Forget the $10 Million, Who’s Going to Move the Needle?

On Sunday, someone will emerge from the Tour Championship as the FedEx Playoff champ. But, where will he rank on the First Annual Thrash Talk “It” Index?

Thrash TalkI’ve learned a few lessons since taking on the Thrash Talk column at the start of the 2010 season. The one you guys have driven home the hardest is that Steve Stricker’s got a lot of defenders out there. I know because each time I call him boring, Señor Snooze, or drier than white bread, a commenter reminds me that I’m an idiot.

As I started looking at the field for this week’s Tour Championship, I realized that I’ve got a snap judgment of each guy in the field. Are they compelling, engaging, exciting? Do they move the needle? Say their name and is it goosebumps or yawns?

Put it all together and here you have it, the FedExCup Top 30, as they rack up in what I best describe as the “It” Index.

TRUE Linkswear Launches Tour Golf Shoe

Newcomer TRUE Linkswear’s new shoe comes to market with Ryan Moore among their already satisfied customers.

Bag DropEvery so often, we cover products from new companies that might not be everyone’s “cup of tea,” for lack of a better term. When you step back and look at it from a wider perspective, aren’t all products in golf like that? Do we all play the same ball, or the same irons, or wear the same clothes? Of course not. That’s just one of the many aspects of the game that we love that makes it unique. We have the ability to personalize and choose equipment, and apparel especially, to express ourselves and our personalities in a way that our uniformed counterparts in other sports cannot.

One of the PGA Tour’s obvious examples of this is Ryan Moore, who’s style is certainly is one of the most talked about. New to Moore’s sartorial choices is golf shoes shoes from TRUE linkswear. The Dallas-based company consists of golfers who are truly passionate about their product. In fact, in every job description in the company is a requirement to play 18 holes every week, in the name of product testing. To say that I’m jealous would be an incredible understatement. Anyway, enough groveling in my envy, let’s take a look at the new shoes from TRUE Linkswear.

TaylorMade Releases New Burner 2.0 Irons

TaylorMade builds off of the success of 2009’s Burner irons with the updated Burner 2.0.

Bag DropTaylorMade‘s new lineup is starting to trickle out, and it looks to improve on a number of things from last year. Of course, it’s easy to make the joke “well don’t they do that every few months anyway?”, but no one can say that they don’t put out something to fit just about everyone’s game.

Last year, their game improvement offering was the Burner irons, and then earlier this year, they dropped the Burner SuperLaunch irons, which were made with max game improvement in mind. Now they’ve turned their attention again back to the original Burner irons, and made a number of functional and cosmetic changes that promote improvements in distance, accuracy, and appearance. The result is the new Burner 2.0 irons.

I Took the Forward Tees Challenge

As part of The Sand Trap’s experiment, I ditched the tips for a day. I was licking my chops and was raring to go. It was fun, but boy was it a debacle!

Thrash TalkThe idea is beautiful in its simplicity, and genius in how many layers it can peel back. It’s called the Forward Tees Tournament and it’s taking place next weekend at your home course. Just as the name says, everyone plays from the shortest set of tees their home course provides. Before you head out, you post your expectations.

I call tell you from experience, it’s going to open your eyes. And maybe not in a good way.

I’d like to call the FTT less of a golf skills event and more of a golf intervention. Stripped of a big course rating, a yardage that measures near 7,000, and standing where Mr. and Mrs. Havercamp normally tee off, you’ve got to be oozing confidence. I know I was. Until I realized all the flaws that show up from the tips just might rear their heads from the senior tees.

Loving the Much Maligned PGA Playoffs

How can people rip on a series of events that extend our golf season with meaningful tournaments featuring the best players in the world?

Thrash TalkI’m baffled by all the negative press the FedExCup gets. As a golf fan, why wouldn’t I want an extra month of meaningful golf, with the best players on the PGA Tour competing for a huge purse, and bringing golf to some of the biggest media markets in the country?

For years, the golf season effectively started at the Masters and ended at the PGA. But the introduction of the PGA playoffs offers up golf straight through September.

Tiger Will Own 2011

He may not win in 2010, but watch out in 2011 as Tiger will come roaring back.

Thrash TalkI’m glad to hear that it’s “okay to root for Tiger Woods again” because, if nothing else, it signals a return to stories about Tiger being about golf and not about his marriage, his kids, his infidelity, his temper tantrums on the course, and a whole bunch of other stuff that I don’t really care about.

We recently asked people in the forum to predict Tiger’s 2011 season, and as I write this 25% of people think Tiger will continue his major-less streak in 2011. 43% think he’ll win a lone major, and 23% think he’ll win two or more. In regular PGA Tour events, only 9% think he’ll go winless, while 40% think he’ll win one to three and another 25% think he’ll win four or more.

My votes? I picked two majors and 4-6 regular PGA Tour wins, and here’s why. In 2011, Tiger Woods will have the emotional wreckage of his broken infidelity and subsequent divorce behind him, he’ll have incorporated enough of new instructor Sean Foley’s methods to get his swing back, and he’ll be eager to prove that he can still be dominant. Let’s look at each of these.

Birdies, Blunders Create Year’s Best Tourney: PGA 2010

On a course that’s hard to love, the players put on a show that even a German robot champion couldn’t ruin. Dustin’s debacle only added to the spectacle at Whistling Straits.

Thrash TalkYou won’t hear me saying the PGA is the forgotten major ever again, not after the 2010 rendition served up the most exciting tournament of the season. From the breaking news before play even began to the statement made by a crop of young soon-to-be superstars, there was so much to love even before you add in the biggest rules blunder of our generation.

A sensational course setup that encouraged risk-reward golf proved that a links-style design that looks about as authentic as a Disney World jungle can still provide the stage for exciting, compelling, nail-biting golf.

Whistling Straits and the PGA of America put on such a memorable tournament, even the bland as white bread champion couldn’t spoil the week.

Staff Predictions: PGA Championship 2010

Golf-crazed Wisconsin and Whistling Straits host this week’s PGA Championship, with plenty of story lines, most notably the struggles of the world’s top two players.

Thrash TalkWoe is Tiger, he’s coming off his worst tournament as a professional, he’s barely going to qualify for the FedEx Cup, and he’ll likely need to be a Ryder Cup captain’s pick. He’s struggling so badly, even the bookmakers have dropped him to double digit odds to win (12-1).

Woe is Phil, he’s had a summer full of chances to take over as the world’s number one golfer, yet balky play and a bout of psoriatic arthritis have kept him in his comfortable spot of second banana. He’s got a major on his 2010 resume, but that’s really the only highlight of his season.

With the game’s elite struggling (including world number three Lee Westwood, who withdrew with a leg injury), is now the time Steve Stricker steps to the forefront, in his home state to boot? Will it be one of the upstarts such as Rory McIlroy, Ryo Ishikawa or Ricky Fowler?

Manufactured Drama: The Tour’s Unhealthy Obsession With “Going Low”

Without Tiger Woods in the mix, the PGA Tour needs to generate some excitement and get golf into the headlines. Cue the birdies.

Thrash TalkGoing low is all the rage, as the magic number has been achieved or threatened near weekly this summer. It was fun at first, but now it’s obscene. There’s no question the spate of birdie binges is a result of a concerted effort to inject life into the low-level Tour stops. We all know how good these guys are. How about a bit of a test tossed into their 18-hole afternoons?

As with all sports, golf’s all about the drama. When the world’s best are dueling down the stretch, that’s exciting. When they’re facing the challenge of battling themselves, holding a big lead or charging from behind, there’s a story to be told, a reason to root. But when the game is lacking any compelling story lines, what’s left? Who can make 10 birdie putts vs. who can make 11 birdie putts? It’s fake, it’s a fraud, it’s manufactured drama.