Date: August 21, 2013
Author: Martin Blake /

Presidents Cup on mind as Aussies begin playoffs

Adam Scott and Jason Day, in particular, have their eyes on the richest prize in golf this week, a cool $10 million. Marc Leishman, another of the 10 Australians in the field for the Barclays Championship, the first of four playoff tournaments to complete the PGA Tour season, has secondary motivation. Leishman, 29, has had a big week, with his American wife Audrey delivering a second son, Oliver. The timing was excellent. The Victorian had said he might have to pull out of the recent PGA Championship if the birth had occurred; as it happened, he was allowed to play and finished an impressive tied-12th, his third big result in a fine season. Now his focus will return to golf with not only the Fedex Cup playoffs on his mind, but spots in two, big events to be won. Leishman is ranked 12th among International players for the Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village in Ohio in October, the third Australian in the mix behind Scott (1) and Day (4). International team captain Nick Price will have 10 automatic picks which clearly will include Scott and Day, and another two discretionary selections after the September 2 cut-off date. Leishman can launch himself into the team for the first time with strong results over the next month. He’s got one eye on that, Denis McDade, Leishman s longtime coach, told week. I think he has been looking at the World Cup as well. The World Cup of golf is at Royal Melbourne in November with two men to represent Australia, and the pairing has not been named yet. Plainly Leishman, ranked 63rd in the world, would love to make that team, and he has a chance. McDade, who believes Leishman can be a world top-10 player, says his performance at the Masters at Augusta National he led through the first round and ended up tied-fourth behind Scott has injected his pupil with confidence that can take him forward. There s no doubt it s different once you think you can, said McDade. It’s a long step forward. There s a belief now that I m good enough . He knows that he’s good enough now. As for this weekend, it kicks off there are the four, separate tournaments that make up the tour playoffs, beginning with the Barclays in New Jersey beginning Thursday night (Australian time). As a stand-alone tournament it is worth $US8 million, with the top 125 on the Fedex Cup points list offered a start. Americans Zac Johnson and Steve Stricker have withdrawn, Johnson because he is best man at his brother s wedding, and Stricker because he is injured, leaving a 123-man field at Liberty National Golf Club. That number will be trimmed to the top 70 next week for the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston, all of which means that the likes of Ogilvy (99th on the points table), Greg Chalmers (122) and Stuart Appleby (123) will need a fast start in New Jersey to make it through to next week. Another Australian worth following is Matt Jones, the 33-year-old Sydneysider who moved to the US college system a decade ago and who is having his best season on tour. Jones flew home with a 62 to finish tied-fifth in the Wyndham Championship last weekend; he has had four top-10 finishes in the past few weeks and comes into the Barclays with some of the best form by an Aussie. But it is Scott and Day who have carried the flag best in 2013. Scott s world ranking is 4 and he seems to at least contend every other week with his peerless ball-striking. Day has been sound all season without winning, for the second year in a row. He is due. Scott has finally had the chance to celebrate his Masters triumph along with his friend, the US Open champion Justin Rose. In their early days as professionals they had a bet that whoever won a major first would contribute half the winner s cheque to a party. Last Saturday night they adjourned to the Albany Country Club in the Bahamas, where they both have homes, and carried out their wishes. “When we made that bet, the cheque wasn&apost quite as big,” Scott told recently. “But I think he&aposs on the hook for it, too, and I guess I&aposm on the hook for it.” The four tournaments culminate in the Tour Championship in Atlanta from September 19, a 30-player field and an event won by Scott in 2006. It is also in Atlanta that the Fedex Cup will be decided, the top player over the whole season winning a $US10 million bonus fund. No Australian has threatened to win that, and Tiger Woods starts with a big advantage having won five tournaments this season. In the past three years, the Tour Championship winner also won the Fedex Cup Jim Furyk (2010), Bill Haas (2011) and Brandt Snedeker (2012). It is the seventh year of the Fedex Cup, introduced by the PGA Tour as an intended climax of the season, a kind of footy finals series. With the points reset after the third playoff event, the system allows the top five in Atlanta to have a chance of winning the main prize. The sprint is on. AUSTRALIANS IN THE PLAYOFFS Player (FedEx Cup Ranking) Adam Scott 11 Jason Day 14 Matt Jones 37 Marc Leishman 69 Geoff Ogilvy 99 John Senden 105 Aaron Baddeley 119 Steven Bowditch 120 Greg Chalmers 122 Stuart Appleby 123 THE TOURNAMENTS This week: The Barclays, Liberty National GC, New Jersey (top 125 players) Next week: Deutsche Bank Championship, TPC Boston (top 100 players) September 12-15: BMW Championship, Conway Farms GC, Chicago (top 70 players) September 19-22 Tour Championship, East Lake GC, Atlanta (top 30 players).