Wednesday, August 22, 2007

FedEx Cup starts with no Tiger and lots of questions

The PGA Tour's super-hyped, vaguely understood FedEx Cup playoffs begin this week with No. 1 seed and - even if he doesn't make another cut this year - player of the year Tiger Woods deciding to give himself a first-round bye.

That's called starting with a whimper more than a bang.

No wonder PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem opted not to visit the media center in Greensboro Sunday afternoon while he was at Forest Oaks Country Club, where you'd have thought he might want to pump up the volume on golf's so-called playoffs.

No one, players included, is quite sure what to make of this new four-event format that is intended to give the PGA Tour a finish with the unrelenting action of "The Bourne Ultimatum."

It's a worthwhile experiment. Pro golf gets lost in football season and trying to bring it all together for a big finish before everyone gets settled into their Barcalounger is a good idea.

I remember standing behind the 18th green in Greensboro a couple of years ago on an October Saturday afternoon watching the final groups finish. Players in three consecutive groups walked off the last green and immediately asked about college football scores.

At the Presidents Cup two years ago, U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus finished his Saturday afternoon press conference that included unveiling the Sunday singles pairings then, as he was walking out, had a writer call up the day's college scores on a computer so the Golden Bear could check on his beloved Ohio State Buckeyes and the other games.

Regardless of who wins the FedEx Cup - my guess is Tiger followed by Vijay Singh with Brandt Snedeker as the darkhorse - we already know Woods is the player of the year. That's not going to change.

But it's hard to get hyped up about the money they're playing for because A) they already play for so much and, B) it's s not like they get the money now.

The winner will have to wait until he's 45 to access the $10 million annuity. It's nice to know that it's coming down the road, but wouldn't it be more fun if FedEx rolled out one of its big trucks to the 18th green at East Lake and stacked the money around the champion?

There are interesting questions as the FedEx Cup begins:

- Will Phil Mickelson really play all four events as he says he intends to do and, if he does, will he be a factor? Lefty usually shuts it down this time of year, but because he was one of the guys asking for the shorter season, he needs to play. Plus, is his second-half slump entirely attributable to his wrist injury? If Phil can get it going, the FedEx Cup will get some extra juice.

-How much will the attention focus on the "cut" after the second week when only the top 70 in points advance? My guess is it won't attract much attention.

-Is this tailor-made for Jim Furyk, who is seemingly always in contention?

-What if Tiger and Vijay are battling for the FedEx championship on Sunday at the Tour Championship but neither is in contention to win the tournament? Does the tournament winner get overshadowed like happens when the Nextel Cup champion is determined?

-Will the format be the same next year?

-It's time to start getting some answers.

-Ron Green Jr.