Monday, September 20, 2010

A Two-Week Race To The End Of Golf Season

The professional golf season has two meaningful weeks left before it submerges again, waiting to surface in HD images from Kapalua next January.

Sure, there are tournaments to be played in the PGA Tour's Fall Series, the place where guys go to save their tour cards against weaker fields but they're lost under football season, the baseball playoffs and the new season of 'Mad Men.'

The next two weeks, however, have plenty to offer, particularly around here where the Champions Tour is making its two-week tour through the SAS Championship in Cary and the Ensure Classic at Rock Barn in Conover.

The primary attention is on the Tour Championship at East Lake, which begins Thursday with 30 players chasing the $10-million FedEx check someone will win. My guess is Matt Kuchar wins the playoffs, capping a storybook season for the Georgia Tech kid. He reinvented his golf swing a few years back, making it flatter than west Texas, and he's become one of the world's best players.

That's what happens when we spend most of our time watching and wondering what's happening with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Suddenly, here's Matt Kuchar doing what they have typically done. And right beside him, there's Dustin Johnson, who has the season's most compelling story.

This is the fourth year of the FedEx Cup playoffs and they still haven't created the wow factor tour officials wanted. Are they better than what came before them? Sure, but then, before the playoffs the season just gradually faded away like Chris DiMarco. Regardless of who wins this weekend, it won't be the chatter around the office on Monday morning unless Phil shoots 58 to win.

The Tour Championship is just a prelude to the Ryder Cup, which, to me, is the most entertaining event in golf alongside the Masters. Match play is fascinating, especially in the Ryder Cup, which is golf's version of a daytime soap opera.

I still like the Europeans to win but I'll hold off a prediction until next week.

If you're around Cary this weekend or around here next weekend, it's worth a ride to check out Fred Couples, Bernhard Langer, Jay Haas and the Champions Tour guys. After a few down years, the Champions Tour has bounced back in a big way. Couples is a huge part of it, of course, but the 50-somethings still have some magic.