A Man and His Plan Catching Playoff Heat

By Associated PressSeptember 5, 2007, 4:00 pm
BMW ChampionshipLEMONT, Ill. -- The third straight week of this FedExCup finale is starting to yield more evidence that the PGA TOUR Playoffs aren't like the postseason in other sports.
Instead of being desperate to keep playing, some golfers can't wait to go home.
In what sounded like a parade of protests Wednesday at the BMW Championship, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els were among those who suggested that four straight weeks was too much golf and that most players had no input on the major decisions.
'They did not express anything to the players,' Els said. 'They asked those questions, but they didn't come out and say, 'OK, look, this is what we're going to do, what do you think?' It wasn't directly asked. And unfortunately, we are in this position now because they didn't either listen or they just went on with the decision. And this is where we are.'
Els skipped the Deutsche Bank Championship a week ago, saying he wanted to see his children off to school in London.
Woods missed the opening round of the playoffs at The Barclays in New York. He has not played four straight tournaments since early 2000, and said he was worn out from back-to-back victories concluding at the PGA Championship.
Phil Mickelson and British Open champion Padraig Harrington are not at Cog Hill, with Mickelson creating the biggest stir because he won last week at the TPC Boston and used a national TV audience to make cryptic complaints about Finchem not listening to him.
This is the third straight playoff event that does not have the full field, and the second time in three weeks that the points leader decided to stay home.
'Personally, I don't like it,' mild-mannered Steve Stricker said. 'It's a lot of golf in a short amount of time. I do like the end of the season that it's in the middle of September, where if you play well enough you don't have to chase for your card.'
He also said some of the complaints might stem from the Deutsche Bank Championship ending on Labor Day, giving players a quick turnaround before teeing it up in the third straight event.
Finchem said the tour had several meetings over the last two years as the FedExCup was being formed.
'I feel comfortable that we did a good job reaching out to the players on the details,' he said. 'Over the last six months, we've discovered that a lot of players, regardless of the amount of information that might have been discussed, didn't necessarily want to pay much attention to it.'
Lost in the carping at Cog Hill is what's at stake.
The final four weeks of the season are worth a combined $63 million in prize money -- $7 million cash in each of the tournaments, and $35 million in deferred compensation for the FedExCup.
The FedExCup money is essentially a bonus, although the payout remains a sticking point for the top players.
'I think that's one of the major issues for all of us, that it's not a true payout,' Woods said. 'How great would it be like in the World Series of Poker, at the first tee starting the TOUR Championship, that's all you see is it ($10 million) stacked up there and that's what you're playing for? That would create a lot of buzz.'
Els said he didn't know about the deferred compensation until the start of the year, and he used that as another example of how the players and commissioner's office are not on the same page. 'We've grown apart from each other because of these big decisions that were made without the real knowledge of the players,' he said.
For as much as Els complained about the lack of communication, it's not clear who's responsible for the breakdown. Players rarely attend meetings or read the 'green sheet,' a weekly bulletin the TOUR leaves in their lockers and e-mails to them. At a mandatory players' meeting at the Wachovia Championship, more than half of them left early.
'I think we're in our own cocoons sometimes and we don't get the information, but yet most of us don't seek it out,' Arron Oberholser said. 'And I think to a certain extent, the PGA TOUR does its best to get us the information.'
The stout schedule comprises more than four straight weeks of the PGA TOUR Playoffs.
After the British Open, players had one week off before a World Golf Championship and PGA Championship in consecutive weeks. Then came another week off until the start of the playoffs. And for about two dozen players -- Woods and Mickelson included -- they get one week off after the TOUR Championship until the Presidents Cup.
'A lot of guys are taking weeks off,' Woods said. 'If you combine the total for the guys who are playing the Presidents Cup, it's seven out of nine weeks at the end of the summer. Guys are finding it hard to play seven out of nine weeks. Except for Vijay. He's the only one.'
Singh is among five players from the top 10 in the world ranking who are likely to play those seven out of nine.
Ultimately, the players still set their own schedules. No one is making them play. Woods, Mickelson and K.J. Choi had the luxury of missing a week without giving up a realistic shot at the $10 million.
The criticism stole some attention from what otherwise has been a great start for these playoffs, with dramatic finishes at the first two tournaments, including Mickelson beating Woods while paired with him in the final round at the TPC Boston.
If he had shown up this week, Mickelson would have played the first two rounds with Woods for the second straight week.
'Hey, we had a great run together on Sunday,' Woods said. 'It was fun. Anytime we get in that position, which we have in the past, it's fun for both of us. But he's taking the week off, and he should be ready for next week.'
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