FedExCup update: Fleetwood's Playoffs debut
August 23, 2018
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Tommy Fleetwood comments after opening round at THE NORTHERN TRUST
PARAMUS, N.J. -- Sean O’Hair admits he took his foot off the gas this PGA TOUR season once he felt he was comfortably placed on the FedExCup list.
Knee surgery limited his fall starts to The RSM Classic meaning the four-time TOUR winner packed his schedule early and as a result found himself burned out.
So after his tie for second at the Valero Texas Open in late April when he jumped up to 60th place on the points list and felt like his TOUR card was secure … he shut it down.
“I kind of just checked out mentally because I just kind of knew I was safe and kind of lost my drive a little bit,” O’Hair admitted.
“I wasn't really working that hard, and took a month off, right in the middle of summer, which I've never done since I've been on TOUR and tried to clear my head.
“I haven't played much since that time off. I think I've played maybe three events, and I've played very average at best.”
Assumption can certainly reach up and bite you in golf as O’Hair almost found out.
His nine starts after the runner up finish yielded five missed cuts, one WD and his best result was a T25 in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans team event.
While ultimately still comfortable, a missed cut at the Wyndham Championship might have garnered a few nervous moments as he slid to 121st in the FedExCup.
But now, with an opening round 5-under 66 at THE NORTHERN TRUST to share the lead, O’Hair has the chance for a deep Playoff run.
Getting to TPC Boston next week would be great but pushing inside the top 70 for the BMW Championship would be even better.
The third Playoff event this season is at Aronimink Golf Club in Philadelphia where O’Hair is a member.
His wife’s family have long ties to Philadelphia and O’Hair has made it his home.
A high finish this week could lock that up.
“I would love to be there. It would be a total bummer (not to be), but I've never played well with putting pressure on myself to do it,” he said.
“I'm always a perspective guy. I think I play better when I've got like an easygoing, not necessarily don't care attitude, because I can't do that, but more just kind of go with the flow and just take what golf gives you.
“I'm obviously very disappointed that I'm not in a better position, but I'm kind of in charge of my destiny. If I play good golf I'm just going to work into the next week. It's kind of a freeing situation. It's either do-or-die.”
“But it's not like, hey, I need to do it, I need to do this to play Aronimink. I'll play Aronimink after the tournament. I think I've got a member guest the following week. So I'll play there soon enough.”
A run to the TOUR Championship might have his guest looking for a new partner.
FLEETWOOD EYES WORLD DOUBLE
Tommy Fleetwood conquered Europe last season and now he has his sights set on the USA.
The 27-year-old Englishman took out the 2017 Race To Dubai – the season long points race on the European Tour but now he wants a bigger scalp … the FedExCup.
Fleetwood has yet to win on the PGA TOUR but he still pushed his way to 23rd on the points list leading into the Playoffs thanks to making 14 of 15 cuts with five top-10s and 11 top-25s.
And now he’s opened THE NORTHERN TRUST with a 4-under 67 to be just one shot off the lead.
As it stands he projects to 21st on the list but a win would see a much higher jump – potentially all the way to the top spot.
He’s taking an aggressive approach to it all.
“At 23rd, it's an all-or-nothing kind of thing. If I play really well and I do really well, then there's only good things are going to happen, and if I don't, I don't,” Fleetwood said.
“It's not like I'm leading the FedExCup and I'm thinking about winning it already. It's just if I happen to play well, it's a great opportunity more than anything else; if I happen to catch form and win an event or win two events, you never know.”
With multiple scoreboards on the course constantly throwing up projected standings Fleetwood says he able to compartmentalize it all.
Having won four times on the European Tour and going close at the last two U.S. Opens (4th and 2nd) he is no stranger to contending in big events.
“I'm pretty good at taking each tournament as it comes and just focusing on that, and every player has their own processes or the things that they are working on at the time,” he adds.
“I feel like I'm very good at trying to improve every week rather than looking at what the overall outcome is.
“I think the FedExCup is very exciting, and this is the first time I've ever been involved in it as a player. And again, I haven't looked loads at what can happen or the situations or anything like that but I know that things can turn pretty quickly and I think it makes it very exciting for TV and for golf in general.”
PROJECTED IN / OUT
After the first round at THE NORTHERN TRUST the following players are projected to surge their way from outside the top 100 into the survival zone for next week’s Dell Technologies Championship.
Vaughn Taylor (66, T1): From 112th to 5th
Sean O’Hair (66, T1): From 121st to 6th
Danny Lee (67, T5): From 103rd to 65th
Jhonattan Vegas (67, T5): From 123rd to 75th
Bronson Burgoon (68, T18): From 111th to 90th
Brian Stuard (68, T18): From 118th to 98th
Sam Saunders (68, T18): From 120th to 99th
Those projecting to drop from the safe zone to an early exit are:
Russell Henley (71, T60): From 88th to 101st
Anirban Lahiri (71, T60): From 91st to 103rd
Jason Dufner (72, T80): From 90th to 105th
Patrick Rodgers (DNP): From 93rd to 107th
Rory Sabbatini (71, T60): From 97th to 108th
Brandon Harkins (73, T96): From 94th to 109th
Charl Schwartzel (74, T105): From 96th to 110th
With a four-way tie for the lead there are some big movements projected.
Sean O’Hair – projects up 115 spots from 121 to 6 after a 5-under 66 has him tied for the lead.
Vaughn Taylor – projects up 107 spots from 112 to 5 after a 5-under 66 has him tied for the lead.
Jamie Lovemark – projects up 82 spots from 86 to 4 after a 5-under 66 has him tied for the lead.
Kevin Tway – projects up 82 spots from 85 to 3 after a 5-under 66 has him tied for the lead.
Ryan Palmer started the week as the bubble boy in terms of making it to the Dell Technologies Championship at TPC Boston next week. The top 100 after THE NORTHERN TRUST move on in the Playoffs. The Texan missed the Playoffs last season after seven straight appearances and is looking to atone with a deep run. He’s only made the TOUR Championship twice, in 2010 and 2014. An opening 3-under 67 has helped his cause – projecting him to 79th. He has some history at Ridgewood Country Club, finishing T5 in 2010.
The new bubble boy at this stage is Russell Knox who shot 2-over 73 to drop from 84th.
TOP 5 WATCH
The top five players in FedExCup points after the BMW Championship will control their own destiny entering the TOUR Championship. A win at East Lake would guarantee any of the top five the FedExCup title. Here’s how the current Top Five fared in the first round of THE NORTHERN TRUST.
1. Dustin Johnson (projected 1st) – Despite a triple bogey eight on his ninth hole Johnson shot 4-under 67 to be tied 4th and remains the top dog in the projections.
2. Justin Thomas (projected 2nd) – Despite not having his best stuff scrounged out a respectable 2-under 69 to maintain his place.
3. Brooks Koepka (projected 7th) – Coming off his PGA Championship win Koepka shot 4-under 67 to join the logjam of players at T5. His projection outside the top-5 is an anomaly at this stage due to the four-way tie for the lead.
4. Justin Rose (projected 8th) – Tough day out for Rose with a scratchy 1-over 72. However, like Koepka, might yet project back into the top five before the tournament is over.
5. Bubba Watson (projected 9th) – Even par 71 for Watson has him in danger of losing his spot in the top 5.