TOUR Season More Than Just FedExCup

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PGA Tour (75x100)KAPALUA, Hawaii -- The PGA TOUR brass must have felt that Vijay Singh smudged the shiny FedExCup trophy.
 
There were so many FedEx executives standing behind the first tee for the opening shot of the 2007 season that you had to wonder if anyone was minding headquarters in Memphis, Tenn. The Golf Channel displayed a clock at the top of the screen to count down the minutes and seconds to when 'the new era in golf' would begin.
 
The first round wasn't even in the books when someone asked Singh what he thought about the new season.
 
'I'm tired of listening to it, you know?' Singh said, speaking for all those who are fed up with the FedExCup.
 
Don't get the idea Singh is opposed to this season-long points competition that eliminates players during a four-tournament bonanza at the end of the year, awards $10 million to the winner and gives players' three months off if they choose.
 
But he put it in perspective better than anyone.
 
'It's a great thing for us to think of when the time comes to think about it,' he said. 'Right now, it's the first event. It's like trying to pick a Presidents Cup team in the beginning of the year. You've got to wait until you get right down to it. If you play well, you don't have to worry about the FedExCup. My desire is to win golf tournaments, and that's what I'm trying to do.'
 
There was an important lesson in this.
 
As much emphasis as the PGA TOUR places on the FedExCup, it is but one component of the golf season. For starters, it still ranks behind four weeks of the year when players truly try to make history at the majors.
 
In other words, Jack Nicklaus never won the FedExCup.
 
The tour has produced a series of commercials (as entertaining as any in sports) emphasizing the historical significance of who will be crowned the first FedExCup champion.
 
The PGA TOUR might find this hard to believe, but the winner of the first FedExCup might not be the question everyone else is asking. What ranks ahead of interest in the FedExCup are questions far more familiar:
 
What will Tiger do this year?
 
Tiger Woods is coming off the kind of season that makes an encore a pretty tough act, with eight victories and two majors. It was the third time he won at least eight times and the second straight year of winning multiple majors, both PGA TOUR records.
 
He starts his season -- and some might argue that golf doesn't start until Woods shows up -- at the Buick Invitational, where he will be going for his seventh consecutive PGA TOUR victory, which would be the second-longest streak in history.
 
Woods' year is built around the majors, though, and it might not be the best rotation for a calendar Grand Slam. He has never seen Oakmont, tied for seventh at Carnoustie in 1999 and has struggled at Southern Hills (tie for 21st at the '96 TOUR Championship, tie for 12th at the 2001 U.S. Open).
 
Who will challenge Tiger?
 
The answer starts with Phil Mickelson, who has not been seen since the closing ceremony at the Ryder Cup, where he went 0-4-1. There is some concern that Lefty will never be the same after making double bogey on the 18th hole to lose the U.S. Open, although Mickelson rarely plays his best golf after June, and it's not like he hasn't dealt with major setbacks before.
 
The key will be the West Coast. He had his best year in the majors in 2004 when he finished out of the top 10 only once the first four months of the season. Of his 29 victories on tour, 18 have come before the Masters.
 
Who will win the majors?
 
As a sage golf observer once said, predictions are a dangerous business in this sport, and it would be throwing darts to pick the winners (although picking Woods means standing a little closer to the board).
 
The most recent winners at the major venues were Mickelson (Augusta National), Ernie Els (Oakmont), Paul Lawrie (Carnoustie) and Retief Goosen (Southern Hills). Not a bad lineup, almost.
 
As mentioned before, it might not be the best rotation for Woods considering the final stop is Southern Hills. But if he's trying to win them all this year, he might have coincidence on his side. The last time Augusta National, Oakmont and Carnoustie held majors the same year was in 1953, when Hogan won all three.
 
The PGA Championship that year was held at Birmingham Country Club in Michigan, where Walter Burkemo beat Felice Torza.
 
Are any young stars on the horizon?
 
Ryan Moore quickly is being forgotten. After perhaps the best year ever by a college player in 2004 (he won nine times), he was slowed by injury that caused him to reconfigure his takeaway, although he still finished 81st on the money list last year.
 
Most of the attention is on Anthony Kim, who left Oklahoma early after a dispute with the coach. In the only two events he played last year, he tied for second in the Texas Open and tied for 16th in the Southern Farm Bureau Classic. Then he had to go through all three stages of Q-school, and breezed through each one to earn his card.
 
Is the U.S. really that bad in team play?
 
Coming off three straight losses to Europe in the Ryder Cup, the Americans will try to retain the Presidents Cup in October. Lose this one and it will be the first time since 1998 that it didn't own either cup.
 
One argument for U.S. failure in the Ryder Cup is that it doesn't understand how to play in a team format. The International team at the Presidents Cup is comprised mainly of PGA TOUR regulars. Maybe that explains why it's always close.
 
And finally ....
 
Who will win the FedExCup?
 
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