ATLANTA -- Prior to Sunday afternoon, the last time two different players won the FedEx Cup and Tour Championship titles on the same day was 2009, when Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson posed for some awkward post-round photos with their respective trophies.
Times have changed.
Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele, two members of the high school Class of 2011, each won at the season finale -- Thomas the playoff triumph and $10 million, Schauffele the tourney victory. Ballots were sent to PGA Tour members on Sunday evening, and they'll soon be named Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year, respectively, and rightfully so.
This edition of the Weekly 18 will examine the past week and the next week, but starts with a bigger story in the news.
1. I'll get to the FedEx Cup and the Presidents Cup and other golf notes shortly, but I'm going to begin the W18 with the most polarizing story in sports right now -- and how it hasn't seeped into this specific one. On Sunday, hundreds of NFL players reacted to Presidents Trump's recent comments by kneeling or sitting during the national anthem. They spoke out against him on social media and during postgame interviews. NBA players have similarly addressed their displeasure, and Major League Baseball players have started to join them. There have been few such protests -- at least not publicly and loudly -- in golf. (I'll get to one of them.) Yes, the game is more homogeneous than most other professional sports, and its top players lean toward the right politically more than others. Golf is also often slower to adapt to social causes. Whether that's because of sponsor pressure or the individual nature of the game or anything else, it's tough to say. Despite the president's many connections to golf and despite the fact that no outward, inside-the-ropes protests have taken place yet, that doesn't mean it won't -- or can't -- happen.
2. I believe some of this has to do with the fact that there's no official start to each tournament. There's no anthem that plays at the beginning of each round, signifying a moment to ponder current events. Well, that changes this week at the perhaps-ironically named Presidents Cup, which will indeed feature that type of ceremonial opening. Do I know of any players planning a public display during this time? No. Do I think it will happen? Again, probably not. But at least this coming week, unlike all of the others, will provide an opportunity for such actions, should a player want to join the movement being seen in other sports. Which means it bears watching during the opening ceremonies.
3. I spoke with Rickie Fowler, a guy who enjoys representing his country so much that he had the Olympic rings tattooed on his forearm, about why such protests don't occur in golf and whether anything might happen at the Presidents Cup. "I don't see it being a big issue next week with either team," he said. "I don't think there's ever going to be a situation where I don't recognize the national anthem. There's a lot that went into giving us the freedom. I'm not saying guys can't do that, that's their freedom of speech, they have the right to do that. For me, personally, being around Butch [Harmon], someone who fought in Vietnam, the flag represents a lot. I'm going to pay respect to the people who gave us our rights and our freedom." As for his reaction if one of his teammates or opposing players chose to protest, he added, "I'll stand and do my thing. No hard feelings against them. Like I said, it's everyone's right, freedom of speech -- to a certain extent -- but it won't change anything for me."
4. On most weeks, PGA Tour players aren't questioned about political beliefs or social issues. Those queries don't often interrupt the ones about whether that was a 7-iron or 8-iron that was hit to 10 feet on the 14th hole. Well, this isn't most weeks. The honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup (like every other edition of the event on U.S. soil) is the president himself. And though he isn't expected to be on-site, that detail coupled with the fact that it's being played in the shadows of the New York City media market, should portend a different line of questioning for players -- one that might elicit some surprising answers.
5. Slowly, responses from golfers have started to trickle in. Peter Malnati, who won on the PGA Tour last season, posted this tweet Sunday morning. Whether you agree with him or not, it's impossible to argue that he doesn't come across as well-spoken and well-intentioned. We'll see if other professional golfers follow suit.
— Peter Malnati (@PeterMalnati) September 24, 2017
6. On to the Tour Championship, where Schauffele prevailed with a nervy final-hole birdie putt that "did a ring around the rosie," as he later said, before dropping into the cup. His final payday on Sunday alone was more than $3.5 million in FedEx Cup and tourney earnings -- a nice little raise from the $149,292 that he made on the Web.com Tour last year. "I really have no idea what I'm going to do with it, to be completely honest," said the 23-year-old. "Going to have to go to the drawing boards on that one."
7. Last year, the powers-that-be who preside over the U.S. Ryder Cup team saved their final wild-card selection for after the Tour Championship and picked Ryan Moore, who lost in a Sunday playoff, then claimed the clinching point one week later. If such a rule was in place for the Presidents Cup, you have to wonder if Schauffele would've gotten a pick over Charley Hoffman, who finished T-28, or Phil Mickelson, who wasn't in the field.
8. Decent season for Thomas, huh? He didn't quite reach all of the goals he set for himself, but check out what he did accomplish: five tournament titles, first major championship, the FedEx Cup, shot 59, shot 63 in a major and will undoubtedly be named POY very soon. For a player who one year ago didn't even make the Ryder Cup team and was still known more for being "Jordan Spieth's good friend," this is the very definition of a breakthrough season. And I loved his moxie when it was all done: "I plan on winning a lot of golf tournaments in my career. ... I like winning and I like trophies and I like being in the history books and I like having my name on trophies that not many people's are on. It's not the money. The money is just a nice bonus that comes with it."
Prior to this PGA Tour season, Justin Thomas made a list of goals for himself. After winning five titles and claiming the FedEx Cup, he reached nearly all of them. On Sunday evening, he showed off the entire list.
9. Poor Paul Casey. I'm often asked who the "nice guys" on the PGA Tour are and while that list is lengthy, Casey easily ranks in my top-five for interview subjects. He's intelligent, thoughtful, sarcastic and outspoken. All of this, even when he's being asked about failing to win, questions which have been posed an awful lot in the eight years since his most recent title. On Saturday evening, holding the 54-hole lead, he again knocked down a series of queries about these failures with uncommon insight, which makes what happened Sunday afternoon so cringe-worthy. He didn't win -- again. He posted the fourth-worst score in the field and didn't make a birdie until the final hole, when his fate was already sealed. That's another tough scenario for a guy who has endured plenty of them -- but there's no doubt he'll answer the questions about this latest loss with even greater insight.
10. Since the Presidents Cup began in 1994, the often outmatched International team owns a 1-9-1 overall record. If captain Nick Price is looking for some momentum, he shouldn't look in the direction of East Lake. These are the five team members who played in the 30-man Tour Championship -- and their uninspiring results: Jason Day (17th), Adam Hadwin (23rd), Marc Leishman (24th), Hideki Matsuyama (26th) and Jhonattan Vegas (30th).
11. This past week, I wrote a longer piece about Tony Finau and his uncommon journey from a tough neighborhood to fire-knife dancing for travel expenses to a spot in the Tour Championship and next year's Masters. I was equally impressed by Finau's ability to take all of this success in stride -- he never seems like any of this is too big for him to handle -- and the words of praise spoken by his peers. Some of that didn't make the final draft, but Jordan Spieth was among those who did, saying he thinks Finau will win "dozens" of PGA Tour events. Wow.
12. Look, I understand that scheduling golf tournaments can't be easy. There are sponsors to please and weather to consider and simultaneous events to avoid. Even so, I can't figure out the method to the Web.com Finals madness. The four-event series began Aug. 31 in Columbus, Ohio, one day before the PGA Tour's Dell Technologies Championship, with the final three rounds running concurrently to three rounds in Boston. The next week, while the PGA Tour was on a bye, ostensibly opening up a window for the Web.com, the tour was also curiously on a bye. It then returned in Boise, Idaho, followed this past week by an event in Cleveland, Ohio. I'm no geography expert, but Columbus to Boise to Cleveland doesn't sound like the most direct route to hold tournaments, especially for players who aren't exactly the private jet-flying millionaires of the bigger circuit. Again, I'm sure there were other factors at play -- those schedules aren't as easy as they seem -- but this one was a real head-scratcher.
13. I'll admit that I didn't catch much of the PGA Tour Champions' event this week, the Pure Championship, but I do love the concept. It features 81 senior circuit golfers paired with 81 junior golfers for 54 holes around Pebble Beach. The rewards are twofold: It teaches the juniors the value of hard work toward reaching this type of field; it reminds the seniors of their innate love of the game, one which can too often be taken for granted over decades of nonstop competition. What a cool idea, one that has been executed so smartly over the years.
14. Speaking of which, I had the pleasure of playing at the Charlie Yates course on Saturday morning, just down the street from East Lake. As I finished the first hole with three colleagues, we noticed a few dozen kids all leaving the back of the range after a First Tee clinic, bags on their backs, talking to each other about their swings. As they passed us by the second tee, the kids smiled and said hello and even offered a few words of encouragement. Trust me: We were encouraged. For all the grow-the-game chatter that exists in golf, it was nice to see a program that apparently was no-talk, all-action.
15. Not long afterward, we ran into one of the men who runs the program there. We remarked that it was great to see so many kids enjoying the game. He looked at us a little funny, then explained, "That? Oh, that was just one of our smaller groups."
16. Let's finish up with a story from the tourney: Kevin Kisner finished his third-round 6-under 64 on Saturday afternoon, made a beeline for the locker room, showered up, changed his clothes and headed for the player parking lot, where he made the five-minute drive to (coincidentally) the Charlie Yates course, then took off on a 25-minute helicopter ride to the University of Georgia game, for which he had sideline passes and was shown on the television broadcast pumping up the crowd. A few of us reporters trailed him to the parking lot. Among the nuggets he offered, on the pace of play during the preceding round: "I knew I had plenty of time until [Jason Day] shanked it on 16 and I told him to hurry it up." And on how you tailgate in a helicopter: "We're going to figure it out."
17. Nothing illustrates the fact that the PGA Tour season needs to end earlier better than one of the biggest stories of the week being a player leaving the tournament to attend a football game.
18. In related news: This year's offseason will be held next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The 2017-18 season begins at the Safeway Open on Thursday, four days after the Presidents Cup concludes.