Chris Baldwin This Week at August 30, 2005

Tim Finchem going down the
wrong road with NASCAR model

The PGA Tour isn't NASCAR. It is not battling the image of fans who fly Confederate flags, chug Budweiser by the bucket, live in their RVs and think a white undershirt is formal wear.

NASCAR needed to do something dramatic to break from its past, to convince all the corporate sponsors that jumped aboard the car that it was expanding far beyond its base. The 10-race, 10-driver playoff system fit the bill perfectly, helped NASCAR fuel the illusion that those stereotypical fans from places like Santee, S.C. had been replaced by countless NASCAR dads.

The PGA Tour does not have those issues (or nearly, the number of devoted toothpaste-buying fanatics as NASCAR). Blindly following NASCAR's lead into a late-season playoff is not going to change that either. By all indications, this is PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem's great brainchild. To copy NASCAR. But adopting a playoff after the PGA Championship is not going to reinvigorate golf.

Golf, above almost all other sports except perhaps baseball, lives off its history. And golf's long been about what's done in its majors. Does Finchem think that Tiger Woods is suddenly going to drop his Jack Nicklaus pursuit and become focused on winning an annual contrived playoff?

Please! You have a better chance of getting Tiger to admit he was wrong for bailing out on the PGA Championship, Vijay Singh making up with his old caddy and Phil Mickelson showing up with Bo Jackson's old physique in the same week.

A playoff will always play second fiddle to the events that really matter. And what kind of playoff is that? Can you imagine the Yankees going into the World Series, thinking "yeah, it'd be nice to win this, but that April series victory over the Devil Rays is what truly secured our legacy?"

There can be no playoff in golf that's meaningful because there already is one. It's called the four majors.

Finchem needs to drop his NASCAR obsession. Golf is never getting auto racing's ratings numbers. Everyone can drive a car. Hitting a golf ball well is excruciatingly hard. Everyone is never going to be able to relate.

Instead, the PGA Tour should concentrate on the things it can easily fix. Like shortening its season, so golf actually has a season instead of an endless succession of tournaments. Woods and Mickelson, the best players in the game, have called for this and it's time to listen. With fewer tournaments, each one would take on added meaning. When you turn on golf, you'd see Tiger, Phil and Vijay going head-to-head rather than stumbling across an Andre Stolz holding off a Tag Ridings in a Michelin Championship every other weekend.

Forget the rednecks on wheels. Look to your own stars.

As always, welcomes your comments.

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