Solheim's cup runneth over during American victory

Updated: August 23, 2009

It's been a brutally disappointing year for the country's best female professional golfers.

Christina Kim

Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Every time Christina Kim appeared on television this week during the Solheim Cup matches, the American was stirring up the crowd whether she was playing on the course or not.

Players from the United States won only one of the four major championships and have combined to earn just four LPGA titles so far. Only three Americans are ranked within the world's top 10, four in the top 20 and 11 in the top 50; by comparison, 18 men from the U.S. are ranked in the top 50.

Then again, I don't think any of the dozen Solheim Cup team members would trade their victory on Sunday over Europe for more individual accolades throughout the season.

It's a notion that rarely exists among their male counterparts. Sure, the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson pour their hearts into winning the Ryder or Presidents Cup every year, but ask them whether these competitions are more important than winning a major and you'll receive a political response.

When it comes to the best American players on the LPGA, though, from Juli Inkster to Morgan Pressel to Christina Kim to Michelle Wie, there's definitely a sense that playing for country trumps playing for personal gain every time. The Weekly 18 begins with the idea that the LPGA needs to somehow bottle the fervor that surrounded the Solheim Cup this week and incorporate it into tournaments on a weekly basis.

1
Seconds of that emotion?

Let's face it: The LPGA isn't in a very good place right now. Its commissioner was recently forced to resign, tournament sponsors are dropping out on what feels like a weekly basis and the only reason the game's No. 1-ranked player hasn't fallen from that perch is because the competition hasn't played well enough to surpass her.

None of that seemed to matter at the Solheim Cup, where the United States team hooted and hollered, fist-pumped and frolicked its way to a 16-12 victory in front of a Chicago-area crowd so raucous that passersby may have thought a Bears playoff game had broken out at Rich Harvest Farms.

When -- or should I say if -- the ladies in red, white and blue with flags painted on their cheeks finally stop celebrating, the next step for LPGA officials should revolve around building on this momentum throughout the remainder of the season and beyond.

That's easier said than done, of course.

"You want to know how this will help the LPGA?" said veteran Inkster afterward. "I just think if more people could come out and actually watch us play, I mean, I've been out here, as you guys know, a long time, and I've never seen the golf that these women play now. ... We have the best golf right now ever."

For three days, the best golf may have been played by the tour's most marketable player, as LPGA rookie and captain's pick Wie would have earned team MVP honors if there was such a thing, producing a 3-0-1 record for the week.

While the tour can't simply hand any titles to Wie, it would be best served if the 19-year-old one-time phenom could continue this strong run of golf during individual tournaments. Though she's 13-for-13 in making cuts this season with three top-three finishes, Wie has yet to earn that elusive first LPGA title.

It's no surprise that she called it the best week she's had on a golf course.

"I think it was the most fun I've had playing," said Wie, who defeated Helen Alfredsson, 1-up, in singles. "I think I've said that multiple times this week, but every hole seemed like walking down 18 of a major championship times 100. I mean, these crowds were absolutely amazing, and to have 11 other team members as great as these people, it was just so fabulous. ... The intensity, I've never felt anything like it before. It was definitely the highlight of my career."

For the LPGA to reverse the current trend of backlash against the tour, it needs more performances like this from not only Wie but each of her teammates -- especially the seven others born in 1981 or later who represent both the game's present and future.

"Everybody writes about the negativity of the LPGA," said Inkster, easily the team's elder stateswoman at 49. "We have a great product, and the more people see that and write about it, you know it'll be great for us. ... If people would write about the golf and not about all the other stuff, you know, we're going to be great. We're going to be good. You guys just got to be patient with us."

Three up

2 Ryan Moore.

Time to revise that list of Best Players to Have Never Won on the PGA Tour, as Moore became the latest to happily erase his name at the Wyndham Championship.

Jason Sobel's Live Blog

In the past, the live blog has been reserved for either major championship tournaments or other big-time events while on site at the venue.

On Wednesday, though, I'll produce the live blog from the home office in Bristol, Conn.

All-time legend Arnold Palmer will be visiting ESPN headquarters during the day and I'll be following along like one of Arnie's Army, armed with a PDA to provide greater insight into the man as he nears his 80th birthday.

Check back on ESPN.com throughout Wednesday for live updates on Palmer's visit.

A can't-miss kid coming out of UNLV, where he won virtually everything he played -- U.S. Amateur, U.S. PubLinks, NCAA championship, Western Amateur and Sahalee Players Championship -- Moore burst onto the pro scene in 2005, when he became the first player since Tiger Woods nine years earlier to go from college to full-time PGA Tour membership in the same season without needing Q-school.

In recent years, though, he's become known more for his unconventional methods than his game. Moore owns no sponsorship deals, which allows him to use whatever equipment and wear whatever apparel he chooses -- often topped by an engineer-style cap and offset by a necktie or skateboarding-style sneakers with spikes on the bottom.

Through multiple injuries, he has fared well enough in recent years to not have to worry about keeping his card, but not well enough to join the ranks of the elite, having finished 81st, 59th and 89th on the PGA Tour money list from 2006 to '08, respectively.

This season was looking like another solid-but-not-special campaign, as Moore was just below the seven-figure mark heading into Greensboro on the strength of three top-10 finishes, but had yet to seriously contend.

At Sedgefield, however, he shot a final-round 5-under 65 to reach a three-man playoff with Kevin Stadler and Jason Bohn, then went par-par-birdie to claim his first PGA Tour title. With it, Moore removes his name from the aforementioned list of best players without a win. And don't expect it to take another half-decade for him to claim the next one, either.

3 Michael Sim.

The good news for Sim? With his third Nationwide Tour victory of 2009, he earned a battlefield promotion to the PGA Tour on Sunday. The bad news? He won't be eligible to play in the big leagues for more than a month.

While there's never an unfortunate occasion to earn a battlefield promotion, Sim certainly didn't have the best timing in winning the Christmas in October Classic.

(And yes ... it's neither Christmas nor October right now, but that's the charitable organization which hosts the Kansas City-based event.)

Adding to titles at the Stonebrae Classic and BMW Charity Pro-Am earlier this season, the 24-year-old Aussie clinched his 2010 PGA Tour playing privileges by playing the final 45 holes this week in 14 under par without a single bogey. In the process, he became the first player in Nationwide history to eclipse the $500,000 mark in a single season.

As if that wasn't enough to prove his talent, consider this: Sim has already competed in two PGA Tour-sanctioned events this season, finishing T-18 at the U.S. Open and T-51 at the PGA Championship.

He won't be able to compete in his next event on the next level until after the FedEx Cup playoffs are complete, but you can bet Sim has Oct. 1 already circled on his calendar. That's when he can tee it up in the Turning Stone Resort Championship in his first official start as a PGA Tour member.

4 Justin Thomas.

Full disclosure: Prior to the Wyndham Championship, an AJGA media official contacted me via e-mail regarding Thomas, the 16-year-old junior player who was competing in his first PGA Tour event. The official offered up a phone interview with the youngster, to which I replied, "Sure, let's do it on Friday evening or Saturday after he's done with the tournament."

Justin Thomas

Chris Keane/Getty Images

By reaching the weekend at the Wyndham Championship, Justin Thomas, 16, became the third-youngest player in history to make a PGA Tour cut.

In the field at Sedgefield Country Club based on his recent AJGA Footjoy Invitational victory -- also held on the same course -- the talented Thomas figured to be a 36-hole competitor only. Nothing against the teen, but only Bob Panasik (1957 Canadian Open) and Tadd Fujikawa (2007 Sony Open) had ever made a PGA Tour cut at a younger age than his 16 years, 3 months and 23 days.

Instead, the kid from Kentucky shot 65-72 to reach the weekend -- and even hover around the leaderboard for awhile. A 71 in the third round left him on the wrong side of a second cut line.

I caught up with Thomas on Sunday afternoon, as his drive from Greensboro, N.C., was being delayed by a flat tire. "Not a good week for our car," he said while helping his dad, Mike, affix the spare. As for Justin himself? "It was the best week of my life."

Asked about the reaction he received from his fellow players, Thomas said, "It was neat. I was actually very surprised when they came up and said, 'Good job' and 'Congrats.' I thought they'd just be like, oh, some little 16-year-old is out here, so just ignore him."

Quite the contrary. While persistent weather delays wreaked havoc on the tournament, the opportunity to hang with the big boys in the locker room was actually a highlight for him.

"The rain delay taught me a lot," he said. "It was neat just to see all those guys during a rain delay. They're just normal guys. Lucas Glover and Sergio [Garcia], they're just like normal kids -- they were messing around the whole time. It was just a neat atmosphere."

The best part, though, was becoming a part of history -- right behind Panasik and Fujikawa.

"Now when some young kid makes a cut, the stats will pop up and my name will be on it," Thomas said. "That will be pretty cool."

Three down

5 Sergio Garcia.

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Sergio didn't win the Wyndham Championship on Sunday because down the stretch -- all together now! -- he couldn't make a putt.

That may not be the story of Garcia's life, but it has been the story of his decade. Really, though, what does it say about a guy who needed 31 total putts in the final round and nearly two per green in regulation -- resulting in a solo fourth finish, 1 shot out of the Ryan Moore/Kevin Stadler/Jason Bohn playoff -- that he could roll it so poorly and still place so high on the leaderboard?

Well, it tells us a lot, actually. Garcia, who hasn't won anywhere in the world since last year's Castello Masters in October, is once again hitting the ball as crisply as anyone out there and once again failed to garner the best results due to his inability to hole some birdie putts. Even so, this week's result should serve as a confidence builder for a guy who was previously 115th on the FedEx Cup points list.

As proof, note this example in the interview room prior to the opening round:

Q: You don't sound real happy about your game right now.
A: I'm not.

Q: Can you turn it around?
A: We'll see. Unfortunately, I don't know. I'll go to the teacher. We'll see.

Q: What have been the reasons for that?
A: Usually bad shots. That's the way it works. Bad swings.

Q: And then?
A: More bad swings.

Q: What do you think is going on?
A: Well, that's what I'm trying to figure out. If I knew, I would be playing well. So I'm trying to work on it and see if I can figure it out.

Sure sounds like a guy who would have been pleased with a fourth-place finish on Wednesday. Garcia still owns more talent than anyone in the game, as evidenced by his final-hole birdie attempt from the greenside bunker that came agonizingly close to finding the cup and giving him a spot in the playoff, but remained just inches from going in. If he can get the flatstick figured out, he'll win again before too long.

In fact, if past history is any indicator, PGA Tour win No. 8 may come very soon. Last year, he lost in playoffs at two of the four FedEx Cup events.

6 Carl Pettersson.

This week marked the one-year anniversary of Pettersson's victory at the Wyndham Championship, followed by a post-round plea in which he asked European Ryder Cup captain Nick Faldo to name him to the team.

"I'd love to play," Pettersson said at the time. "Nick, if you're watching, I'm a size 36 waist and extra-large shirt."

It would have been an unusual selection considering the man known as "the Swedish Redneck" was born in Scandinavia, but has lived in Greensboro, N.C. -- site of the Wyndham -- since the age of 15.

Needless to say, he wasn't named as a captain's pick -- and one year later, the defending champ has looked more like a defending chump, as Pettersson failed to even reach the opening round of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Though he made the cut at Sedgefield, where he serves on the board of directors, Pettersson shot 71-65-70-73 to finish just T-67. In 25 appearances this season, he has yet to finish higher than 17th -- and that result came in the limited-field season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship back in January -- while missing the cut on a dozen occasions and withdrawing twice.

What's been the major problem for Pettersson? He's mentioned recently that losing a bit of weight might be the culprit, but not the only issue he's facing.

"If I had better confidence in myself I probably would have shot one, two shots better each day," he said prior to the Wyndham. "This game is all about confidence. If you feel like you're going to do well, you're probably going to do well and I feel like my game is turning around and it just takes time, you know, to get that spring back in your step."

Not much to be confident about, really, when you check out his yearlong stats. Pettersson currently ranks 180th or worse in total driving, driving accuracy, greens in regulation, birdie average and scoring average.

7 Brandt Snedeker and Briny Baird.

It's a feat just to qualify for each of the majors in a single year, so Snedeker and Baird shouldn't feel too badly about being the only two players to compete in all four and miss the cut every time.

And it's not as if they were out there embarrassing themselves, either.

Snedeker shot 76-74 at the Masters, 71-75 at the U.S. Open, 72-77 at the British Open and 75-74 at the PGA Championship. Baird suffered the same fate while actually playing in four fewer strokes, going 73-75, 73-74, 72-75 and 76-74 at the same events.

They'd have some company if it wasn't for the fine print. Change the language in the opening paragraph of this section to read "fail to earn a paycheck" instead of "miss the cut" and Michael Campbell would have joined them. The 2005 U.S. Open champ MC'd at three majors and withdrew from the British Open after a first-round 78.

Three wishes

8 I wish there could be a Solheim Cup fourballs match that took less than six hours to play.

Rumor has it that Padraig Harrington, Bernhard Langer, Ben Crane and Glen "All" Day played a "quick" 18 in the time it took the ladies to make the turn at Rich Harvest Farms.

OK, so that's an exaggeration -- but not by much.

During a month in which slow play has been at the forefront of discussion, the two dozen Solheim competitors loitered near their golf balls, lingered over shots and lagged in their overall pace of play. It was enough to steal headlines from the actual daily results themselves, as one local newspaper referred to the tortoise-like proceedings as "SLOW-HEIM."

In a game that needs to be as fan-friendly as possible right now, the LPGA and Ladies European Tour players may have won over fans with their spirit and determination this week, but not by their pace of play.

I'm not asking players to rush their shots or play uncomfortably quick, but finishing holes in less than an average of 20 minutes per group would be beneficial.

9 I wish those who have been crowing about Europe's Solheim Cup team needing expansion to other parts of the world are now eating crow instead.

On paper, the Solheim Cup was a mismatch. Always is, really, although the inclusion of No. 1-ranked Annika Sorenstam has helped to level the playing field in past competitions.

With Annika both retired and pregnant, this year's squad included the likes of Gwladys Nocera, Tania Elosegui, Diana Luna and Becky Brewerton -- none of whom are higher than 125th in the Rolex Rankings.

Of course, if you haven't yet learned that mismatches don't mean anything in golf, then you likely haven't been watching the game for more than a week, dating all the way back to Y.E. Yang's improbable final-round victory over Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship.

And so we shouldn't be surprised that captain Alison Nicholas' squad gave the U.S. team everything it could handle at Rich Harvest Farms this week.

Sure, the matches failed to include 11 of the world's top 17 players -- including those from Mexico, China, Korea, Australia and Japan -- but that didn't take away from the competitiveness of the event; in fact, instilling such patriotism among those from only the same country or continent likely increases the intensity of the matches.

Besides, it's not as if the others don't get an opportunity to play in this type of event. Those from other nations have the Lexus Cup, which pits Asian-born players against those from other parts of the world -- although that tournament's future might be in doubt if the car company pulls its sponsorship for the 2010 event.

This most recent Solheim Cup should serve notice once again that tournament organizers have it right. Sure, there may be some very good players who aren't included, but that doesn't diminish the entertainment value.

10 I wish there hadn't been so much confusion regarding the Wyndham Championship cut line.

The standard rule at full-field PGA Tour events is that the top 70 players plus ties after 36 holes finish in the money and get to compete during the weekend.

In Greensboro, however, exactly 70 players were at 3-under-par or better at the midway point ... and 87 total competitors reached Round 3.

That's because one of the 70 -- 16-year-old Justin Thomas -- is an amateur. In a rule I'll admit to not previously knowing, a non-professional player does not count toward the number of players on the number. Since Thomas was one of the 70, he was excluded, meaning there were only 69 players inside the cut line, giving those at 2-under -- which included 17 more players -- a chance to compete in at least one more round.

That made a world of difference for the likes of Scott Gutschewski, Richard S. Johnson, Greg Owen, Billy Mayfair, J.P. Hayes, Greg Chalmers, James Driscoll and Bob Heintz -- each of whom went from trunk-slamming to making the second cut and earning a healthy paycheck.

No players, though, received as much of a boost as David Mathis and Todd Hamilton. At No. 126 on the FedEx Cup points list, Mathis finished T-17 to make the playoffs; Hamilton was 128th and finished T-24 to make his way into the Barclays field this week, as well.

Despite some confusion, there was nothing unethical about how the cut line developed, but it was certainly unusual.

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.


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11
For playoffs, 3rd time a charm?
12
Stat of the week

While the foursome of Angel Cabrera, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink and Y.E. Yang comprised the four major championship winners of 2009, none claimed the title of most consistent golfer throughout the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship.

To find out which player claimed this position, we must first start by examining those who not only competed in each of the four, but made the cut every time. This year's list includes a dozen players: Ross Fisher, Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Camilo Villegas, Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk, Kenny Perry, Kevin Sutherland, Sean O'Hair and Cabrera.

Over the course of 16 rounds, the man with the lowest total score in relation to par was Fisher, who was remarkably consistent during the season. He finished T-30 at Augusta National (1-under 287), solo fifth at Bethpage (1-under 279), T-13 at Turnberry (2-over 282) and T-19 at Hazeltine (2-over 290).

To what does the Englishman credit for his success?

"Crikey, if I knew what it was, that would be great," he said recently. "I mean, I guess I'm just getting more and more used to being in the major championships. ... It's still a learning experience for me, but I just love to compete and I love the big stage, and what better way to showcase yourself."

Hold that crikey, though, because Fisher isn't the only man who can lay claim to such honor. While he took the fewest total strokes at the majors, it was Stenson who had the best average result, with a T-28 at the Masters, solo ninth at the U.S. Open, T-13 at the British Open and T-6 at the PGA Championship. Those finishes gave the Swede an average placement of 16.5 on the leaderboard, squeaking him past the 16.75 mark for Fisher.

Of course, each one of 'em would trade those results with Cabrera, Glover, Cink or Yang for some major hardware of their own.

13
Stat of the year

From the time he earned his 14th major championship title until he claimed No. 15, Jack Nicklaus competed in 10 majors without a victory.

This one receives Stat of the Year honors for the way it relates to a certain No. 1-ranked player.

Nicklaus was 35 when he took the 1975 PGA Championship title, then didn't win a big one again until the 1978 British Open before following with three more to finish with 18 for his career.

At 33, Tiger Woods has been "stuck" on 14 for four consecutive majors -- let's not count those in which he didn't play due to injury last year -- ever since winning last year's U.S. Open. If TW is to match Jack's midcareer winless streak, that would mean no more wins until the 2011 British Open, provided he competes in every one until then.

The moral of the story is that while it's easy to criticize Woods for his current -- dare I say it? -- slump, only the final tally will matter. Few remember Jack's drought and chances are, few will recall Tiger's current absence from the major championship winner's circle in the long run, too.

14
Tweet, tweet ...

In this space previously devoted to "Swing Thoughts," let me offer up some of my 140-character-or-less statements from Twitter-land (username JasonSobel) during the past week ...

• Michelle Wie went 3-0-1 at the Solheim and was a great teammate, yet grown men will still find reason to criticize her for ... something. ...

• Ah, those Ryder Cup memories: Seeing Chris Riley's name atop the leaderboard always induces yawning and a long nap on the couch. ...

• I once rode a bus through NYC while sitting next to Tiger Woods. I think he'll have a better mode of transportation at next week's Barclays. ...

• I know women sometimes like to share clothes, but the U.S. (blue) and the Euros (white) look like they dressed in the wrong locker rooms. ...

• Y.E. Yang = Todd Hamilton. Both played Asian Tour, went to Q-school, won Honda, beat an elite player in a major. And nice guys. ...

• Cash4Gold estimates Wanamaker Tropy meltdown value at $5,500. Memo to Y.E.: Keep the trophy! ...

• U.S. [Presidents Cup] team remains as is, with Kim and Leonard in final two spots. If Glover isn't picked, Freddie should have his captain's license revoked. ...

• Mike Reid won the Jeld-Wen Tradition today, which I believe is the ninth and final major on the Champions Tour schedule this season. ...

• History lesson: Ryan Moore becomes the first player to win a PGA Tour event while wearing Ricky Barnes' hat.

15
Onward to East Lake

I had the fortunate opportunity to tee it up at the venerable site of the Tour Championship this past week and can safely report that one of the PGA Tour's most underrated annual venues is toughening up quite nicely in advance of next month's FedEx Cup finale.

That's positive news, as was the announcement made prior to this season in regard to a third consecutive different playoff format in the third year of the playoff system.

In case you missed it -- or just have trouble recalling the changes that were implemented on Nov. 25 -- here's a primer, direct from Ponte Vedra Beach:

• Shifting the points reset from the beginning of the playoffs to after the BMW Championship, which means points earned during the PGA Tour regular season will be carried through the first three playoff events.

• Quintupling points awarded at playoff tournaments relative to regular-season tournaments.

• Changing the field size of the playoff events to 125 at The Barclays, 100 at the Deutsche Bank Championship, 70 at the BMW Championship and 30 at the Tour Championship; they previously were 144, 120, 70 and 30.

What does it all mean? Just because Tiger Woods holds a major advantage entering the playoffs doesn't mean he'll likely win it all, as happened in Year 1. By the same token, just because he holds a major advantage entering the playoffs doesn't mean it will all be for naught, as would have been the case in Year 2.

In 2007, Woods all but had things wrapped up entering the last week and there was certainly no drama going into the final day. In '08, Vijay Singh needed only to finish his last round while upright in order to receive the trophy a few hours before the last group finished up.

Somewhere between too hot and too cold in the first two years, the PGA Tour number-crunchers are hoping the porridge tastes just right this time around.

We've been promised that any player in the top five of the standings entering the Tour Championship will take the FedEx Cup with a win at the event, which at least sounds more alluring than the previous prospects. And for those who continue to bash the playoff system itself, allow me to proffer this reminder: Prior to 2007, you weren't watching much late-season golf and most of the game's top players weren't competing, so it still beats the alternative.

16
On the hot seat

When last we saw Roland Thatcher, he was earning a career-best second-place finish at the Buick Open, one in which he finished so early that he was nearly off the course by the time eventual winner Tiger Woods had teed off the first hole.


It was at that tournament where Thatcher was paired with Y.E. Yang two weeks prior to his victory over Woods at the PGA Championship.

During the Wyndham Championship -- where he shot 73-68 to miss the cut -- I spoke with Thatcher about finishing second to Woods, what he saw in Yang and the upcoming FedEx playoffs.

Q: Going back to the Buick Open a few weeks ago, I kept expecting them to show you on the range, working on your game for hours in hopes of a playoff with Tiger.
A: Yeah, I was in jeans a T-shirt, hanging out in the caddie tent, watching the rest of the tournament. I was fairly confident that my day was over. Although I hadn't left the golf course, I hadn't exactly started mentally preparing for a playoff.

Q: Is it more palatable losing to him as opposed to coming in second place to somebody else?
A: You know, I think it is. I hope it's not the highlight of my career, but if it is, it would be cool to tell the story someday that my best finish on the PGA Tour was a second place and the only guy to beat me was the best ever. That's a great feeling.

Like I said, I hope that's just a stepping-stone to greater things for me, but to lose to the best in the world when you're out there doing it is certainly not a bad way to end the week.

Q: And you played with Y.E. Yang in the third round. I'm sure you saw greatness in him and knew he was going to win a major two weeks later, right?
A: I think I remember calling you up immediately and saying, "Put this guy down for the PGA Championship. It's guaranteed." No, Y.E. is a good player. I enjoyed playing with him. He plays solid, he plays efficiently, but I can't say I had him on my short list to win the PGA. That's why they play the tournament.

Q: Does it instill more confidence in you, as a guy who isn't necessarily an elite player, when you see a guy like that win? Does it show that the depth is so great that anyone out there can win a big one?
A: I think it definitely does. If you're in the field now, you've got a chance of winning. I don't know if that was necessarily the case in years past, but if you're in the field at a major and you manage to control the golf part of it and the mental part of it for that week, then you've got a chance to make history and I think that's what keeps showing.

I mean, this year I don't think anyone had any of the four major champions on their list heading into that week, so I think that's what really separates this era of golf compared with years past.

Q: Let's talk playoffs. How important is it for you to make the playoffs?
A: You know, it would be huge for me personally. It will give me an opportunity to get out ahead for the final money list this year. If I get a chance to play the playoffs and play deep into it -- you know, two or three tournaments in -- I can make money while everyone else who is trying to earn their card is sitting home.

So for me personally, it's going to be huge. It would be a big advantage to make not just that first playoff event, but two or three of them.

Editor's note: After the Wyndham Championship, Thatcher finished 122nd in FedEx Cup points to reach the field at this week's first playoff event, The Barclays.

Q: How often are you looking at that FedEx Cup list and evaluating what you need to accomplish to get up there?
A: I was certainly paying more attention after the Buick. Before that, it wasn't really on my radar screen, but that definitely put me in position to start paying attention to it and I'm going to be watching it really intently this weekend.

Q: Now that Tiger is going to play The Barclays for the first time in the FedEx Cup, does that mean you're playing for second or are you going to try to pull a Y.E. and beat him this time?
A: [Laughs] I've got to make the weekend first before I start worrying about taking down Tiger down the stretch, but I think he's definitely going to be the favorite out there. I can tell you one thing: If you end up finishing ahead of Tiger on the leaderboard, there's a pretty good chance nobody else is going to be finishing in front of you, either.

17
From the inbox

This week's e-mail comes from David in St. Paul, Minn.:

How soon before we start talking about the heavyweight rematch between Y.E. Yang and Tiger Woods at the Presidents Cup?

The biennial competition between the United States' best players and those from "the rest of the world excluding Europe" pales in comparison to the Ryder Cup in most ways, but one aspect is much more appealing.

At the Ryder Cup, each captain simply puts his players in order and lets the chips fall as they may, with matchups shaking out based solely on placement in the lineup. At the Presidents Cup, however, the captains name their players in sort of a fantasy draft-style format, with one listing a player, then the other countering by naming his opponent.

It adds more strategy and intrigue to the proceedings, giving the rest of us a glimpse at which players really want to take on their hefty counterparts. Four years ago, Fred Couples wanted to play Vijay Singh; he beat him. Two years ago, Mike Weir wanted Woods; he beat him, too.

Directly after winning the PGA Championship in a head-to-head final-round pairing with Tiger, Yang was asked about the possibility of a rematch.

"Never again," he said with a laugh. "I would like to stay as the guy who won over Tiger at the PGA Championship, and that's about it. No redos."

That may be the case, but don't be surprised if the prospect of putting a one-time Tiger conqueror up against America's top player in singles at Harding Park is too much to resist for International captain Greg Norman.

Got a question for the W18? Hit me at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com or on Twitter at JasonSobel.

18
And the winner is ...

In trying to predict a champion for this week's edition of The Barclays, the last thing we should examine is results from previous versions of this event. Held at Westchester CC from the tourney's inception in 1967 through 2007, it moved to Ridgewood CC last year and will be hosted for the first time at posh Liberty National starting Thursday.

Among the expectations for this week's event: Tiger Woods' best finish since 2003 (OK, it's his only finish here since '03, the last time he competed in what was then the Buick Classic), rapidly updating "projected" FedEx Cup standings (which mean oh-so-much on a Thursday morning) and approximately 679 shots of the Statue of the Liberty (which is visible from a handful of holes on the course).

After that, it's tough to know what will take place. I received an advanced preview of this venue one day after last year's Barclays was completed and can report that it's a links-style course on which accuracy will prevail over length. Don't be surprised if some of the players on the leaderboard in Greensboro are up there once again, while a few Europeans and Aussies will also rely on their experience at this type of track. And yes, despite his MC at Turnberry, Tiger Woods still reigns as the world's pre-eminent links player.

With all of this in mind, I'm going with a guy who is long overdue to cash in with a big victory. My pick to win is Jim Furyk, who hasn't seen the inside of a winner's circle since the 2007 Canadian Open.