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Easy on the hype

PGA Tour
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There’s an old saying in sports: 'Sometime the key to success is learning how to try easier.'

The folks who run the PGA Tour may want to give that notion some consideration. They’re just trying too damn hard a lot of the time.

The Players Championship is a fine tournament played on a good golf course. It always has a strong field even when two of the top players in the world – Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy this year – take a pass. It is high on the list of second-tier events that fall just below the majors in importance.

It is also not the fifth major. The Tour often insists it hasn’t tried to claim it is the fifth major but there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary. The move to May was made so that it could have its own month when nothing like the NCAA basketball tournament was also taking place. It was an attempt to imply that there was now an important tournament in five straight months.

When a player wins a major championship he is granted a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour. When a player wins The Players he is granted a five-year exemption as well. If you pick up a PGA Tour media guide there is a separate listing for each player’s record in “top tournaments.” Included are the majors and The Players, not to mention World Golf Championship events and playoff events.

That brings us to the playoffs. There is much to like about them. Even though they exist in large part because PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem had to find a way to get Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to show up for the Tour Championship, they have got most of the top players to show up for four straight events after the majors are over.

This never happened before the playoffs. Throw in the fact that several top guys added Greensboro to their schedule this year to get into the playoffs and there’s no doubt this has been a good thing for golf.

But please – PLEASE – can everyone stop screaming about the drama? Can we get the TV guys to stop calling the FedEx Cup golf’s “ultimate prize?”

It’s nice to win the FedEx Cup and it is certainly enriching with a $10 million first prize, not to mention the four $8 million tournaments that decide who wins the $10 million. But if you offered a player with any sense of history one major or five FedEx Cups, he’d take the major.

The points system needs to be overhauled and the Tour really should sit down with its “TV partners” and convince them that match play in the Tour Championship would be far more dramatic. TV people will scream that you need a chance to have Tiger and Phil on Sunday. This will be the third year in the last four they haven’t had Tiger so let’s get over that. And the ratings wouldn’t get much worse even if it was Paul Goydos vs. Kevin Sutherland in the championship match. (Sutherland is Goydos’s best friend and once won the WGC-Match Play title).

I’d watch that match. So would most golf geeks. And they’re about 95 percent of the people watching September golf regardless of who’s playing.

And finally, there is the Presidents Cup. This event exists because the Tour didn’t want to let IMG jump on the back of the Ryder Cup’s success in 1993 and create a similar event involving non-European stars like Greg Norman and Nick Price, who were the top two players in the world.

In 1994, American players were so eager to compete in the first Presidents Cup that Finchem, the new commissioner, had to fly into Tulsa the week of the PGA Championship to convince several of them to play. The best description of the Presidents Cup came years ago from Lanny Wadkins: “Why are we flying to Australia to play against a bunch of guys who live in Orlando?” he asked.

Good question. Is anyone going to get seriously excited about beating the rest of the world?

The European Tour and the PGA Tour have a healthy rivalry that helps fuel the Ryder Cup going back to 1927. Even at that it took Seve Ballesteros, a change in the rules allowing all of Europe to play and the Euros winning regularly to make the Ryder Cup important.

The Presidents Cup is never going to matter as much as the Ryder Cup. It doesn’t have the tradition; the U.S. has only lost it once and most of the guys on the evil Rest-of-the-World team play on the PGA Tour.

Still, there’s nothing wrong with the Presidents Cup. Some players would still rather not play it – it was rumored that one star player considered faking an injury a few years ago but was talked out of it – but the younger ones especially do like it. And it is good experience in team play for those who will play Ryder Cup in the future.

So here’s to the PGA Tour for holding a fine golf tournament in May, for creating the playoffs which gives us very good golf in September and for adding the Presidents Cup to the calendar so Fred Couples could have an excuse to hang out with Michael Jordan.

It’s all good. We just don’t need to be told over and over again that it is great.

The key is to try easier.