A Second Chance For Some
Goydos hasn't been heard from since the Sony Open last January.
HARRISON, N.Y. (AP) -- No one was tailgating in the parking lot behind the driving range at Westchester Country Club. The cool, damp air at The Barclays did not smell of bratwurst and beer. There was idle chatter on the putting green, just like any other week.
The PGA Tour playoffs sure don't resemble the postseason in other sports.
"I think in our sport, 'playoff' is a very loosely used word," Jim Furyk said with a smile.
The Barclays begins Thursday as the first of four straight tournaments that conclude the FedEx Cup, a radical change on the PGA Tour designed to hold interest after the majors and to reward the guy playing his best golf in the final month of the season.
The winner gets $10 million in deferred money.
Furyk poked fun at the tour marketing the final month as "playoffs" because 144 players qualified for the first event, and because it's possible that Tiger Woods or Vijay Singh could capture the FedEx Cup without winning any of the last four tournaments. Unspoken by most is that it doesn't feel like the playoffs without Woods at Westchester for the opening round.
But there are some viable similarities.
For starters, 24 golfers will be sent home Sunday if they don't finish among the top 120 on the points list after The Barclays. Fifty more players will be eliminated after the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston a week later, then 40 more after the BMW Championship outside Chicago, until only 30 are left at the Tour Championship.
And just like most playoff systems, this represents a second chance.
Paul Goydos started his year by winning the Sony Open, but he hasn't done much since then and starts the playoffs as the No. 53 seed. The man sarcastically known as "Sunshine" for his dour outlook had no problem filling his glass with optimism.
"This is the second season," Goydos said. "The reality is, if I win this week, I pass Tiger Woods."
Even though Woods already has won five times this year -- no one else has won more than twice -- his 11,000-point lead in the FedEx Cup was reset to 1,000 points over the second-seeded Singh, with Jeff Gove at No. 144 and 15,300 points behind.
Mathematically, everyone has a chance to win the $10 million prize.
"I had a good start to the season, but then I fell back into a well," Goydos said. "Now the tour has thrown me a rope."
Woods figured he didn't need a lifeline and decided to stay home this week, knowing he likely will be passed by a little if it's a player from the bottom half of the seedings, by a lot if it's someone such as Singh, a three-time winner at Westchester and the defending champion.
Woods still will have three weeks to make up the difference, two of those on courses where he has won.
For now, the focus tends to shift toward the bottom of the food chain.
In NCAA basketball terminology, Gove would be golf's version of Coastal Carolina. He snagged the final spot by a mere 23 points -- that translates to one putt in this case -- and his immediate goal is simply to keep playing. Gove needs to finish at least fifth at The Barclays to have any hope of moving inside the top 120 in points.
"I could finish sixth and not be in the tournament next week," Gove said. "But at least I get to play."
The playoffs could be a boon for someone such as Joe Durant, who went on a tear at the end of last season. He was worried about keeping his card until finishing with five top 10s, including a victory at Disney, a playoff loss in Mississippi and third place at the Tour Championship. Durant wound up a career-best 13th on the money list.
But as the No. 123 seed, he has no margin for error.
"If you're in the position I'm in, you really have to go deep and play well," Durant said. "I don't have the luxury of coming out this week and performing mediocre and knowing that I still have three more weeks. Guys in my position don't have that ability. We have to step up this week and play."
Even if he fails this week, Durant and others like him still have seven tournaments after the Tour Championship.
Another longshot is Frank Lickliter, who checks in at No. 129.
"I would like to be known as 'Frank's Folly' in the fifth race," he said, speaking of longshots. "Listen, no matter what you're playing for, it's still golf. You've still got to play."
At the other end of the spectrum are players such as Singh, Furyk and Phil Mickelson, all of whom can surpass Woods in the standings by finishing fifth or higher.
Although Woods is regarded a favorite despite skipping The Barclays, Singh can't help but like his chances considering where the playoff events are held.
He joins Jack Nicklaus as the only three-time winners at Westchester, winning last year by two shots over Adam Scott. Next week is the Deutsche Bank Championship, where Singh won a duel over Woods in 2004 to become No. 1 in the world. He hasn't won at Cog Hill, but the 44-year-old Fijian won the Tour Championship at East Lake in 2002.
And playing four straight weeks is just fine with Singh, who thrives on a busy schedule.
"If you look at the record, I have a very good stretch of wins and performances in those four events," Singh said. "And taking that into account, I feel good about it."
No matter what happens in the playoffs or who gets sent home, there is more at stake. Each of the next three tournaments carries a separate $7 million purse, and a win guarantees a spot in the Masters.
The tour's hope is that the $10 million prize comes down to the final round of the final tournament at East Lake, and in a perfect world, comes down to the final few holes among the top two players.