Finchem Optimistic for FedExCups Fall Finish
Just more than a year ago, Tiger Woods and John Daly squared off in a sudden-death playoff at Harding Park, a refurbished public golf course along the shores of Lake Merced that staged a World Golf Championship. It sounded like a rock concert and felt like a major. And it delivered the kind of drama rarely seen this side of August.
They slugged it out down the stretch with an awesome display of power, a duel ultimately determined by a 3-foot putt Daly missed on the second extra hole to hand Woods his sixth and final PGA TOUR victory of the year.
'I don't think there are a lot of people watching NFL football right now,' Daly said, and the room erupted in laughter.
But the joke was on golf.
ABC Sports got only a 2.8 rating for that Sunday afternoon, and that was the second-highest rated golf tournament of the fall. The highest was a 3.0 at the Presidents Cup, which featured Woods, Phil Mickelson and a U.S. team trying to win for captain Jack Nicklaus.
All of which leads to an important question as the PGA TOUR looks ahead to 2007.
How can the FedExCup possibly top that?
PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem was looking to create interest in the end of the year when he came up with the FedExCup competition, a season-long points race that culminates with golf's version of the playoffs. The idea is for the top players to compete in three 'playoff' events starting Aug. 23 and ending Sept. 16 at the TOUR Championship, with $10 million going to the winner.
The concept has merit. Anyone who thinks this is a bad idea hasn't been paying attention to golf in the fall -- or maybe they're among the few who have been paying attention, because not many watch golf after the PGA Championship (or before football starts).
'If you're not going forward, you're going backward,' Finchem said. 'All the other sports are investing millions of dollars in being more competitive with each other and with us, and you have to continue to find ways to connect with the fan.'
The FedExCup is taking golf forward.
A year ago at the TOUR Championship, the rating was 1.9, and that was with Woods in the field (albeit six shots behind Bart Bryant). The rating plunged to a paltry 0.9 this year when Woods skipped for the first time in his career.
Next year can get only better.
If nothing else, this adds another element to the PGA TOUR season that will not be decided until the TOUR Championship, no matter how many majors or tournaments a player (Woods comes to mind) might win.
The PGA TOUR further helped itself Tuesday by deciding to reduce the field each week during the playoff tournaments. The playoffs will start with 144 players at the Barclays Classic, drop to 120 players for the Deutsche Bank Championship, and only 70 players will advance to the BMW Open in Chicago. The Tour Championship still gets the top 30 players chasing the $10 million prize.
What remains to be seen, however, is whether the FedExCup represents a baby step or a quantum leap.
One gets the impression from the marketing machine at the PGA TOUR that the FedExCup is the greatest concept in golf since Bobby Jones built a golf course on a former nursery in Augusta, Ga., and invited his friends to play a tournament each spring.
Realistically, it might be the best concept since the World Golf Championships began in 1999, and the novelty wore off about four years later. It was cool to have the top 50 or the top 64 players in the world competing against each other, but now they do that at least eight times a year. Add to that the FedExCup playoff series, and they could be competing against each other as often as 12 times a year.
What's important is to keep expectations at reasonable levels.
If two of the biggest draws in golf (Woods and Daly) produced only a 2.8 rating in a playoff, how is it going to get better with Woods, Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia trying to pile up points as they position themselves in the FedExCup? And that's assuming the stars play their best. The fear is that the FedExCup comes down to Zach Johnson and Troy Matteson.
Plus, it would be a mistake for TOUR officials to think that the FedExCup will determine the player of the year.
If someone were to win two majors (again, Woods come to mind since he has done that four times) and far more tournaments heading into the playoffs, it would be foolish to think he would not be voted player of the year.
Golf still is defined by the four majors.
Instead of comparing the FedExCup to NASCAR and its Nextel Cup, think of golf in the same terms as horse racing.
Fame is found at the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. And at the end of the year is the lucrative Breeders' Cup, a showcase of the best horses.
And during the Breeders' Cup, most people are watching football.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish
NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.
Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.
The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.
Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.
The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.
Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him
It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.
Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.
The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:
The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.
For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.
Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter
After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.
But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.
Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":
Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.
Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.
Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.
The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.
“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.
In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.
“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”
Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.
“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.