Slow-play issue takes a break at East Lake this week - Atlanta Journal Constitution


This week, the European Tour announced a new series of slow-play rules designed to identify and more severely punish those players who gum up the works.

In a Tuesday sit-down with selected media, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said his organization would not be prodded to additional action by the moves overseas.

“We're obviously two different tours, and there's a lot different about what happens every week – different golf courses, different setups. ... I wouldn't say we're going to be influenced in any way by it. I think everybody looking at this, talking about it, is a good thing.” 

But slow play shouldn’t be an issue in any way at East Lake.

“I don’t think we’re going to have a difficulty with pace of play with 30 guys in the field this week,” Rory McIlroy said. “It’s like traffic, right? You get 156 in the field, and it’s hard to get those guys around quickly.”

There you have it: Atlanta, of all places, being singled out for light traffic. 

Major absences at Tour Championship

One quirky aspect of the 30-man field for this FedEx Cup finale at East Lake: Two winners of major tournaments this year – Tiger Woods (Masters) and Shane Lowry (British Open) – did not qualify, yet 11 non-winners on Tour did.

Asked Tuesday whether enough weight was given the majors in the FedEx Cup points system – each win is worth 600 points, just 100 more than other tournaments and 1,400 less than in playoff events – Monahan seemed quite satisfied with the balance.

“Playoffs inherently bring forward a lot of volatility. The two players that aren't here, they were inside the top 30 when we started the FedEx Cup Playoffs,” Monahan noted.

“I think what it says is that it's really hard to get to Atlanta and the Tour Championship,” he said. “You've got to play exceedingly well over the course of an entire season. And with volatility, there's risk.

“Would you want them here? One thousand percent. But you look at every other sport and their playoff format, you'll have top teams that fall out early.” 

To their detriment, both Woods (12 events) and Lowry (14) played a light PGA Tour schedule this year.

Old-man Kuchar

He’s not quite ready to do endorsements for portable scooters or step-in bathtubs, but the candles on Matt Kuchar’s birthday cake are starting to multiply. This week the perpetually youthful Georgia Tech grad – at age 41— will be the oldest player in the field. 

“I don’t know that I wanted to know that,” Kuchar said. “It’s funny, I honestly feel like I’m closer to 25 or 26 years old, four or five years removed from college, still excited to be out playing golf.”

Kuchar and Augusta native Charles Howell III are the only 40-year-olds in the field. Howell turned 40 on June 20. 

“I still feel like I have that youthful excitement and energy and love for the game, that I don’t feel like I’m the oldest guy in the field,” Kuchar said. “But I guess I’ll try to take some pride in being the oldest one to qualify.”

Rose recalls his unnoticed victory

Justin Rose remembers what it was like on the 72nd hole at East Lake a year ago. He was in a unique situation, trying to get out of the way of Tiger Woods’ historic victory, while ensuring he didn’t blow the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus - or get overwhelmed by the overly enthusiastic fans who swarmed into the fairway and around the green.

“When I was tapping in to win the FedEx Cup, I could see the chaos streaming down the 18th fairway,” Rose said Wednesday. He quickly two-putted to finish. “I hit my putt pretty quickly because I could see the galleries were all in the fairway. ... I could be in a situation where all the chaos was on top of me.”

The birdie on the final hole was all he needed. That allowed Rose to tie for fourth and guaranteed he would win the FedEx Cup. It allowed him to enjoy the end of the tournament.

“My bank manager didn’t mind,” Rose said. “It was a very interesting week because of who won. There were a lot of people pulling for Tiger to win both the FedEx Cup and the tournament, so I was going up against that as well as myself. Fortunately, I was able to find that late birdie that I knew I needed.”

Rose will need a bunch of birdies this week if he wants to become the first player to win back-to-back FedEx Cups. He starts in 17th place, eight shots behind No. 1 seed Justin Thomas. 

Conners campaigns for President’s Cup

Canadian Corey Conners is a long shot to win the FedEx Cup. The No. 23 seed is starting the tournament eight shots off the lead. His more legitimate goal is to make the President’s Cup team.

“It’s on my mind,” Conners acknowledged. “Hopefully I’m on captain (Ernie) Els’ radar. Hopefully I can have another good week and try to make it more difficult for him to not pick me. That’s really the goal.”

The first eight members of the International team were decided by points. The other four spots will be chosen by captain Ernie Els and announced in November, a month prior to the competition at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia. 

It has already been a dream season for Conners. He won the Valero Texas Open to become the first Monday qualifier to win a PGA Tour event since 2010. Last week he tied for seventh at the BMW Championship and moved up to No. 23 in the FedExCup standings. 

Conners has a history of success in Atlanta. He was runner-up at the 2014 U.S. Amateur Championship hosted at the Atlanta Athletic Club. 

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