Thursday, September 25, 2008

ATLANTA — Welcome to the 2008 Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club. Plenty of tickets are still available.

The low buzz factor is no indictment on the quality of competition. Thirty of golf's biggest stars are here. The course is beautiful. The weather is perfect. The problem this week is twofold: no Tiger, and no suspense.

We knew about the Tiger problem back in June when he underwent season-ending knee surgery. The suspense problem was sealed three weeks ago when Vijay Singh mathematically clinched the Cup with a 44th-place finish at the BMW Championship. Singh won back-to-back events to kick off the four-tournament playoff, and none of his pursuers finished high enough at the BMW to remain in the chase.

All Singh must do is complete 72 holes this week (there is no cut) to become your 2008 FedEx Cup champion. If he wanted to, Singh could knock the ball around with a bunker rake and a ball retriever. Doesn't matter. Winning the playoff by winning the opening two events? It's like ending March Madness after North Carolina beats Florida A&M by 35 and Tennessee-Chattanooga by 24. No need for a Final Four or title game, we're impressed. Here's your trophy.

Anyway, as you might expect, Singh was pretty loose here at East Lake this morning, where he and his peers made the rounds at pro-am day. Veej stationed himself in a greenside bunker and gave a few lucky businessmen some pointers. So what's it like getting sand tips from the Tour's new $10 million man?

"Oh, you know, just a typical morning," said 39-year-old Michael Newman, grinning slyly after finishing a 10-minute session with Singh. "He told me to play the ball forward, hit down on it and open the face. Hey, I'm out here to have some fun."

With the pressure off this week, Singh seems to be having a pretty good time himself.

"It's nice, really, to know that all I need to do is finish the round," he said. "I've been told — make sure you run on a flat surface and don't over-exercise. We'll just keep it nice and easy this week."

Singh later added that he's putting the FedEx Cup in the back of his mind, and will focus this week on winning the tournament.

But for now, nice and easy is the theme of the day.

And seriously, if you need tickets, they've got 'em.

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