questioning Faldo; Poulter has enormous pressure to perform; and the Americans have their ace in the hole – Faldo’s always-present ability to tick off those closest to him. That’s a winner for Team USA.

So, in the spirit of this column, we say to Cap’n Nick … re-think that Darren Clarke stiff … and give that man a mulligan!

Scorecard of the week

69-70-72 – tie-73rd, Phil Mickelson, Deutsche Bank Championship.

Then again, it may be Team Europe’s strategy to simply let Phil Mickelson’s ennui drag down the whole Team USA thing.

Is it me, or is Lefty lacking a little fire these days?

His only top-5 in the last month was at the WGC-Bridgestone, and there he made bogey on three of the final four holes to blow a chance at winning. Tiger’s absence provided Lefty with a big opportunity at two majors, and he mailed in both tries. Now, as the putative leader of Team USA at Valhalla, we’ve got a guy who’s essentially shrugging his shoulders out there.

Come on, Lefty! Start chewing nails for breakfast!

Broadcast moment of the week

“Hey, Sergio, take it easy on us in the Ryder Cup this year.” – Fan at TPC Boston during Monday’s final round.

See? Already, the American fan is downcast and has low expectations. Again, this plays into Cap’n Zinger’s hand. Shoot, if I keep writing, I just might wind up picking Team USA to win this darn thing.

Where do we go from here?

We head to Bellerive for the third leg of the FedEx Cup. Vijay takes aim for three in a row, and as long as he’s burying 50 footers with regularity, I like his chances.

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