Conspicuous for its lack of buzz in its first year, the FedEx Cup made the kind of news Friday that PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem was hoping to avoid.
Tiger Woods, who has two wins in his last two starts, said he's too tired to play at Westchester Country Club next week in the Barclays, the first event of the heavily promoted, four-week FedEx Cup playoffs.
"We're obviously disappointed that he's not going to play," said Peter Mele, the executive director of the Barclays. "It's kind of like when you're in the football playoffs and the quarterback gets hurt. We still have a terrific field. We've moved on."
Finchem was traveling and could not be reached for comment, but Ty Votaw, a Tour spokesman, echoed Mele's remarks in comments to the AP, saying the Tour was "disappointed."
Woods easily earned the top seed for the playoffs, racking up 30,574 regular season points to Vijay Singh's second-place total of 19,129. Those points are wiped off the board at the start of the playoffs and replaced with point values according to seed: Woods starts with 100,000, Singh gets 99,000, third seed Jim Furyk begins with 98,500, and so on.
Singh, who won the '06 Barclays, would pass Woods for first place in the FedEx playoff series with a finish of solo 13th or better next week.
The FedEx Cup has been marketed as a way to not only bring the season to a more timely, meaningful close, but also as a way to entice the top pros to play against one another more often. The winner, who will be crowned at the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta next month, will be awarded a $10 million retirement bonus.
Woods had spoken more than once of his "intent" to play all four playoff events, leaving plenty of room to change his mind. Although his decision seemed to suck the life out of golf's new postseason before it begins, Woods said, "It's still my goal to win the FedEx Cup and I am hopeful this will give me the best opportunity to finish the year strong."
His absence doesn't come as a total surprise. He generally avoids cozy courses like Westchester, and his unspectacular record on the leafy, old-school layout explains why: He missed the cut in '94, and finished T43 in '97, T16 in '01 and T13 in '03.
Woods's announcement isn't likely to come as a shock to Finchem, who sounded cautiously optimistic at the 2006 Tour Championship (which conspicuously lacked both Woods and Phil Mickelson) as he explained the FedEx concept:
"I don't have guarantees from anybody," Finchem said. "They tell me they want to play. They're looking forward to — they like the way the competition sets up."
Given his record on the other three courses hosting FedEx Cup tournaments, Woods is still a solid bet to win the playoff series. He likes the TPC Boston, which will host the second event of the playoffs in two weeks. He won the Deutsche Bank there last year.
Woods also plays well at Chicago's Cog Hill Golf and Country Club, which will host the third event of the playoffs, the BMW Championship, Sept. 6-9. He's won the Western Open there three times.
As runner-up in '04 and '05, his record at East Lake, site of the Tour Championship, isn't bad, either.
Still suspect is the idea that the FedEx Cup will more reliably bring together the top players, namely Mickelson and Woods. If Woods shows for the final three playoff events, he will have made 16 starts this season, one more than last year but significantly fewer than his 21 starts in 2005.
Mickelson has played in 18 tournaments this year and would end with 22 if he plays all four postseason events. That would be one more start than he had in '05 and three more than last year.
Meanwhile, the race to get into the top 144 on the regular season FedEx Cup points list, and thus into the Barclays, continues at this week's Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C.
Only 273 points separate 140th and 150th place, leaving major champions like Bob Tway (141) and Lee Janzen (142) to battle career grinders like Glen Day (143), Steve Lowery (146) and Mathias Gronberg (150), among others, for the final spots in next week's 144-turned-143-man field.