The Players Championship in May. ... The Golf Channel partnered with the PGA TOUR. ... The daunting possibility of a 280-yard, par-3 at the U.S. Open at Oakmont. ... Seve Ballesteros back in the field at the Masters Tournament and the Open Championship.
The most anticipated and important delivery on any promise next season, however, will be made by the PGA TOUR and by FedEx, a company that makes it its business to do so in a timely fashion.
Were talking about the brand new and highly-branded FedExCup. This will be golfs brave new world in 2007. Braver, in fact, than it has promised to be for years.
The FedExCup is a big concept with a big upside and an equally big downside. And the subject of its efficacy dominated the off-the-course talk at golfs highest levels at the end of the 2006 season.
No one knows whats going to happen, says U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy. But hopefully its going to work out for the best.
Actually Ogilvy was referring specifically to the 2007 TOUR Championship which will mark the culmination of the FedExCup, which will conclude the competition and result in the winner receiving 10 million dollars.
The great unknown is the season-long nature of FedExCup, although the PGA TOUR already has embarked upon an exhaustive publicity campaign that will seek to enlighten the players and the public on the nuances of a system that was three years in the making.
At the moment some players are baffled by it all mainly because they havent got a handle on the taste, the smell, the feel and the look of the FedExCup. The TOUR believes that will change once the season begins and the numbers start accumulating.
Certain other players are put off by the fact that the end-of-season payouts will be in deferred monies. And hardened media veterans are looking closely to see if anything can replace or rival the importance of the four major championships that dominate the goal-setting and schedule-making of most top players.
Im not knocking it, said Fred Couples of the FedExCup, when asked about it at Tiger Woods December Target World Challenge. Im just saying I havent even looked at it. For a million dollars I couldnt tell you what tournaments are in the FedExCup.
Sources say PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem secured promises of cooperation from needle-movers Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson before partnering up with FedEx and revealing the blueprints.
But Woods has professed to being uncertain about the system. And many players are wary about the possibility of having to play six straight weeks at the end of the year during the FedExCups playoff run.
If Tiger is going to play the last six tournaments in a row, and our (TV) ratings go way up, then its worth it, says Chris DiMarco. Everybody out here knows where our bread is buttered. Its Tiger Woods, and he is what has made our purses go up. And when he plays a tournament, the ratings are better (and) the amount of people that come and watch is greater.
For his part, Mickelson has been publicly silent for months, having chosen to shut his season down early and spend more time with his family.
The voice of reason in all of this is Davis Love III, an influential member of the TOURs powerful Policy Board. Love played a vital role in the architecture of the FedExCup and, he says, part of the problem was keeping the details private while the mathematical models were being tested.
Its taken everybody a long time to catch up to what weve been looking at for two years, Love says. We had to keep it quiet for almost a year and a half.
But details got leaked. And temporary confusion resulted as the dribs didnt always square up with the drabs. I think we let it get confusing to people, Love says. But the end product, he insists, was worth it.
Its going to be something new and different, he says, and hopefully well have a better situation at the end of the year than we did this year.
This year Woods and Mickelson declined playing in the season-ending TOUR Championship. Ten million dollars, albeit deferred, will get their attention. Woods, projected to be sports first billion dollar athlete by the middle of this decade, doesnt need the money as much as others. But he understands the importance of Finchems FedEx gambit to the over-all health of the TOUR.
I really havent heard anything but positives from the players and tournaments, Love says.
And that, for the TOUR right now, is the best news of all.