by Jeff Skinner
Now this is the way to start your playoffs. You’ll have to excuse Tim Finchem if he can’t get that broad smile off his face. Tim’s baby, the FedEx Cup has grown up and in a big way.
Today’s shootout at The Barclays was riveting golf. As big name players made a run for the lead other big names stumbled and made for some very dramatic television.
Phil “The Thrill” Mickelson was the first of the headliners to fire up the massive crowd at Liberty National. Phil’s run of seven birdies in ten holes was good reason for the crowd to pull their eyes away from those great views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty and pay attention to golf. But unlike Lady Libert,y Phil’s flame died out and he finished at nine under par, two short of Scott.
Canadian Graham DeLaet matched Mickelson’s 65 but fell one shot short at ten under. But he did jump up 24 slots to finish in a tie for second.
But it was the trials and tribulations of some very popular golfers that gave the first week of the Playoffs all the excitement we could ask for.
Matt Kuchar, who started with a share of the lead and normally one of the steadiest golfers on the planet imploded with a triple bogey on nine and a front nine of 40. It was all over for Kuch then.
Tiger Woods made a dramatic run with an opening 33 on the front nine and with the leaders having trouble was within a few shots of the lead. But then his iffy back started to cause his game to slide. Three bogeys on the back and a tee shot that dropped him to his knees in pain before in landed in a pond looked to finish the day for Woods.
Amazingly he bounced back with grimacing birdies on sixteen and seventeen to get within one stroke of the lead. Woods had a birdie putt from behind the eighteenth green but it stopped a roll short of dropping and Tiger had a tie for second also.
Justin Rose came to the eighteenth tee tied for the lead with fellow major winner Scott. A par gets him a playoff, a birdie the win but it was a bogey five for the U.S. Open winner and a share of second place.
Final round co-leader Gary Woodland was the last challenger to Scott’s eleven under and he had chance after chance after chance to get it done. Woodland had battled back from an bogey and double bogey on the front nine but if there is blame to go round he just needs to look at his putter. With missed birdie putts on sixteen (9 feet) and seventeen (10feet) Woodland needed a final hole three to get into a playoff. Again his putter failed on a twelve foot putt and he settled for a four way tie of second.
Scott had little to do with the theatrics of the closing hours at Liberty National. He had done all his work earlier with a superb bogey free round of 66 and his eleven under total withstood the siege from the world’s best.
Scott was his typical gracious self as he watched the last few minutes from the practice range. “I’m pretty shocked. There were so many guys out there with a chance and I really didn’t think I had much of a chance. If you hang around the lead long enough, you’re going to win some, you’re going to lose some. And this one went my way.”
He acknowledged how difficult this game can be with it all on the line, “I guess it’s different playing an hour-and-a-half in front of the leaders, the guys who have been under pressure all day than when you’re out there. I know how they feel. When the pressure is on you to close out, it’s much harder, and the holes become much harder and shots are far more crucial.”
Scott started the day six shots off the lead and found a way to get it done and give us and Tim Finchem what we want in a golf tournament.
Even though the leaders were wilting at the end The Barclays finished with an exciting and dramatic ending. And isn’t that what the playoffs is all about.