Backspin: Wagner's silver lining is FedExCup Playoffs push

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Johnson Wagner didn’t sound thrilled with his play in the final round, or the encroaching darkness at The Greenbrier Classic, where bad weather plagued the event Sunday.

“Not a chance,” Wagner said when asked if he thought he’d be able to finish his final round after teeing off at 5:10 p.m. local time. “The last few holes we just kind of started running. We wanted to finish, but it's kind of a shame with an incredible tournament like the Greenbrier Classic to feel like you're in the last group and you're rushing to finish before daylight, but, you know, you can't control weather.”

One thing Wagner can control: Getting into the FedExCup Playoffs.

With just six weeks remaining, Wagner is now inside the magic 125 number after his tie for second in West Virginia, which moved him from 145th to 104th in the standings.

It’s not as if Wagner arrived at the Greenbrier with a lot of confidence, either, off six missed cuts and a WD in his last seven starts.

In 19 starts, he’s missed the cut 11 times. All it takes, though, is a couple of good weeks to make a leap.

Exhibit A: Winner Jonas Blixt, who climbed all the way to 39th.

Others who made a big move included Steven Bowditch, who is 130th after his runner-up, and Daniel Summerhays, who is now 113th after a tie for ninth.

The Playoffs push is officially on.

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

"(The policy board) concluded that while it is an important issue, a ban on anchored strokes would not fundamentally affect a strong presentation of our competitions or the overall success of the PGA TOUR." -- PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem addressing the TOUR’s decision to support the USGA ban on anchoring.

“He’s like Phil Mickelson at the U.S. Open.” -- An ESPN commenter on multiple runner-up Tim Janus during Nathan’s annual Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest.

TWEETS OF THE WEEK

@GrahamDeLaet: Watching Ferris Bueller in the locker room. Probably the best rain delay of all time. -- Some weather delays are better than others apparently.

@JustinRose99: Congrats Andy_Murray on that amazing win! It was great to see it in person! -- Rose got a front-row seat of sorts to Murray’s Wimbledon win. He was a guest in the Royal Box at the All England Club.

THE BACK NINE: 9 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

1. A big reason Blixt won: His putter. He had just 104 putts last week, the fewest in the field.

2. I don’t care if Tom Watson is the pro emeritus at The Greenbrier or not, the 63-year-old taking just 22 putts in a final-round 67 was impressive no matter how well he knows the course. He one-putted 11 of his first 12 greens Sunday and had 14 one-putts in all. It was also his third sub-par score of the week and his best score on TOUR since a 67 in the opening round of the 2010 Masters.

3. Phil Mickelson missed the cut at The Greenbrier Classic, marking the first time in his career that he has missed three consecutive cuts at one event. U.S. Open hangover? Not really. Mickelson blamed his lack of distance control, mostly. That’s not to say a sixth runner-up in the national championship wasn’t still on Lefty’s mind last week, specifically his bogey on the par-3 13th hole on the final day. “I misclubbed on 13,” he said from The Greenbrier. “I never should have hit a pitching wedge; I should have hit a gap and take the back out of play. Because if I overcook to the pin, it goes long, so that was a misclub. And then I quit on 15. I had a perfect gap wedge. If I hit it hard and fly it, get it past the hole, it should come back down that hill. I quit on it and put it in such a bad spot.” Up next for Mickelson: The Scottish Open, which he will use in preparation for the British Open in two weeks.

4. Stat of the Week  I: Mother Nature remains the biggest winner of the 2013 season. The Grenbrier Classic was the 15th of 28 events this season with some sort of delay, with 14 of them weather-related (and the Northern Trust Open experiencing delays due to darkness).

5. Stat of the Week II: 100. That’s how many spots in the FedExCup standings Blixt climbed thanks to his win in West Virginia, moving to 39th with only six events left until the start of the FedExCup Playoffs. He also earned a spot in next month's PGA Championship and next year's Masters as well as the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and PLAYERS Championship.

6. Stat of the Week III: Blixt played the par-4 13th hole at the Greenbrier in 5 over with two double bogeys, a bogey and a par last week. The other 17 holes? He was 18 under. One hole a tournament does not make.

7. The tournament within the tournament at The Greenbrier Classic worked out well for Jimmy Walker. With his runner-up he moved to 17th in the FedExCup standings, which earned him a trip to his first British Open. The top five players not already exempt from inside the top 20 in FedExCup points through last week all earned spots. The other four were Billy Horschel, Boo Weekley, Russell Henley and Harris English. The only other way for a player to earn a spot now is to win this week’s John Deere Classic or the European Tour's Scottish Open.

8. Graeme McDowell won the French Open on Sunday. Why is this significant (other than it being a win)? Because it moved him to sixth in the Official World Golf Ranking, his highest position since May 2011.

9. Justin Rose and Adam Scott know what Andy Murray must be feeling today. Murray became the first Brit in 77 years to win Wimbledon on Sunday. Last month, Rose became the first Englishman in 43 years to win the U.S. Open, while Scott earlier this season became the first Australian to capture a Green Jacket.

FORWARD SPIN: WHO I LIKE THIS WEEK
john-deere-logo

When I think of the John Deere Classic two things come to mind: Steve Stricker, and a last chance to get into the British Open. Anyone not otherwise eligible for the British Open can get in with a win there, that is if they can get past Stricker. The Wisconsin native has won the tournament three times and judging by how comfortable he seems playing on a limited schedule this season, there’s little reason to think he won’t make it four this week. In seven starts, Stricker has four top 10s, including a pair of runner-up finishes. The only thing missing? A win.

MONDAY BACKSPIN MAILBAG
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Who are your top three favorites for the British Open? -- Pat Charles

The British Open is the hardest of the four majors to predict because the impact weather can have on the event. Remember the last time it was played at Muirfield? Tiger Woods does. That said, I'm going chalk this year. If I had to choose threeplayers right now, I'd lean toward Woods, Justin Rose and Adam Scott.

Are you surprised Phil Mickelson missed the cut? Did he have a U.S. Open hangover? -- Scott Romanski

No, and no. He's missed the cut at the event each of the last two years. It was also the first time he played since what was another heartbreaking U.S. Open loss. If there's one thing that's been consistent about Mickelson throughout his career, it is his inconsistency. One week, he's great, the next he misses the cut, which is of course true of a lot of players.

Have a question for the mailbag? Send it to brianwacker@pgatourhq.com or via Twitter at @pgatour_brianw.

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