GORDON WHITE: Results Mean It's Time to Repackage Golf's FedEx Cup
"It ain't over 'til it's over."
This astute observation by the sage old catcher-philosopher, Yogi Berra, was a reality everybody acknowledged as truth -- until now.
After watching the PGA Tour Championship conclude the FedEx Cup jumbled jamboree a week ago today with an exhibition of little interest, I am tempted to doubt Yogi for the first time.
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem's pet project of the last two seasons, this FedEx Cup competition, was over before it was over. The fat lady sang weeks ago and Finchem didn't listen.
Vijay Singh nailed down the second FedEx Cup by winning the first two of the four playoff tests. Those were the Barclays tournament in New Jersey and the Deutsche Bank outing in Massachusetts. He finished tied for 44th in the BMW, Sept. 7, the third of the four FedEx playoff events. This assured him of the cup three weeks before the finale. Thus this whole FedEx thing was over before it was over.
All Singh had to do was show up at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, go through the motions of four rounds of golf in the PGA Tour Championship and pick up the FedEx Cup and the $10 million that goes with it. That is just about what Singh did as he finished tied for 22nd in the field of 30 while never breaking 70 at East Lake.
The young and exciting Colombian pro, Camilo Villegas, beat Sergio Garcia of Spain in a playoff for the PGA Tour Championship title and a lesser bundle of millions of dollars in what seemed a real after-thought event instead of a strong tour finale as the Championship should be.
It is hard enough for the PGA Tour to get along without Tiger Woods, the biggest attraction in golf since Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. But when the tour sets up a January to September competition advertised to build toward a resounding PGA Tour Championship finale only to have the winner established three weeks before that final event, there is something radically wrong.
Commissioner Finchem and his staff plus the tour golfers must do something to totally revise the FedEx Cup system of play. For starters, the cup should go to the winner of the PGA Tour Championship, the final 72-hole tournament of the regular tour. This would restore interest to the final event and give weight to the FedEx Cup.
Also, the current FedEx point system is so incomprehensible that golf fans don't have a clue as to what is going on week to week and even hole to hole at times. It might be best to just throw out any point standings and go by another measure of success on tour such as the long-standing barometer of accomplishment -- the money winnings.
You could probably put all those who watched the PGA Tour Championship on TV last Sunday in a small room somewhere. I caught parts of it as four major league baseball games on the final day of the regular season were of real interest and the National Football League had some games worth watching. Golf was way down the list during my DirecTV channel surfing.
I did, however, catch the quick presentation of the FedEx Cup to Vijay Singh by Commissioner Finchem. This was done as if it was a boring commercial break that must be gotten out of the way in a hurry while the tournament leaders -- Villegas, Garcia, Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim -- still had three or four holes to play.
Singh took the big silver bowl in what was a deflated ceremony after a year-long campaign of advertising the FedEx Cup as the biggest thing to hit the PGA Tour in years.
If this FedEx thing is so big, why don't the golfers going for it compete in all four of the FedEx Playoff tourneys? During these first two years of the FedEx thing, the playoff events have been the Barclays, Deutsche Bank, BMW and PGA Tour Championship.
Tiger Woods, who won the 2007 PGA Championship, chose not to compete in the Barclays that was held two weeks after his 13th major victory.
Then he finished runner-up to Mickelson in the Deutsche Bank and took the 2007 FedEx Cup by winning the BMW Championship and the PGA Tour Championship.
As we have learned, Woods' left knee and leg were hurting even back then. He finally took the remainder of 2008 off for knee surgery and rehab after winning the U.S. Open last June. Thus he could not defend in the FedEx gig.
The first PGA Tour Championship was held in 1987 at Oak Hills C.C, in San Antonio, Texas. Tom Watson won that event which had a field consisting of the 30 leading money winners on tour that year.
That Championship tourney ending the PGA Tour year was created in order to keep name golfers entering events after the PGA Championship in early August.
The theory was that some golfers would be fighting to become one of the top 30 money winners and others would be fighting not to fall from that list.
Prior to this, many leading pros quit the tour in late August following the PGA Championship, thus detracting from interest in those season-ending competitions.
The PGA Tour Championship was staged on Pinehurst No. 2 in 1991 and 1992 involving the 30 top money winners of those years. That was the way the field was selected for the Championship through 2006.
Then came the FedEx Cup and its strange point system few golf fans understood.
Most sports that have season-long competitions require athletes to aim at a target that is a final event such as the World Series or Super Bowl or Final Four.
This should be done for the FedEx year-long competition with the PGA Tour Championship as the bull's eye.
Gordon White served 43 years as a sports reporter for The New York Times. His email is email@example.com.
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