Tiger Woods won his sixth consecutive stroke-play event, and he did it in convincing fashion. The race for the player of the year award was over a month ago, and Tiger really has nothing left to prove in 2006. We will probably see him one more time on the PGA Tour this season.
That one start will be the season-ending Tour Championship. That also leads me right into this week's topic. Tiger may have nothing left to prove, but that's not the case for so many outside the top 30 on the money list. The golfers outside the top 30 want to make one last push to get into the grand finale. Playing in the Tour Championship can make or break a season for many of the world's best.
Look at Ernie Els, for example. The Big Easy hasn't played all that well this season, but he has turned it on a little over the past couple months. Els was sitting near 50th place on the money list before the British Open. He sucked it up, finished high in a few big tournaments, and is currently in 28th. Can he maintain his position in the top 30? We will have to wait and see.
There are four events remaining on the PGA Tour schedule before the Tour Championship. Anyone in the top 50 or 60 can virtually clinch a spot with a victory at one of the final four tournaments. That's obviously easier said than done, however. I've picked out four guys currently below the top 30 who have a real shot at making a move over the final month, so let's get started.
Picking Steve Stricker to finish in the top 30 isn't necessarily going out on a limb, but he is currently on the outside looking in. Stricker is playing on a one-time exemption this season, and he has made the most of it. I was surprised to see he has seven top-10 finishes in 2006, most of those since the U.S. Open in June.
Stricker had a legitimate shot to win at Winged Foot, and he has carried a lot of momentum since then. In fact, Stricker has finished in the top 10 in his last four starts. This includes a tie for seventh at The PGA Championship, tie for seventh at The Deutsche Bank Championship, and a tenth-place finish at the Canadian Open.
Steve Stricker has already wrapped up the award for comeback player of the year, but he would probably enjoy a spot in the Tour Championship as well. He is currently 32nd on the money list and should end up in the top 30 when all is said and done.
Sergio Garcia has had a quiet year by his standards. People will always remember his performance at this year's Ryder Cup, but his performance in stroke-play events hasn't been very consistent. Garcia was really struggling until his tie for fifth at The British Open.
The 2006 season would have been a lost cause for Garcia if it weren't for the high finish at Hoylake. Even then, he had a chance to win before crumbling in true Sergio fashion on Sunday. The young Spaniard kept his head high and finished in a tie for third at The PGA Championship as well.
Sergio stated at The Ryder Cup that he wants to play in The Tour Championship, so he better get busy. Garcia still has some work to do because he is currently 41st on the money list. He has played respectably over the past couple months, and he has a decent chance of making enough money to get into the season finale if he plays in one or two more events.
Ian Poulter is the wild card on this list. I have no knowledge of whether he will be playing in any more PGA Tour events or not. Poulter has flown under the radar the second half of the season, but he is playing as well as anyone not named Tiger. The flashy Englishman won a couple weeks ago in Madrid, and his recent PGA Tour record speaks for itself.
Since June, Poulter has played in six tournaments on the PGA Tour. Out of those six, five have resulted in top-15 finishes. These finishes include a tie for 12th at Winged Foot, a tie for ninth at Medinah, and a tie for second at the WGC-American Express Championship this past week.
Ian Poulter is one of the most underrated golfers in the world, and these high finishes as of late aren't in cupcake tournaments. His mental and physical game is suited for the tough events, and he has some major championship victories in his future. If Poulter plays in one or two PGA Tour events in the next month, he will make it to The Tour Championship. He is currently 42nd on the money list.
Justin Rose has come out of nowhere over the past month. Rose has had the hype surrounding him before, but he hasn't quite lived up to it. Over the past four tournaments, however, he has shown signs of things to come. The youngster has made a little over $1.3 million this season, and about half of that has come since the start of September.
Rose is currently 54th on the money list, so he has to win a tournament or card a few top-10 finishes. Over the past month or so, he has shown he is capable of high finishes. Rose has had the tendency of starting strong and finishing weak, and that will definitely have to change over the final four events.
With a lot of big names taking time off before the season's final event, Justin Rose has a solid chance of making a final run to The Tour Championship. He might surprise some people and get the job done.
The Final Say
This time next season, we won't be talking about the race to The Tour Championship. The new FedEx Cup will end in September, and the quest for the card (or "Fall Finish") will be the order of the day. I don't mind the season being shortened for the world's best, but I also enjoy this final chase to make it into the top 30.
Charles Howell III, my favorite golfer, made a run last year to get into The Tour Championship. He was outside the top 40 going into the last month before finishing high in his last few tournaments to earn his spot. It can be done, and it will be interesting to see who plays the final month and who doesn't. That will be one of the many deciding factors.
Now it's your turn to voice your opinion. Who would you like to see make a final run for The Tour Championship? Also, should the season finale be a goal for most of the golfers on the PGA Tour? If you have anything to add, feel free to comment below or discuss it in the forum. Thanks for reading this week's Thrash Talk!