FedExCup Basks in Tigers Glow

By Brian HewittSeptember 17, 2007, 4:00 pm
The inaugural FedExCup is now in the record books and, forevermore, the name at the top of its list of past winners will be Tiger Woods.
The whole idea of the thing was to capture the publics imagination with a golfing version of playoffs. And, for the most part, the FedExCup succeeded. Playoffs in any sport, after all, are designed to identify the best team or player.
And of this there can be no debate: Tiger Woods is the best player in the game. He won two of the three Playoff events he entered; he won $10 million dollars in deferred money and $1.26 million dollars now for finishing first in Sundays Playoff-ending TOUR Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.
If, on the other hand, say Robert Allenby had won the FedExCup, there would have been a collective howl from the critics. And make no mistake: the FedExCup had grill rooms full of critics from the outset.
Nothing against Allenby. I just picked his name at random from the list of 30 players who made it to East Lake and who are not household names outside of the sport Woods dominates.
So once again Tiger saved golf from the slings and arrows of the people who probably wouldnt have been as skeptical if theyd been paying a little closer attention.
In Week 1 of the Playoffs too many of those people were focused on the absence of Woods from the field. Too few appreciated the rebirth of Steve Strickers game. When Stricker won at The Barclays he was suddenly, at 40 years of age, golfs feel-good story.
The following week Woods showed up and wound up with the same tee time of world No. 2 Phil Mickelson for three of the four rounds. This was by design. Players at the top of the point standings were meant to be going head-to-head.
And when Mickelson outdueled Tiger and beat him down the stretch Sunday at the Deutsche Bank Championship, the Playoffs actually felt like, well, playoffs.
Almost immediately there was another mini-controversy when Mickelson announced he wouldnt be showing up for the third Playoff weeks event in Chicago, the BMW Championship. Mickelson also dropped hints that he was unhappy with PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem for, in Mickelsons opinion, Finchems failure to listen to Mickelsons FedExCup suggestions.
And it was all good.
Where once people were talking about the FedExCup only in pro shops, they were now beginning to talk about golf playoffs in barber shops and bars and on sports talk radio. The quality of play on the fairways and greens remained high. Woods went low at Cog Hill and grabbed first place in the point standings. But not before having to come from behind on the back nine Sunday to run down Stricker and an improved young Aussie named Aaron Baddeley.
Great, Finchem said with masked glee when asked about the quality of the golf and the amount of public dialogue the FedExCup had generated.
GreensGate greeted the players when they got to East Lake. An Atlanta heat wave had nearly killed the putting surfaces and officials had no choice but to keep the greens soft. The result was low scores in bunches.
Woods needed 64, 63 and 64 in his first three rounds. He played the last six holes of his front nine Friday in 7 under for an outward 28. Zach Johnson parlayed eight birdies and an eagle Saturday into a sizzling 60 that might have been 59 if his approach on the last hadnt found a bunker. Geoff Ogilvy made 10 birdies, shot 62 Saturday and barely got a mention.
Sunday was little more than a victory lap for Woods. Tiger won the TOUR Championship by a pile of shots. But you cant blame the Playoffs creators for that.
So the FedExCup, which will surely be liberally tweaked in the years to come, is off to a surprisingly quick start. The doomsayers who warned the point standings might be settled before the final 30 got to Atlanta are silent now.
Its full speed ahead for golfs new playoffs. And as long as Tiger Woods is at the wheel, there isnt a cop in the sporting world who will ticket them over for going too fast.
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