2014 FedEx Cup Playoffs: Winners and Losers from the Barclays

Brendan O'Meara@@BrendanOMearaFeatured ColumnistAugust 24, 2014

2014 FedEx Cup Playoffs: Winners and Losers from the Barclays

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    Part of what makes the FedEx Cup playoffs such a draw is keeping the best players on the course at a time they might otherwise take some time off. Pay them and they will show.

    The Barclays, the first leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs, went to Hunter Mahan, who leapt up the FedEx Cup leaderboard from 62nd to first with his win. It was also a proving ground for some looking to advance to the second leg in Boston.

    "I haven't played my best this year so to get a win in an event like this and the timing that it was," Mahan said on the CBS broadcast. "It feels unbelievable. I'm very proud of myself right now."

    Some players came to Ridgewood Country Club hot and left smoldering. Others arrived unknown and left Paramus, New Jersey, one step closer to a $10 million bonus.

    Unless otherwise stated, all stats are provided by PGA Tour.com.

Winner: Hunter Mahan

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    Hunter Mahan scrambled like an egg to bogey the 18th hole in The Barclays and subsequently won his first tournament in two years. He shot 65 to straight up win this tournament.

    As big as that putt was on 18, it was his 15-footer on 17 that gave him the cushion he needed to seize the early lead in the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Mahan said afterward on the CBS broadcast:

    I felt great the last few weeks. The game was starting to come around. I was starting to make some putts, getting up and down here and there. I knew this was around the corner, but to do it and to do it with a 65 feels great. You’ve got to play well in the FedEx Cup events and the whole year. There’s a lot of golf to be played. There’s a lot of great players. It’ll be fun.

    Mahan made a major statement with his play for Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson. Mahan sits at 25 in the Ryder Cup standings and a win of this nature in a tournament of this quality means Mahan may have just played himself onto Watsons team.

Loser: Phil Mickelson's Trips to the Hospitality Pavilion

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    Mel Evans/Associated Press

    Phil Mickelson has had one of the more frustrating seasons of his career. Any interview you hear, Mickelson says something to the effect that his game hasn’t come together. He has just one top 10 all year, and that was his spirited effort in the PGA Championship.

    On back-to-back rounds, Mickelson's drives found the hospitality pavilion on the fifth hole. He made par from the carpet on Saturday and bogeyed the hole on Friday. 

    "Yeah, I’m barely keeping my sanity,"Mickelson told The New York Daily News. "I’m so frustrated. I love playing in the New York area. I mean, the people here are incredible and the golf course is wonderful. I wish the par-5s were a little more exciting, but this course is spectacular."

    Watching Mickelson in these situations makes for fine entertainment, but it’s a symbol of how erratic his game has been all year. Now the rest of his run through FedEx Cup playoffs is in jeopardy. Hank Gola of The New York Daily News wrote:

    The bad week means Mickelson will have to do something special at next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston if he hopes to get into FedEx Cup contention and after his close call at the PGA Championship, he may be going through the motions. He’s not even sure he’ll play in Boston or the next FedEx Cup event in Denver.

Winner: The Big Easy

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Ernie Els played like he wanted to win his first tournament since the 2012 Open Championship. When he rolled in his birdie putt on 18, Els went into the clubhouse the tournament leader.

    Shortly thereafter, players like Stuart Appleby, Hunter Mahan and Cameron Tringale leapt ahead of Els. Still, seeing the Big Easy atop a leaderboard was nice for those who grew used to him as a contender in these high-profile tournaments.

    Els said in Golfweek, "The stuff that I needed to do, I needed to be under pressure. It’s one thing playing and practicing at home [in Jupiter, Fla.]... But at the end of the day, you have to do certain things under pressure."

    Jim McCabe, writer for Golfweek, noted that Els has had a demanding schedule, but that hasn’t changed Els’ desire to play. McCabe wrote:

    But when you toss the numbers at him – 22 PGA Tour tournaments, at least, and perhaps as many as 24, plus four more on the European Tour, Els shakes his head and laughs. OK, maybe he is pushing it more than necessary. He said if he pushes through next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship and into the BMW Championship, future plans for the European Tour’s Race to Dubai could change.

    To which Els said he’s simply focused on the FedEx Cup playoffs, something he could win, especially the way he played in Paramus.

Loser: The Reigning FedEx Cup Champion

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    Henrik Stenson was in a great position—T6—at the end of play Friday, putting him within striking distance of the leaders at eight-under. Stenson rolled in eight birdies on Friday and it appeared he was just heating up. Saturday was his time to do some damage. He did, but only to himself.

    After a birdie on one, Stenson went one better than a snowman on the par-4 fourth with a nine, the rare quintuple bogey. He recovered, albeit momentarily, with a birdie on five. He then followed that with four straight bogeys to go out in seven-over.

    By the end of the round he dropped from T6 to T61.

    Jim McCabe of Golfweek wrote:

    From a share of sixth place, just two off the lead, Stenson fell into joint 61st, barely surviving the secondary cut.

    You could say that Stenson’s chances of defending his FedEx Cup title aren’t very good. He came into The Barclays 61st in the standings and will surely fall quite a bit, so all of a sudden he’s not even a lock to get into playoff week No. 3.

    Stenson barely made the secondary cut and he’ll will have to do some serious janitorial work on his game to go to Massachusetts, Colorado and Georgia.

Winner: U.S. Ryder Cup Players and Hopefuls

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    Take a look at the leaderboard and you see Matt Kuchar (sixth in the Ryder Cup standings), Patrick Reed (eighth), Brendon Todd (12th), Bill Haas (28th) and the winner Hunter Mahan (25th).

    Kuchar, playing loose and with a world-conquering smile on his face, chipped in on 18, eliciting the Kuuuuuuuch cheer from the gallery.

    Watching the way these Americans played down the stretch must have given Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson reason for optimism. For the first time in a long time, these players have put a dagger in any Tiger Woods talk. Almost like, Tiger who?

    Take Todd, who finished T46 at two under. He said on ESPN.com, "I really think [Watson's] going to pick guys who have good form and who have proved it all season long. I'm sure he's going for some experience, too, if he can get it, but I feel like if you can just be the guy who is playing the best, you're probably going to get a pick."

    Haas, who finished T15 at The Barclays, wants to play his way into Watson’s good graces as well. Haas said on ESPN.com:

    It's less pressure on a guy like myself who is way down the list, because I have to play well," said Haas, who won the FedEx Cup playoffs in 2011. "I think if I were 12th on the list and I had a good year and playing poorly right now, it's more pressure because you should make the team because you're close to it.

    If you played poorly, then you feel like it's these tournaments that's losing it for you.

    There were a lot of American flags on The Barclays leaderboard, and several of the European players were far, far lower. The bid for the Ryder Cup is always the tournament within a tournament and The Barclays was no different.

Loser: Rory McIlroy

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    It was bound to happen.

    Rory McIlroy’s tournament win streak ended at three. That streak included two majors and a World Golf Championship. The mental grind it takes to win golf tournaments, let alone majors, let alone three in a row in major competition, is something we mere mortals can never understand.

    McIlroy took some time away from the range after winning the PGA Championship, and it affected his play on Thursday at Ridgewood Country Club. He tightened the screws and had a great round on Friday to join the cluster near the top of the leaderboard.

    When the weekend came, McIlroy stalled. He said on ESPN.com:

    I can't put it down to anything else: I putted well yesterday but the first round I didn't putt well at all and then today I actually putted OK; just nothing went in. So hopefully if I can play similarly tomorrow and just get a few putts to drop, then maybe there's a low score out there.

    He carded a nice round on Sunday to finish at five under (T22) for the weekend. He didn’t need to win The Barclays given how well he has played the past month. It’s nothing to worry about. In fact, he played darn good for a guy not entirely focused on winning.

    When McIlroy decides to get serious, get ready—he could rattle off a string of golf to end the season matched only by the run he went on during the summer.

Winner: Cameron Tringale's Courageous Karma

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    Who had heard of Cameron Tringale before he disqualified himself from the PGA Championship after signing a faulty scorecard? Like he says, he has no regrets, and that honesty has put him in a real warm place heading to Boston for The Deutsche Bank Classic.

    So get this: Tringale cost himself $53,000 by disqualifying himself from the PGA Championship. That stings. When Jason Day rolled in his final putt on 18 to split the second-place pot three ways (among himself, Tringale and Stuart Appleby), Tringale walked away with $288,000 ($864,000 divided by three). A net gain of $235,000.

    Who says nice guys finish last? Tringale said during the CBS broadcast after his round:

    You don’t want to be thinking what if on the golf course. That’s about the worst thing you can do. I decided to get it behind me. Like I said earlier, I try to live my life above reproach. It seemed like the right thing to do so I was able to come out this week with a clear head and play some golf. I didn’t expect it to be this clear.

    Coming into The Barclays, Tringale was 114th in the world rankings and 61st in the FedEx Cup. The way he putted at Ridgewood makes him a serious contender in the next leg of the playoffs. His strokes gained putting were 1.582. Many of those were pressure putts as he finished his tournament at 12 under par.

Loser: Adam Scott

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    Mel Evans/Associated Press

    Adam Scott, the defending Barclays champ, walks away from 2014 without a major. As a result, he laser-sighted his immeasurable abilities to the FedEx Cup playoffs to salvage what has been a disappointing year (by his standards).

    Scott told the Golf Channel after his Friday round, “I’ve got a lot to accomplish this year for me to be satisfied with it. I put a lot into the majors and didn’t get close this year. So the last thing on the list for me is the FedEx Cup so I need to put in 100 percent over the next four weeks.”

    Scott, at eight under, was tied for the lead after his spectacular Friday round. Saturday, like many other golfers like him (Hello, Mr. Stenson), saw him blow out his tires, shooting a four-over 75—a 10-shot swing from his Friday round.

    Ben Everill of The Sydney Morning Herald wrote:

    World No. 2 Scott opened with a run of eight straight pars and was still right on pace before dropping four shots in his next four holes thanks to a double bogey and two bogeys. He tried to fight back with a birdie on the 13th but another bogey on 17 left him chasing his tail in a tie for 23rd.

    From T1 to T23 in one day, Scott has the game to win the FedEx Cup playoffs, but only if he can avoid a Saturday back nine where he shot two bogeys and a triple.

Winner: Those Other Aussies

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    Stuart Appleby rattled off seven birdies and ascended the leader board and tied his countryman in Jason Day, both at 12 under. 

    Appleby's putting was world class. His strokes gained putting were 2.436. That's bananas. Appleby said afterward on the CBS broadcast:

    I tried to set out every round to have six birdies. I got into the back nine and thought six may not be enough. This is the FedEx, this is the playoffs, if I could time my performances more like this it would be nice. I felt the nerves, but I dealt with them nice. It was nice to roll the ball and get some putts going.

    Day played in the final group yet again. There were periods where he shared the lead, but he'd birdie a hole only to bogey the next. He never got on a roll, but he stayed true, finishing tied for second. 

    His play in the PGA Championship and now his play over the course of The Barclays should give him the confidence to play in every leg of these FedEx Cup playoffs. 

Loser: Jim Furyk

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    Furyk shrugged after his five on 18. He wasn’t happy at all. How could he be? For a time, he was tied for the lead or the sole possessor of it.

    Then Furyk’s approaches found sticky rough, making him flub a few chips. It wasn’t a meltdown; rather it was an amazing display of grinding to finish eighth of them all, while others played over Furyk’s head.

    He fell seven spots, and it could’ve been more had he not made some critical par-savers.

    Still, this was an opportunity for Furyk to run to the top of the summit in the first leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs and he failed to do it.

    Expect Furyk to bounce back with another top-10, maybe better, at the Deutsche Bank Classic on Friday.