Golf’s playoff season begins this week, consisting of three cut-down tournaments to arrive at 30 survivors playing for a Powerball-like payoff at East Lake.
OK, well, give it time.
While the tension verrrrrry slowly builds, the golfing press can use these next few days to perfect the spelling of “Schniederjans.” They just might need to deploy the name again very soon.
As in Ollie Schniederjans, the former Georgia Tech player by way of Powder Springs who did some impressive vaulting Sunday. He stuck his landing with a final-round 64 at the Wyndham Championship for his best-ever finish as a pro – a very determined second. And as a result made a huge jump in the FedEx Cup points standings, climbing 35 spots from No. 74 to No. 39.
Maybe professional golf and auto racing have yet to tap into the full tingle that is the postseason. The road to the Tour Championship, Sept. 21-24 at East Lake, is not exactly as harrowing as those that wend their way to Super Bowls and Final Fours. Their intrigues are more subtle, often requiring a calculator and some fancy formulas to fully reveal themselves.
But at least Schniederjans is absolutely jazzed. As least we must assume he is. He is by nature a golfing stoic, one of those players who corks up the wide array of emotions the game provokes behind a mostly unchanging expression. His game face is as steely as any of his clubfaces. But even he couldn’t resist some fiery fist-pumping after making a 40-foot birdie putt on the 17th Sunday.
This was one of those runner-up finishes that deserves some kind of trophy. Schniederjans shot 21-under in the tournament. He was bogey-free Sunday and birdied three of his last four holes. His approach to No. 18 came within a chin whisker of going in. And he finished behind one tough Swede, the even more stoic Henrik Stenson.
With his victory, Stenson, the 2013 FedEx Cup champion, made the big move in points, taking the express elevator from 75th to 23rd.
Movement at the top was non-existent – Nos. 1 through 19 remained locked in place from last week. The top five – Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler – have all the name recognition the PGA Tour could hope for. Masters champion Sergio Garcia is 22nd in FedEx points entering the playoffs. U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is seventh.
At last report, defending FedEx Cup champion Rory McIlroy (44th) intended to play next week in New York, despite a rib injury that has nagged him through the late season.
All the dramatic movement occurred down where the bubble players lived. A hole-in-one Sunday helped propel Martin Flores up 21 spots to No. 118. Harold Varner III, the lone African American active on the PGA Tour, needed to shoot 69 Sunday and finish T-10 to finish off a 15-position climb that left him barely in at No. 123.
Top 125 made it to the first tier of the playoffs – to be cut down stage by stage to 100 then 70 then 30. To begin with, both Georgia (with seven players) and Georgia Tech (four) will be well and truly represented in the playoffs.