Finau, Mickelson, Watson among fastest-rising in FedExCup Top 30 at The Greenbrier
July 04, 2018
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
The FedExCup: A crowning achievement
A year ago, Bubba Watson was languishing at 115th in the FedExCup standings when he teed it up at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier at The Old White TPC in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Mired in a two-year win drought and fighting an undisclosed illness that saw him lose more than 20 pounds, he was at the lowest point in his career.
Today, Bubba Golf is back. Watson is third in the FedExCup, the only three-time winner on the PGA TOUR this season, and one of the most dramatic turnaround stories of this season.
“It's been good,” Watson said in his press conference from the Greenbrier on Tuesday. “Looking back, I'm a golfer, so there's always things I wish was better. It was a slow start to the year, missed a couple cuts. But I knew I was headed in the right direction.”
Players are almost always trending in one direction or the other, up or down, with the exception of FedExCup No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who was also No. 1 a year ago at this time. With the start of the Playoffs seven weeks out, a snapshot of the current Top 30, who would get into the season-ending TOUR Championship if it started today, shows several dramatic upward trajectories.
“If you make it to Atlanta, no matter how you play throughout the year, you've done something right,” said big mover Webb Simpson, who is 10th in the FedExCup (up from 33rd a year ago) after his big win at THE PLAYERS Championship, and is looking good for East Lake.
Chesson Hadley, 19th in the FedExCup, has made the biggest leap; he was 224th a year ago.
Ryan Armour, who is in the Greenbrier field and 30th in the FedExCup, has made the second biggest jump, from 185th.
“I’m a different player over the last year,” Armour, 42, said recently, and as if to offer further proof, he finished second to runaway winner Francesco Molinari at the Quicken Loans National last week.
Bryson DeChambeau, who will defend a TOUR title for the first time at next week’s John Deere Classic, is the third biggest mover over the last 12 months, having shot up from 128th position a year ago to 6th today. Whether you measure it with a calculator or a compass, that’s a huge improvement.
Their transformations have been stark, as have those of TOUR winners Aaron Wise (FedExCup No. 23) and Austin Cook (No. 28), both of whom are playing the Greenbrier. They’re battling for Rookie of the Year honors, which begs the question: When you talk meteoric rises, do Cook and Wise get the nod over even Hadley? How do you measure the upward trajectory of a guy who wasn’t even on TOUR last year?
Phil Mickelson, who is making his first start since a disappointing U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, has gone from 40th in the FedExCup a year ago to eighth today. Patton Kizzire, who also is playing the Greenbrier this week, has gone from 89th to ninth.
No player, though, is enjoying as thrilling a run as Tony Finau. At No. 11 in the FedExCup, the soft-spoken, long-hitting Utahan is up 20 spots from a year ago. He has six top-10 finishes, including two at the season’s first two majors, and has proven just as adept at figuring out less brawny courses, like The Old White TPC (7,286 yards, par 70), as he is taming longer ones.
“It's been a great season for me,” said Finau, who is coming off a fifth-place U.S. Open finish in which he had a chance to win late Sunday. “Really solid season, and my best season thus far. I've played some really nice golf and I've learned a lot about myself both mentally and physically. I've been working really hard on my game, and I think it's starting to show this year.”
Finau is used to making big moves. After switching back to a conventional putting grip before the 2017 BMW Championship, he shot a final-round 64 at Conway Farms to tie for seventh and play his way into the TOUR Championship at East Lake, where he also finished T7 to finish 19th in the season-long race for the FedExCup.
He’s kept that good run going in 2018.
“I like the position I'm in,” Finau said.
Being well inside the Top 30, he added, beats being on the outside looking in, as he was last year. But he’s loathe to take his eye off the ball at the Greenbrier and beyond. The same goes for Watson, Mickelson, Kizzire and Simpson. Late-bloomer Armour, in the 30th position, can’t afford much of a letdown if he wants to get to Atlanta for the first time.
The biggest movers of 2018 have worked hard to get where they are, but plenty of work remains.