News & Opinion

Best FedEx Cup finish? These 2 saves make big splashes

FedEx Cup playoffs trophy
The PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup

John Hawkins likes Jim Furyk’s bunker save to win the 2010 title, but Mike Purkey points to the splash that Bill Haas made en route to the 2011 FedEx Cup trophy and a 7-figure payday

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Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey, who co-host the weekly Hawk & Purk podcast on MorningRead.com, also discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.

Which year produced the best FedEx Cup playoff finish?
There isn’t a lot to choose from here, because the series is just 13 years old, but the 2010 overall champion wasn’t decided until the final hole. Jim Furyk’s par save from a greenside bunker at East Lake’s par-3 18th (now the ninth) was more clutch than spectacular, but when you’ve got $10 million on the line, just getting the ball out of the sand is something of an accomplishment.

This was the PGA Tour’s fourth version of a postseason, back when there was still a ton of tinkering going on with the format. The Tour desperately wanted its big-name players to compete in all four events, so it rigged the mathematical formula to make it very difficult for anyone who skipped a week to walk away with the grand prize.

Go figure. Furyk’s cellphone ran out of juice the night before the pro-am of the first playoff tilt. He overslept and missed his early-morning tee time, and thus, was disqualified from the field in New Jersey. The DQ dropped Furyk from third to 11th in the standings, a spot he still occupied at the start of the Tour Championship a month later.

The fact that a guy could jump from outside the top 10 to become the overall champ in just 72 holes speaks to the numerous loopholes in the FedEx Cup postseason format, some of which still remain. That said, Furyk’s bunker blast to 2 feet remains the signature swing in the playoffs’ limited history.

Purk’s take: Any number of shots on the PGA Tour have become iconic. Jack Nicklaus’ shot at the par-13 16th in the final round of the 1986 Masters; Tiger Woods’ chip-in at the same hole in 2005; Woods’ fairway bunker shot at the 18th hole at the 2000 Canadian Open come immediately to mind.

But another shot belongs on that list, and not just because it was instrumental in a big tournament. This one, every time TV shows it, elicits the same response from rank-and-file amateur golfers: “How did he do that?”

We are talking about Bill Haas and the shot he hit beside the 17th green during a playoff for the Tour Championship in 2011. The ball was half-submerged in the lake that bordered the green. Haas stepped in, played it like a bunker shot and the ball finished within 3 feet of the hole. Haas would go on to beat Hunter Mahan on the third hole of that playoff to win the Tour Championship and the $10 million bonus for also claiming the FedEx Cup.

Haas came into the week 25th on the points list, and because the formula was much more convoluted back then, a complicated set of events had to occur for Haas to win the cup. And while Haas’ shot might not be the greatest or the most difficult, no doubt it will stand as one of the most remembered.

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