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PGA Tour's FedEx Cup could be as boring as its name

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

The PGA Tour needs a real media guy, not this corporate drone Tim Finchem.

Tim Finchem

Finchem had to do something about the tour's late-season lethargy, because everyone was waking up grouchy from their naps to complain, so he and the other PGA Tour suits came up with the FedEx Cup. Leave it to golf to create a playoff system and attach a bland corporate name to it.

Where's Lamar Hunt when you need him? Hunt is the guy who came up with the term "Super Bowl," after contemplating his daughter's super ball. In fact, I'm boycotting the sponsor name and will henceforth refer to the new plan as "the playoffs," the hell with their $35 million "bonus fund."

In any case, they may have actually got it right — until the end.

The playoffs are a season-long points race — using as inspiration a sport that is about as un-golf like as you can get: NASCAR auto racing — that culminates in a three-event playoff. That's followed by the Tour Championships, sort of golf's Super Bowl, only much less anticipated, much less interesting and much less important.

So far, so good. True, they're trying to manufacture playoff excitement out of thin air, but hey, it sort of worked in baseball.

But, no one is eliminated in those playoffs. The first three events will have 144-man fields. All of them. How can you have a playoff with no one being eliminated? It's un-American. Damn it, it's European.

The suits will tell you, well, technically, players will be mathematically eliminated, since the bottom feeders won't have earned enough points to win the whole ball of wax.

Technically, that doesn't cut it. Playoffs are all about win or go home. We want to see people hanging their heads in shame. We want to see guys stuffing their bags in the trunks and weeping. We want to see lonely, empty seats in front of those gold-plated lockers.

What we'll get is a lot of guys in the playoffs who have no chance of winning going through the motions, playing for points and a few extra dollars. This won't exactly be compelling TV.

Then, finally the Tour Championships, the last of the playoff tournaments which will be played in September, much earlier than its current slot. Fine, we all want a shorter season. And the field will only be the top 30 points-earners from the first three playoffs, as well as the points they earned through the regular season when they started the playoffs, which serves as sort of a seeding process.

Confused yet?

To top it off, the winner of the Tour Championships won't necessarily be the supply chain champion, and won't necessarily palm the $10 million winner's check.

The guy with the most overall points wins. So we could have the spectacle of the last group trudging in on Sunday, playing for second, third or even fourth place. The winner may well have finished hours earlier. The camera will be on him in the players' lounge, eating a ham sandwich.

Personally, I think Finchem modeled the playoff system after the stock market. Now, the stock market can be pretty exciting, but when's the last time you saw it on prime-time TV? Probably 1929.

The good news is the top players won't have to play after September. They'll have made their $50 million and retired to their yachts and mansions. Of course, there will still be the fall season, lesser events with lesser players struggling to qualify for next year.

The bad news is that the playoff system is fatally flawed; they've managed to take the excitement out of it before it even starts. The suits say they will almost certainly make changes after the first year.

They can pump all the money into it they want. How many past Super Bowl champions sit around in their golden years and dream about that check they got for winning the Super Bowl?

Golf isn't really conducive to a playoff atmosphere, especially the way this one is rigged. I doubt this one will work. And of course, if Tiger Woods, who showed his true, selfish nature when he bypassed the Tour Championships this year, shows the lack of enthusiasm for it he usually reserves for the Ryder Cup Matches, it will be dead before it starts.

It will be just another failed experiment.

Anybody remember the World Series of Golf?

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Fed Ex Cup

    Frank Ferrell wrote on: Jul 29, 2007

    No conditions for claiming the $10 million prize, save for (1) having the most points after the Tour Championship and (2) possessing a PGA Tour Full-Time Membership. This Fed Ex thing might be more appealing if you had an unconditional $5 million Grand Prize, and a conditional $10 million prize.
    In addition, the Fed Ex Cup Playoff events will be - as is the case with the WGC's - the very same ones each. No other Tour stops will share in the playoff experience.


  • FedEx Cup Name Boycott

    Patrick Milan wrote on: Nov 14, 2006

    Very interesting. So a guy whose column is accompanied by nine ads and more than 40 paid advertiser links is going to boycott the commercialized name of the PGA Tour playoff system. Well then I think we should honor his high moral stand and ask that all advertisers be removed from any attachment to his column; and we should all write to the current advertisers to let them know we will no longer support their products because this is a "movement." You are not a journalist -- you're a golf writer. Get over it.


    • RE: FedEx Cup Name Boycott

      tim wrote on: Nov 16, 2006

      If you don't know the difference between legitimate advertising and vulgar, corporate exploitation, you are even stupider than you sound.


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