Insider: Playoffs often produce rollercoaster ride for players

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September 05, 2012
Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

A tale of two golfers played out quietly on the 18th green Monday at TPC Boston. One is competing this week at the BMW Championship, another will not play again until next month.

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Such is the nature of the FedExCup Playoffs. They are both very cruel and very rewarding.

At 9:30 a.m. ET on Monday, a loud whoop of excitement shattered the silence of a two-person gallery. Josh Teater had just birdied the opening hole in the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship, and a couple family members knew what was at stake. The Kentucky native began the week ranked 64th in the FedExCup standings thanks to a T19 the previous week at The Barclays. He played the first seven holes in 3 under -- and that small gallery of family members cheered every stroke.

Josh Teater is a grinder. He has skipped just three tournaments this year in which he was eligible to compete, and now he was grinding toward a finish that would send him to the BMW Championship.

But Teater's Monday grinded to a halt. A bogey at the ninth sent him reeling over the next nine-hole stretch. Teater did not quit. He made a birdie out of the greenside bunker on the 18th to give himself a chance at finishing in the top 70 of the FedExCup standings and playing at Crooked Stick this week, but the arithmetic did not look good. Hugs and kisses from family members following the round appeared to be ones of consolation instead of congratulations.

Out on the course, Dicky Pride was also grinding. He had missed the cut at The Barclays and fallen to 96th in the FedExCup standings, barely qualifying for the Deutsche Bank Championship. Rounds of 69-72-69 gave him a chance to move on to the BMW Championship, but it all came down to the last nine holes. The Alabama native was 1 under on the 17th tee and on the wrong side of the top 70. Pride responded with birdies on the final two holes to move to 70th to earn the final spot in the field for the BMW Championship. Pride's wife is from Indiana, and Dicky immediately began scrambling for extra tickets.

While the Prides celebrated, the Teaters began making plans for an unwanted three-week absence from the PGA TOUR.

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Playoffs Tracker
Who's in position to move on? Who's likely headed home? See where everyone stands in the FedExCup race. Tracker
Standings
Here are the top five players entering the BMW Championship:
1 Rory McIlroy
2 Nick Watney
3 Tiger Woods
4 Brandt Snedeker
5 Louis Oosthuizen

We look at leaderboards every week and see names with pluses and minuses attached to them. They are much more than just names. They are people trying to earn a living who deal with the frustration and elation which accompanies the daily grind of life.

The FedExCup Playoffs can be both very cruel -- and very rewarding.

Observations:

Short game: Lee Westwood made a change last month. He changed coaches, hiring Tony Johnstone, and there has been rapid improvement. Westwood has always been a brilliant ball-striker, but has struggled with the short game at times. Well, his putting has dramatically improved. Westwood made 19 birdies at Deutsche Bank, including seven in the final round when he hit only 11 greens. The Johnstone-Westwood combination seems to be working.

Final hole: Pete Dye likes a long par 4 to end his golf courses. He designed one at TPC Sawgrass, Kiawah Island and Whistling Straits -- and Crooked Stick features one as well. It's a 452-yard dogleg right, wrapping around a lake on the right-hand side. For a visual, try picturing the mirror image of the 18th hole at TPC Sawgrass. Dye gives players a variety of shots. It seems if a draw is required on one hole, the next demands a cut.

Course layout: Crooked Stick is not a back-and-forth course. No holes run parallel to each other. It creates variety, but also causes problems for golfers. Players will have a hard time getting a feel for the wind. With holes running in different directions, it will seem the wind is constantly changing. You will see a lot of caddies tossing grass in the air this week.

Hometown boys: Rory, Tiger and Phil will draw their share of the gallery this week, but so will Bo Van Pelt and Jeff Overton. Both are from Indiana and have their hometown fans. Van Pelt recalls getting his drivers license the week of the 1991 PGA Championship and driving 70 miles from his hometown of Richmond to watch John Daly at Crooked Stick. Overton lives in Bloomington and made a huge leap last week, jumping from 83rd in FedExCup standings to 40th. Both players will be Hoosier favorites this week.

Winner, winner: It is a pleasure to watch Phil Mickelson play golf these days. He's like a boy with a new toy. Mickelson went to a claw grip at The Barclays and used the paint brush grip to finish fourth at Deutsche Bank. Putting is as much mental as it is physical, and you can see Phil grinning every time he has a birdie putt. He made a whopping 20 birdies at TPC Boston and was fourth for the week in strokes gained-putting. This week, Mickelson wins.

Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.

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