Players worry FedEx Cup awards mediocrity

Players worry FedEx Cup awards mediocrity

NEW YORK (AP) — This year’s version of the FedEx Cup was supposed to be about volatility.

The buzz word in Boston was mediocrity.

Vijay Singh has been anything but that. He has played the first two weeks of the PGA Tour Playoffs like it was 2004, when he was No. 1 in the world and winning just about every time he teed it up. With victories at The Barclays and Deutsche Bank Championship, his lead is so large he might wrap up the $10 million prize this week in St. Louis.

No one should have any qualms with that.

Go a little bit deeper in the standings, and the playoffs reward great play. Sergio Garcia is at No. 2 after a runner-up finish and a tie for fifth. Next is Mike Weir, who tied for seventh and finished second. And in fourth place is Justin Leonard, who has tied for seventh both weeks.

Still, all it took was one week for millionaire golfers to turn into mathematicians.

They figured out that a player could finish 70th two weeks in a row and earn more points than someone who contended on Sunday and wound up fifth, then missed a cut.

The idea behind a revamped points system was to create more movement in the standings during the three playoff events leading to the Tour Championship, and the simple fix was to award an additional 2,000 points to each player.

But that essentially became a 2,000-point bonus to anyone making the cut.

Charlie Wi tied for 65th at The Barclays and tied for 44th at the Deutsche Bank, moving up 27 spots from No. 66 to No. 39 going into the third round this week. Sean O’Hair missed the cut both weeks and was sent home, despite starting the playoffs as the No. 16 seed.

“Cuts made bothers me,” said Jim Furyk, a reasonable and honest voice on tour. “Making a cut isn’t anything to be proud of, in my opinion. Finishing fifth? Now, there’s something to be proud of. As we know two 70ths is better than a fifth and a missed cut. I think we’re rewarding mediocrity. I don’t like rewarding mediocrity.”

Who shows up at a golf tournament thinking about making the cut?

Plenty of players at the TPC Boston, knowing that if they missed the cut they would be going home. And in some cases, making the cut would allow them to punch their ticket to the Tour Championship – not to mention earn a ticket down Magnolia Lane for the Masters.

Take the case of Kevin Sutherland at No. 57. He had one great week – part of the three-man playoff at The Barclays – then made the cut in Boston and tied for 50th. Two weeks later, an ordinary year and one great week means Sutherland is No. 6 in the standings.

“What does it mean? That Barclays and this tournament are the two most important tournaments of the year to make the cut. By miles,” said Geoff Ogilvy, another insightful mind. “That’s awesome for the players who do.”

But then he considered how many players might wind up at the Masters for having one or two good weeks at the right time – and remember, Augusta National does not want a big field – and he wondered how long the Masters would continue to invite the top 30.

“They’ll take that exemption away quicker than you can say, ‘Cut the rough,”‘ Ogilvy said.

Steve Dennis is the director of communications strategy for the PGA Tour, also known as the FedEx Cup guru. He didn’t create the new system, but he can answer all the questions.

And there have been a lot of questions these first few weeks.

“The first thing I’d say is that the guys at the top of the FedEx Cup standings are guys who have played incredibly well,” Dennis said, and that gets no argument.

“As in playoffs in other sports, if you lose you’re gone, even if you had a perfect regular season,” he said. “You have to have balance where your performance in the playoffs really matters, and the regular season really matters. We’re only two events in. It looks to me like it’s playing out pretty reasonably.”

Ten guys played their way into the top 70 last week to qualify for the BMW Championship in St. Louis. The 10 who fell out of the top 70 all missed the cut in Boston.

Angel Cabrera and Tim Herron are the only players in St. Louis who started outside the top 120 in the playoffs and have advanced after each of the two rounds.

Well done? That’s debatable.

Cabrera started at No. 131 and moved up to No. 70 with a tie for 19th and a tie for 15th. Herron started at No. 133 and advanced with a tie for 24th and a tie for fifth last week, when he shot 65 in the final round.

That was his first top 10 of the year. Timing is everything.

The biggest headache in all this is Padraig Harrington. You remember him as the British Open and PGA champion, a feat accomplished only by Tiger Woods the last half-century. Then he missed two cuts in a row and won’t get to East Lake unless he finishes fifth in St. Louis.

“Do you want a two-time major winner not in the Tour Championship?” Furyk asked.

It’s a fair question, but it’s missing the broader point.

The Tour Championship is no longer a reward for a great season. It’s a reward for a great month. That’s what the PGA Tour Playoffs are all about this year because of the volatility. And volatility is what the players wanted last year.

At least some of them.

“It’s a fight between the haves and have-nots a little bit, like in everything else,” Furyk said. “All the guys in the top 40 are complaining it’s too volatile, all the guys at the end are saying it’s great. Last year, everyone in the top 40 said, ‘This is great,’ all the guys at the other end said, ‘This (stinks).

“Where do you get the happy medium?”

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