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August 25 2013

8:04 PM

Sunday observations: Ball-strikers rise

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Graham DeLaet, who finished T2 at The Barclays, ranks first on TOUR in total driving and third in GIR.

By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

Wow. It will be tough for the remaining trio of FedExCup Playoffs events to match the final round drama of The Barclays at Liberty National. You had the Masters champion and U.S. Open champion going head-to-head with Tiger Woods a shot behind. There were birdies made and opportunities missed. There were heroic carries and watery splashes. 

Adam Scott’s win places him in the conversation for PGA TOUR player of the year, but the lingering shot that will be replayed time and again will be Woods dropping to his knees with a back spasm and still almost winning the tournament.

It was pathos worthy of a Greek drama.

Just a few years ago, the golf season seemingly ended following the PGA Championship and now it’s become great drama.

A trio of FedExCup Playoffs events remain followed by the Presidents Cup.

Wow.

Observations

Scott's maturity: Has anyone’s golf game changed more in the last four years than Scott’s? In 1999, Scott was mired in a slump but Greg Norman selected him to the Presidents Cup International team and Scott’s confidence grew. Scott was bogey-free in the final round and did not drop a shot following the 12th hole on Saturday. Golf is a strange game in that confidence plays such a critical role. 

Chances: Gary Woodland has to feel he let a tournament slip away. A questionable driver led to bogey at the par-5 13th hole. Woodland then had makeable birdie putts at 16, 17 and 18 and missed all three. Woodland led the tournament with 22 birdies and in driving distance at 314.9 yards. He was second at Liberty National hitting 72.22 percent of his greens in regulation and second in putts per green at 1.615. Everything indicates Woodland won the tournament, except his final total.

Fluctuation: It’s said every shot on the PGA TOUR makes somebody happy and that was certainly the case in the final round. Nobody wished bad luck on a fellow competitor but every miscue changed the FedExCup standings. Camilo Villegas bogeyed the 18th hole to fall outside the top 100, then when Aaron Baddeley bogeyed his last three holes, it moved Villegas back into the top 100, giving him a spot in the Deutsche Bank Championship. There were dozens of little dramas that played out long before the leaders walked down the 18th hole.

Woods has time to heal: Woods has a little extra time on his side thanks to the FedExCup schedule. His cranky back gets an extra day to heal this week since the Deutsche Bank Championship doesn’t start until Friday. Following the Deutsche Bank, there will be a 10-day break before play begins at the BMW Championship. Woods tweaked his back with his drive on the 12th hole and spasms then dropped Tiger to his knees on the 13th. He gingerly walked his way around the rest of the course and was non-committal about his future schedule.

Liberty National: Everyone was enthusiastic about the golf course and embraced the changes following the 2009 Barclays but Liberty National is still a very difficult golf course. The edges of greens and bunkers are very sharp, and when the course dried out, golf balls raced into difficult positions. The greens’ numerous undulations made it hard to get an approach shot close and even on Sunday, putts were still being misread.

Ball striking: As the golf course got faster and faster, it’s not a coincidence the game’s best ball-strikers climbed the leaderboard. Scott, Graham DeLaet, Justin Rose and Woods all rank inside the top 20 in the ball-striking statistic on the PGA TOUR. Don’t overlook the play of DeLaet. His second-place finish is not a fluke. DeLaet is No. 1 this year in total driving and ball-striking, and third in greens in regulation.

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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