Reflections on the Cup

Reflections on the Cup

Love it or hate it, the FedEx Cup gave us Tiger vs. Phil.
Scott Halleran/

Things to think about during the Tour Championship as we head to the conclusion of golf’s armageddon, the FedEx Cup series …

Love it or hate it, the four-week series was successful in getting most of the game’s top players to play most of the time. In the past, the golf season basically ended for Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson when the last putt dropped at the PGA Championship. They play for major titles and history, so neither one is ever going to be Mr. October. But both played three of four weeks, including a duel at Boston on Labor Day weekend. Forget the other details of the FedEx Cup. The attendance factor alone makes it a hit.

Apparently, the greens at East Lake this week aren’t as bad, or should I say as dead, as expected. However, it’s still early September. If the PGA Tour execs think a heat wave in Atlanta this time of year is unusual, and troubled bent-grass greens are a fluke, they should think again. There’s a reason people call it Hot-lanta. To avoid the four-week-in-a-row grind and the heat-stressed greens next year, it might make sense to push the schedule back. The idea was to avoid competing with pro football on TV, but that’s already happened, so why not finish in early October? The only way to avoid the NFL is to finish in August, and that is not likely.

The FedEx Cup series is not a real playoff. Take a look at this week’s field at East Lake. Who’s missing who really matters? Hardly anyone. The top 13 in the world rankings are present and accounted for. Missing is No. 14, Henrik Stenson, but he’s been MIA ever since he won the World Match Play Championship in Tucson. Luke Donald just missed the top 30 cut, too, as did Retief Goosen, Trevor Immelman, U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera and David Toms. This is supposed to be the final round of the playoffs, but very few big-name players have been eliminated.

Now that we’ve been through it once, it looks like the playoff point system may be too limiting. Only six players really have a chance at the Cup in the current system — the four who win the playoff tournaments, and the top two seeded players. Nobody outside that group is likely to earn the title without winning twice. That suddenly makes the series seem a little less exciting, don’t you think?

The FedEx Cup has provided a few Cinderella stories. Rich Beem played his way into the second round but fell short of the top-three finish he needed in Boston to stay alive. Still, six players outside the top 50 in the world are teeing it up this week: Brandt Snedeker (53), Mark Calcavecchia (54), John Rollins (55), Jonathan Byrd (57), Camilo Villegas (73) and Heath Slocum (77). Snedeker, an under-rated ballstriker, could be a sleeper pick to win the Tour Championship.

This is the week that NBC will have to address the FedEx Cup’s split personality. In one broadcast, the network will have to cover two events, the Tour Championship and the conclusion of the season-long title chase. NBC may have John Rollins and Stewart Cink battling for the Tour Championship title while Woods rolls to the FedEx Cup championship. The awards ceremony should also be interesting because the FedEx Cup winner, no matter who it is, will overshadow the Tour Championship winner.

Don’t forget, kids, that the season is not over yet. Even though the FedEx Cup has been marketed as the big-bang finish to the PGA Tour season, the Fall Series kicks off next week. This series is basically the PGA Tour’s leftovers, beginning with the Turning Stone Resort Championship in upstate New York. Among the other stops you may remember are the Valero Texas Open, and the traditional event at Disney World, which has been renamed the Children’s Miracle Network Classic.