Van Cynical Mailbag: FedEx Cup playoffs may be contrived, but the events are exciting
The FedEx Cup playoffs are under way. That doesn't have quite the same ring as, "Gentlemen, start your engines!" But golf isn't auto racing and never will be.
My annual problem with the FedEx Cup is its general lack of drama. The points system is too complicated to know what's going on at any given moment. For proof, flash back to Steve Sands and a chalkboard last year on Golf Channel trying to keep up with the ever-changing standings. It's a thankless task and a lot of calculations. To the extent that the FedEx Cup playoffs work it's because, as was the case at the Barclays, the playoffs have featured the world's best players in a lot of close, exciting finishes.
The points system adds nothing. Fans just weren't losing any sleep over who got cut when the field shrank from 120 players at the Barclays to 100 at the Deutsche Bank this week. To recap, Aaron Baddeley dropped out of the top 100 after finishing with three straight bogeys on Sunday. Geoff Ogilvy, who missed a putt inside three feet on the final hole, also got the ax. Ted Potter, J.J. Henry and James Driscoll missed the cut to fall out of the top 100, while Jeff Overton tied for 66th and slid back.
The field will drop to 70 for the BMW Championship and that will be equally uneventful for the public. So Greg Chalmers (93rd) and Camilo Villegas (100th) may not make that cut? For a lot of fans, that's just a case of separating the wheat from the chaff. I watched part of last weekend's Barclay's telecast with two ardent golf followers -- one was an assistant pro at a swank Pittsburgh-area private club and another was just a serious golf nut whose den walls are covered with Masters and U.S. Open souvenirs.
"If Tiger's not playing, I don't pay any attention at all to golf on TV," the assistant pro said. The super-fan agreed. This surprised me. Phil and Rory and Rickie and Adam don't do it for them? Watching great golf shots from assorted players doesn't do it for them? Only Tiger, they said. They are surely not alone, and that's why the TV networks and other golf-news outlets may seem Tiger-centric. That's also why the FedEx Cup playoffs aren't real playoffs where top players -- namely Tiger and Phil -- can be eliminated in an early round. It would be a ratings disaster.
So let's forget about the awful points system and enjoy the tournaments. It beats the heck out of what we used to get in late August and early September -- Greater Vancouver Open/Air Canada Championship, B.C. Opens, Michelob Championships and the Buick Challenge, to name a few.
Let's get to the mail:
Vans, How about after the four playoff events, the top four players in points play a one-day tourney for the $10 million? -- Kristopher Barrie via Twitter
As you may know, I've always touted keeping track of cumulative score versus par for the four events instead of the obtuse point system used. That method doesn't guarantee an exciting finish, either, but it does guarantee that we'd know where everybody stood at all times. Your idea, which has been brought up in previous years, is the best of the bunch. Even if Tiger isn't in it, somebody is playing for $10 million and at least one somebody is going to choke on it. That would be great TV. I'd watch.
Van Cynical, Who should Captain Couples root for to snag the 10th spot on the Presidents Cup team, and who should he take with his two captain's picks? -- Brian Rosenwald via Twitter
Fred should definitely be rooting for Dustin Johnson to make the team because what team room isn't going to look a whole lot snazzier with Paulina Gretzky hanging out in it? So D.J. has to be a pick, if he doesn't make it on points, for that reason alone. There seems to be a groundswell of support for rookie Jordan Spieth, who could maybe do what Rickie Fowler did for the U.S. team in a losing Ryder Cup at Wales, bringing some youthful energy to an older team. You always want good putters for team match play, so elder statesman Steve Stricker is an obvious pick. But Fred certainly can't ignore Bubba Watson and the intense young Billy Horschel. If ace greensmith Zach Johnson, currently 10th on the points list, gets bumped, he's also an obvious choice.
Vans, Might this be the worst International team in Presidents Cup history? Really, most of them haven't even won a tournament in 2013. The obscure Richard Sterne is a solid eighth! -- Doug S. via email
When it comes to team match play, Dougie, you can throw the records out a window. Unless you're working in a cubicle that has no window, then I guess you gotta use the shredder. But you may have a point. Adam Scott is the reigning International stud with two wins, including a Masters. Then there's Ernie Els, with all of one top-10 finish in 2013. Louis Oosthuizen has been sidelined with assorted hip and back injuries. He played only one major all year, the Masters, and missed the cut. Charl Schwartzel didn't win on Tour, but won the Alfred Dunhill in Europe in December -- a W that goes on his 2013 record. Jason Day is winless. Hideki Matsuyama appears to be the real deal but hasn't won over here yet. Branden Grace, Sterne, Angel Cabrera and Graham DeLaet, another non-winner so far, round out the top 10. I'll agree they don't look strong, but just look at the Solheim Cup, where Europe's biggest stars were relative unknowns. I wouldn't hand the trophy to the U.S. just yet.
Hey Van Sickle, How bad is Tiger's back injury? Is this injury the reason he doesn't break Jack's record of 18 majors? -- Kirby via email
Only Tiger knows for sure whether he's a tough-as-nails ironman who plays hurt or a petite diva who falls to his knees with a hangnail. All we know is what he tells us, and in the past, he hasn't always been, well, truthful. So you make the call. One thing, though, is that there isn't a golfer in history, pro or amateur, who hasn't hurt his or her back at some point. If Tiger doesn't get to 18, I doubt if it's going to be because of this latest injury. Of his top five problems, I'd put his strained back at around number six.
Van Cynical, Do you think Tiger has had a chat with Rory about adjusting from Titleist to Nike? -- Steve Pease via Twitter
Nah. What, Tiger help an opponent who has already reached No. 1 and is clearly a future challenger for his legacy? Sure, they're "teammates" at Nike, but really, Rory is there as Tiger's marketing replacement in case the wins quit rolling in or Tiger has another scandal. I don't see Tiger sharing any important, proprietary secrets on golf with Rory. Phone numbers of attorneys, maybe.
Vans, I'm four places and 50 point out of the money in fantasy golf with three weeks left. Who specializes in Monday final rounds? -- Rick Fisher via Twitter
Fish Man, you know the rules at Bushwood: no wagering. But if you must, the usual suspects at Deutsche Bank include Tiger and Phil, Adam Scott, Vijay, Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker. Last year, Rory McIlroy ate it up.
Van Cynical, If Adam Scott wins the next two tournaments and comes in last at the Tour Championship, does he win the FedEx Cup if the player in second wins? -- MDA via Twitter
A sketch on "Saturday Night Live" once asked, "What if the Man From U.N.C.L.E. went back in time to help the pioneers fight dinosaurs?" What is Scott wins the next two? Get back to me after that happens. He's never won more than twice in any calendar year in his career. But even if he did, any of the top 5 players automatically win the Cup with a win at the Tour Championship.
Vans, With two Canadian Women's Open wins, should Lydia Ko turn pro or go to college? -- Douglas Schwimer via Twitter
At 16, she might want to continue high school. College or pro, it's her call. Does she want to enjoy something resembling a normal life, like college with basketball games, cafeteria food and dating, or travel the world 28 weeks in year to play in one faceless tournament after another? Either way, it's time for her to start thinking about who not to hire as caddie.