For all the complaints that the PGA Tour's re-jiggered playoff system is too volatile, the FedEx Cup has turned out to be not volatile enough.
Tiger Woods won the first FedEx Cup last fall by such a wide margin that in retrospect he didn't even have to play the Tour Championship. (He won by eight shots anyway.) This year it's Vijay Singh who has built such a lead as to drain the Tour Championship of any suspense. To win the $10 million FedEx Cup prize, he must only finish four rounds at East Lake in the last weekend in September.
It's a no-cut event.
Singh shot 69 to finish T44 at the BMW Sunday, after which he reportedly refused an interview with NBC and ignored a group of other media members. Maybe he hadn't heard that after winning the first two tournaments of the four-week playoffs, and his ho-hum finish at Bellerive, he needs only to avoid getting lost on his way to East Lake to collect the $10 million FedEx Cup first prize.
It all looks very familiar, not only like last year's season finale but also like Monty Python's Upper Class Twit of the Year Show. Vijay has to complete four rounds of golf? Ooh. What about jumping over a row of matchboxes? Can he do that?
"I for one am pretty confident it's going to be spectacular," PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said in early November 2006, when the FedEx Cup was still in the final planning stages.
The goal was to bring the year to a big finish well before Halloween, while at the same time crowning a season-long points champion. Theoretically, this would help maintain fan interest in the midst of fall's early football games and the end of baseball season.
But two years into the FedEx era we can say that, aside from the Mickelson-Woods duel at the '07 Deutsche Bank Championship, it has not been as spectacular as we might have hoped.
In a perfect world The FedEx Cup would make the Tour Championship golf's answer to the Super Bowl or the World Series: a splashy, season-ending affair of huge consequence.
In reality that hasn't happened, and again the Tour Championship feels over before it begins, like a Harlem Globetrotters game without the whole confetti-in-the-bucket thing.
The Tour has lost its way in an avalanche of math, creating a playoff format that is random, almost impossible to figure out and, as we've come to realize, ineffective. All the moaning from the players has obscured the fact that the FedEx Cup is still not close to volatile enough.
At the very least, the Tour ought to restart every player at zero and make the Tour Championship a winner-take-all match play event.
"If the New York Yankees win 315 games and they win 20 more games than everybody else, they still start over," Finchem said in 2006. "That's what the playoffs are all about."
Aside from the number of games in baseball's regular season, he's right. I'd take it a step further and do away with the points system altogether once the playoffs start. There are more compelling ways to narrow 144 players down to 120, then to 70 and finally all the way down to 30 (or whatever the Tour wants the numbers to be).
• Have a cut every Thursday and Friday, complete with sudden-death playoffs. Is that too penal, killing a guy off for one bad day? It seems to work for the NCAA basketball tournament.
• Use stroke play on Thursday and Friday and match play on weekends. Lose and you're gone.
Unless you subscribe to the idea that sex appeal is a pocket protector and a calculator, the Tour's current math-heavy approach is a big part of the problem, even ignoring its terrible results.
Last year's FedEx slogan was: "Who will be the first to kiss the Cup?" Tiger won it, but he didn't kiss it. This year's big question was who would take advantage of Tiger's absence to win the $10 million? It's already been decided.
Here's what's left: Who will win the $3 million for second place, assuming Singh isn't somehow disabled or kidnapped between now and then?
Can Vijay complete four rounds of golf to win the Cup? Can Nigel Jones walk a straight line to win Twit of the Year? And who cares?