Good FedEx Cup Karma


2006 The TOUR Championship presented by Coca-ColaATLANTA – Last year’s Tour Championship is best recalled as the perfect storm. The PGA Tour’s best-case scenario with Tiger Woods hoisting FedEx Cup silver after dueling down the Sunday stretch with Phil Mickelson, who lifted crystal at East Lake, the childhood stomping grounds of Bobby Jones who was fittingly born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1902.

But if East Lake had exceeded its luck quotient, the 2010 edition may well be remembered as the year of karma’s great make good, with the cosmic tumblers playing catch up for a bad cell phone alarm and an equally bad captain’s choice.

In order Paul Casey finished tied for fourth, two shots and a little help away from a $10 million jackpot yet buoyed by the fact that despite European captain Colin Montgomerie’s Ryder Cup slight he is indeed one of the world’s best.

Jim Furyk
Jim Furyk not only captured his third victory of 2010, but also clinched the coveted FedEx Cup. (Getty Images)

“I gave it everything I had,” said Casey of his Sunday charge, but he may as well have been talking about his Ryder Cup snub.

So did Jim Furyk, but that’s nothing new. The ultimate grinder, the consummate professional closed with weekend 70s and held off Luke Donald to score the ultimate trifecta – the Tour Championship, his third tilt of 2010, the FedEx Cup and a $10 million mulligan for a missed pro-am tee time and a messy disqualification.

“Three wins is very, very special to me,” said Furyk, who was disqualified from the first playoff event in New Jersey after missing his pro-am tee time, a rule that his since been suspended by the Tour. “I was very disappointed in ’08 and ’09 (not winning). To turn that around and get three wins this year is special.”

For four days that started sweltering and ended with a splat Furyk was, well Furyk. But machine-like is too cold, too calculating to be accurate. There was far too much emotion in his victory celebration on the 72nd green to characterize his performance as simply clinical. But it was, at least statistically.

For the week he was first in putts made distance, a mind-blowing 64 for 67 on putts from 10 feet and in, tied for seventh in fairways hit and first in greens in regulation. Translation, somewhere U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin is smiling.

But of all Furyk’s ShotLink dominance it was his perfection from East Lake’s bunkers that ultimately delivered Tour title No. 16. He was 9 for 9 from the sand, including a 52-foot bunker shot at the last that sailed to 2 feet for a closing par. A $10 million blast, not to belabor the point, to finish bogey-bogey-gritty par.

“We knew we had to make par or play more holes,” Furyk’s caddie Mike “Fluff” Cowan said. “And I don’t think I had too many (holes) left in me.”

But then a playoff was just one of a dizzying number of scenarios that covered everything from the FedEx Cup champion to the player of the year.

The Tour wanted East Lake to matter. Instead, minutia mattered, with attention focused on Matt Kuchar’s ability to par the last two holes and finish alone in 25th, of all places.

Kuchar, the points leader heading into East Lake, bogeyed the last from the same bunker that nearly did in Furyk, Nick Watney cooled following a lengthy weather delay and Steve Stricker joined Kuchar at 5 over – tied for 25th, a mathematical blow that knocked Kuchar out of the cup picture.

“No, seriously,” Stricker said when he learned that his closing 75 had ended Kuchar’s cup chances. “I’m sorry Matt. I was just telling him in the locker room, ‘You’re looking great. You can still win this thing.’”

It may ease Kuchar’s pain, if not Stricker’s, that he would only have had a chance to collect the cup had Watney won the Tour Championship. Such was the minutiae of the fourth FedEx Cup.

There were enough compelling undercards to make any Ryder Cup captain have regrets. Casey and Watney, who played his middle nines on the weekend (closing-nine 28 on Saturday and opening 30 on Sunday) in 58 strokes, both were overlooked as potential captain’s picks for this week’s matches and both had chances to cash the $10 million lotto ticket late Sunday.

Watney played his final nine in 2 over and tied for fourth place while Casey, who would have clinched the Question Cup with a solo second-place finish, bogeyed the 17th to tie with Watney.

Not that many, if any, were able to keep track.

“It’s impossible to be aware of the situation,” Kuchar said. “Who could? Maybe some kid in front of a computer.”

The FedEx Cup is not perfect. Was never going to be, what with Woods absent from the finale and Mickelson, who tied for 22nd, seemingly here only in spirit. But point systems do work, 8 million NASCAR fans can’t be wrong.

Nor did the minutia or confusion seem to matter to Furyk, who becomes the first player since Woods in 2007 to win both the Tour Championship and the cup.

His opening rounds of 67-65 were solid but his bookend 70s on the weekend were downright Furyk-like thanks to a used putter he purchased off the rack in Boston and a grinding style perfectly suited to the rigors of Sunday’s soggy finish.

“If all it took was heart, he’d win every week,” Cowan said. “He’s a great competitor.”

And for those who still question how meaningful a $10 million cash grab is to a group of millionaires check out Furyk’s 72nd-hole reaction on YouTube. The normally stoic Furyk erupted with a Tiger-esque fist pump. It was the most telling sign to date that the cup matters, at least to players.

“Forty years from now there will be a lot of history in (the FedEx Cup),” Furyk said. “To have my name with Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh (the 2008 cup champion), those guys can play. It’s special.”

Confusing, a bit contrived, but special nonetheless.