When Tim Finchem created the FedEx Cup and the Fall Series, effectively shortening the season for the Tour’s best players, he probably envisioned the world’s top duffers spending the autumn dropping the kids at school, hitting the range and putting in quality time with the local United Way. Meanwhile, the rest of the golf universe would focus on Walt Disney Resort, where the Tour’s also-rans would squeeze in epic battles for their professional lives between gratis trips to the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT Center.
What Finchem couldn’t have imagined was that the new schedule would allow a far-flung tilt called the Barclay’s Singapore Open to upstage the final week of the PGA Tour and the Nationwide Tour Championship while also stomping on the European tour’s finale.
With a star-studded field that included Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Adam Scott, Vijay Singh and K.J. Choi, and a story line spiced with off-the-purse cash, tragedy, catfights, food poisoning and, in the end, a great champion, the Asian tour event turned out to be the week’s most entertaining soap opera.
The opening act involved the California wildfires, which forced Mickelson to evacuate his home in Rancho Santa Fe and put his trip to Asia in jeopardy. When the flames subsided, leaving Mickelson’s property singed but his house spared, he decided to honor his commitment to the event and his desire to “educate my children on a more global basis,” to say nothing of collecting a reported $1 million appearance fee.
No sooner had the Phil drama cooled when Colin Montgomerie blasted Els for blowing off the Euro tour’s season-ending Volvo Masters to play in Singapore, especially since Els was leading the Order of Merit. Els responded by blaming the tour for changing the date of the Volvo and telling Monty to keep his fat yap shut, although not in those exact words. In a kind of Monty-zuma’s revenge, Els got food poisoning and missed the cut.
Meanwhile, Mickelson and his caddie, Jim MacKay, were also fighting some “stomach cramping and headaches,” so much so that six holes into the third round MacKay had to hand the bag off to Mickelson’s father-in-law, Gary McBride, and Lefty himself split without signing autographs or speaking to the media. He was taken to a doctor, who treated him with antibiotics. Mickelson and MacKay were back on Sunday but put up a 79 and fell far behind leader Angel Cabrera, the reigning U.S. Open champ, who held off a rally by Singh to win his third straight start (Grand Slam, Argentine Masters). His business complete, Mickelson and many of the others moved on to this week’s HSBC Champions in Shanghai, where most will hazard authentic Chinese food while counting appearance-fee money.
No one needed to tell Finchem that you can’t do either of those things at EPCOT.