The FedEx Cup starts next year and is the PGA TOURs attempt at a playoff system. Its a season-long points race for $10 million, in which top players will be expected to compete in six of the final seven tournaments, ending in mid-September at the Tour Championship.
In 2008, the Ryder Cup will start five days later.
One week, Tiger Woods & Co. will be playing for $10 million. The next week, even more will be at stake playing for their flag.
Weve made it clear to the PGA TOUR we are not happy with the scheduling for 2008, that we were not able to achieve a one-week gap between their big Tour Championship and the Ryder Cup, which we dont think is good, said Joe Steranka, the PGA of Americas chief executive officer.
We would prefer to have one week between, and I think thats in place for the subsequent years, he said. How players react to the new PGA TOUR schedule remains to be seen, were going to watch it. If it has an impact on the Ryder Cup that we think we need to address further, well address it.
There might not be anything the PGA of America can do.
PGA TOUR spokesman Bob Combs attributed the timing to NBC Sports, which televises the final three tournaments of the FedEx Cup and the Ryder Cup. He said the tour was able to negotiate a one-week gap between the Tour Championship and the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup in five out of the six years, the exception being 2008.
We agree there needs to be at least a week break, Combs said. It really was an NBC television issue that could not be resolved. I believe everything is locked up from a television perspective.
Steranka was clearly annoyed, however, choosing his words carefully when he spoke of the goodwill between both organizations.
Thats not the spirit of the relationship, he said. We dont agree on everything. But this is one thing they felt couldnt change, and we felt it needed to change.
PGA president Roger Warren said the 08 Ryder Cup was locked into Sept. 19-21 dates.
Were concerned about the impact it might have on the players, he said.
Still, no one is sure how the FedEx Cup will unfold. PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem has said players likely will have to play the final four weeks to have any chance of winning the $10 million prize, although its mathematically possible that Woods, Mickelson or another hot player could skip a week and still win the cup.
As much money as the players already make, some might even skip events to have their game ready for the Ryder Cup, which is on the same scale of a major championship.
Asked what he thought about the situation, U.S. captain Tom Lehman said I want no part of this conversation.
Its not optimal, he eventually said.
ON THE BUBBLE
Brett Wetterich seems to be a poster boy for whats wrong with the new Ryder Cup qualification system, perhaps because not many people are familiar with his name, much less his game.
But theres a reason Wetterich is No. 10 in the standings.
He tied for fourth in New Orleans, and two weeks later captured his first PGA TOUR victory by holding off Adam Scott and Trevor Immelman at the Byron Nelson Championship. Then he went to the Memorial, where he tied for second.
Even so, Wetterich has gone through the last month coping with questions about whether he belongs on the team.
I guess people think we should have the same guys every year, like Davis Love, Fred Couples and Chris DiMarco, he said. Maybe it would be good to give some new guys a chance.
This is only his third major championship, and the first one with more than winning a trophy on his mind.
If he doesnt finish in the top 10 at Medinah and earn Ryder Cup points, hell have to watch the scoreboard and hope that no one behind him earns enough points to knock him out of the top 10 in the Ryder Cup standings.
Ill try not to think of it, but Im sure it will be in the back of my mind, Wetterich said. I want to make the team and get in by myself. I dont want to wait and see how other people are doing behind me, needing someone to make bogey or something.
An hour before the PGA Championship gets under way Thursday, there will be a memorial service outside the clubhouse for Heather Clarke, the wife of Darren Clarke, who died Sunday of cancer at age 39.
Tom Lehman, the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, will deliver the message.
I really dont know why they asked me, Lehman said. Theres a number of people who could, but maybe they are just so emotional about it and so close that they would prefer to let somebody else say a few words. Of course, Im honored.
Lehman is not an ordained minister, but he has experience.
He delivered a moving eulogy and prayer before the 1999 Tour Championship for Payne Stewart, the U.S. Open champion who was killed in a plane crash.
Tom Lehman came awfully close from going from Ryder Cup captain to Ryder Cup player.
Lehman lost in a playoff at the International to Dean Wilson.
Had he won, Lehman would have gone to No. 7 in the Ryder Cup standings, virtually a lock to earn a spot among the top-10 qualifiers. But he didnt say whether he would have become the first playing captain since Arnold Palmer in 1963, and he wont say what he will do if he earns enough points this week to make the team.
Lehman believes his team should be filled with guys who have great short games, and he doesnt like the way he is putting. Then again, Chris DiMarco cornered him Tuesday and told him he would be on the team if he finished in the top 10, no questions asked.
I go, Well, thats really nice, but Im the captain, Lehman said.
If he finishes in the top 10, Lehman could either choose to play, or take himself off the team and take the player at No. 11, which could free him up for another captains pick.
Its all conjecture, and something well actually talk about if it happens on Sunday, he said.
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