Alan Shipnuck's Mailbag: Post-FedEx Cup edition

No preamble this week, leading to a new 'Bag motto: All killer, no filler. "Finchem, FedEx, and NBC couldn't be happier now that their baby has delivered a victory for both Tiger and Phil at once. Does this mean there won't be further tweaks in the format? Or are they concerned about the fact that Tiger could have skipped the first three 'playoff' events and would have been in roughly the same position after the points reset?" Phil-tiger-finchem Yeah, Finchem's perma-grin on Sunday said it all. The Tiger-Phil double dip was the very scenario that every overpaid Ponte Vedra Beach vice president was dreaming of when the FedEx Cup was hatched three years ago over a spirited game of beer pong. (Or maybe it was in a sterile conference room. I forget.) As far as tweaks for next year, I'm relatively certain the off-week will be moved up to follow the second of the four playoff events, but given this year's finish I know the Tour pointy-heads are disinclined to mess with the points formula. They know that changing the Cup's parameters every year only undermines its credibility and further confuses everybody. As with everything in golf, the success of the FedEx Cup is all about Tiger. Having him play all four events was a huge boost to the Cup, to the Tour, to golf, to humanity. As you pointed out, he could have blown off the first three legs of the Cup and still won the $10 million. I think Tiger played all four as a way to prop up the Tour in a faltering economy. Will he feel so magnanimous next year? We'll see. If he plays only three events, or even two, then the Tour eggheads will go back to their computer models. For now, all's well that ends well."I don't get people's fascination with Phil Mickelson. Maybe you have to be Canadian to notice it, but I think he's a phony - you can see it on his face. He says what the fans want to hear, but when the cameras are off, I'll bet he's smug and obnoxious. I've read before that he's not very well liked by his fellow players - and that in contrast Tiger is extremely well liked with the players while maintaining a relatively icy persona with the fans. Tell me Alan, why do people love this guy so much? Confused in Canada." Fans like Phil because he acknowledges their existence in simple ways: a grin, a queenly wave, an autograph. I was reminded of this at Cog Hill a few weeks ago. The final round  was delayed by a couple of hours and after signing their scorecards many players were literally sprinting from the clubhouse to get home. Even though he had a lot waiting for him back in San Diego, Phil stuck around to sign autographs for his customary half hour, and it took eight or nine security types to politely manage the frenzied crowd. Tiger always says he doesn't do these kind of signings because he's afraid they'll get out of control, but trust me, this scene couldn't have been any crazier, and Phil was completely unfazed. It's true the players like to make fun of him with sardonic nicknames—'Genius' and 'FIGJAM' are just two of them. (F--- I'm Good, Just Ask Me.) But at the same time he makes a lot of guys laugh with his barbed sense of humor. Phil does always say the right thing for the cameras, but in private he's pretty salty. Two years ago I journeyed to Scottsdale to take measure of the initial Fall Series. Phil was there only because he is intensely loyal and has long-standing ties to the host venue, Grayhawk. I was one of the few writers who showed up for what was, admittedly, not a glamorous assignment. Phil pointed this out when we randomly wound up at neighboring sinks in the locker room. "You must have pissed off somebody to get assigned to this," he said, with a wicked grin. "Did you get caught f---ng your editor's wife?"

"Why do golf writers never use the word 'choke' when talking about Kenny Perry, but do so when talking about other players? Instead, I barely ever read about Kenny without the writer including he's a 'nice guy' and that he gives money to charity (like many other pros you never hear about). Why the different treatment?"

Kenny-perry

Repeat after me: Kenny choked at the Masters. Kenny choked at the Tour Championship. Kenny choked at the 1996 PGA Championship. He has done plenty of choking, just like every other player, although he is more honest in admitting it, which perhaps makes it less necessary for sportswriters to state the obvious. Perry may also get a little bit of a pass because he was never considered a big-time player until so late in his career, and thus there have always been diminished expectations. As for the reflexive writing about his down-home persona, let's face it, ol' Kenny is one of the game's true originals and it's almost impossible to tell his story without going there. One of my favorites from my SI canon is about Perry and his hometown. Check it out, though be forewarned, there is nary a mention of choking. "I loved hearing Sean O'Hair talk about his practice round with Tiger and how Tiger helped him with his putting. Do these types of stories happen more, or less, often than we fans think?" They happen a lot. I remember when Brandel Chamblee was playing in the Masters for the first time. He was paired with Jose Maria Olazabal. Olley pulled off a superb chip with his 6-iron and Brandel commented on it. On the next tee box the great Spaniard gave a little on-the-spot tutorial, in the middle of a tournament round. Brad Faxon and Vijay Singh have long been oracles of the short- and long-game, respectively. It's not uncommon to see each guy giving a lesson to a fellow pro. Vijay is so generous with his counsel it's one of the reasons he's popular with his peers. Even in this age of overexposed swing gurus, top players are always looking to improve, and who better to go to for advice than a fellow player? "I may be the only one who cares, but with Phil playing so well this past week, I think he will be the main guy at the President's Cup next week. In the past, going into the Ryder or President's Cup, he never has been on a high where he was playing real well. Not this time...plus his wife is doing well.....your thoughts?" This is a good point. Phil has always been so apathetic post-PGA Championship, and he often seemed unprepared to play at the team events. He is a momentum player, and I expect his sizzling play from Atlanta will carry over to the Prez Cup. Amy is a little bit of an x-factor. She showed up at Torrey Pines a couple weeks ago for a charity thing and looked fabulous. If she's feeling well enough to accompany Phil to San Francisco that will give him and the entire team a big boost. Like it or not, the wives are a big part of the camaraderie of the week. If Phil is without his bride I could see that being a little bit of a downer for him. But either way, I expect him to make a ton of birdies for the U.S. team, and it will be fun to watch. Also, don't be surprised if Tiger and Phil team up for at least one match. Their relationship has evolved considerably since that disastrous 0-2 day at the 2004 Ryder Cup. After Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer, Tiger sent Phil a series of heartfelt text messages that Lefty was very touched by. Their friendlier vibe was evident during the trophy presentations at the Tour Championship. "Do you see a Tiger/Weir rematch for the Presidents cup singles or Tiger/Yang rematch?" Only a few frostbitten Canucks even remember Weir beating Tiger in '07. It's time to move on. Both Norman and Couples have already indicated they like the thought of a Woods-Yang rematch, and no doubt Tiger would relish the chance to administer a beat down. But no matter how many times Woods dusts Yang going forward, Y.E. will always have the one victory that really matters.(Photos: Fred Vuich/SI)

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