Monday, September 28, 2009

PGA Tour finally gets its playoff payoff

It may be impossible to get the FedEx Cup playoffs exactly right because, as seemingly everyone including me has pointed out, golf isn't a playoff sport.

Still, the PGA Tour, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and television had to be pleased with the way things played out this year. Sure, Tiger would have been happier to have won the Tour Championship but he still picked up $10 million for being the best player through the year and, particularly, through the playoffs.

Mickelson admitted he didn't deserve to win the FedEx Cup because he played so poorly during the first three playoff events. Winning the last one, Mickelson said, shouldn't offset what he didn't do in the first three.

Woods was the best through the playoffs despite running hot and cold on the greens. He hit the ball well at East Lake but couldn't get the ball in the hole, especially on Sunday. By the time he finally made a couple in the final round, it was too late.

At various stages of the final round, as many as six players still had a chance to win the $10-million FedEx Cup bonus. Every hole, the permutations changed. It was too complicated to keep up with but it was still fun trying.

There was even a time when it looked possible that Tiger and Steve Stricker might share the FedEx Cup, which would require a $10-million playoff. Now that would have been fun.

It's an imperfect system but a better one than the two previous models. I'm guessing there won't be any significant tweaks for next year. Making sure the top five in points can win the FedEx Cup by winning the Tour Championship added a necessary element of uncertainty, unlike the previous two years when Woods and Vijay Singh had already essentially locked down the cup before landing in Atlanta.

It's probably unlikely they'll change the week off next year either. Though it would be better for the playoffs to play two events, take a week off then play the final two, it's more likely to remain three on, one off, then the Tour Championship.

That's because the Ryder Cup in Wales will follow immediately after the Tour Championship. Tiger, Phil and the other top players would prefer to make the Ryder Cup a second straight week, not a third straight week.