U.S. pros focused on Ryder Cup, not FedEx

Justin Leonard, Ryder Cup, FedEx Cup
Stan Badz/PGA TOUR/WireImage.com
Justin Leonard hasn't made a Ryder Cup team since 1999.

KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — The silver trophy on the first tee at Kapalua at the start of the PGA Tour season looked like one that Tiger Woods might have kissed before. It was the trophy that goes to the winner of the Mercedes-Benz Championship.

The FedEx Cup, meanwhile, was nowhere to be found.

In the second year of this "new era in golf," the hype over the FedEx Cup has become an afterthought. Players were peppered with the FedEx Cup question last year at Kapalua, and they were asked to deposit their golf ball into the trophy at the end of the first round. It seemed like half of FedEx's headquarters in Memphis, Tenn., was in Hawaii.

This year, only three top FedEx officials are at Kapalua. No one is asking players if they'll be at all four playoff events, or even what they think about a two-week break before the Tour Championship.

That doesn't mean players aren't consumed by a cup.

"This time, we're talking about the Ryder Cup," Justin Leonard said.

Don't get the idea that Leonard or any other American is on the range or the putting green thinking about what has to improve for him to make the Ryder Cup team. Leonard, whose game began turning around last year when he won the Texas Open, hasn't played in the Ryder Cup since his 45-foot putt on the 17th hole at Brookline culminated the Americans' comeback against Europe. But he knows the drill. Play well, and the Ryder Cup will take care of itself.

Still, when the calendar turned to 2008, it was hard to find an American (or European on the PGA Tour) who didn't realize this was a Ryder Cup year, or one who didn't put making the team at the top of his wish list.

The Ryder Cup will be played Sept. 19-21 at Valhalla.

"That's my main goal for this year," Brandt Snedeker said. "Valhalla is three hours where I'm from in Nashville, so it would be a great place for me to hopefully make a Ryder Cup debut. Obviously, the most important thing on my radar is to play good golf and get into that."

Strangely enough, there's one similarity between the Ryder Cup and FedEx Cup — some players still don't know how it works.

"I'm a little confused," Steve Stricker said. "I thought I had a good year last year, and I'm like 10th in the standings."

U.S. captain Paul Azinger orchestrated an overhaul of the points system when he was appointed in the fall of 2006. Azinger built the criteria around money instead of points, with a heavy emphasis on the current year of the Ryder Cup and the majors.

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