The PGA Tour's first FedExCup (FEC) is in the books, and the Cup is in Tiger's hands as most of us thought it would be. For the most part, the "playoffs" were a success. They attracted more attention to the Tour, post-PGA Championship, as it was supposed to. The best player from the regular season was also the hottest player going into the FEC, and sure enough, he continued to be the hot player in the playoffs.
But as would be expected with any inaugural event, there were hiccups. Honestly, I like the idea of the FedExCup (for many of the same reasons that JP put forth). I think it can become a "near major" in the golf world. But it's not quite there yet. My past posts - Five Things You Might Not Know About the FedExCup and Five More Things You Might Not Know About the FedExCup - attempted to get us all ready to watch the playoffs. Now that it's over, this post recaps what worked, what didn't quite make it, and what really needs work.
Number Five: The Name
Good: "FedExCup" had a nice ring to it. It just kind of rolls of the tongue after hearing it thousands and thousands of times through the course of the season.
Bad: "A New Era in Golf." Well, maybe, but it seems a little early to slap the "era" tag on it.
Ugly: The "Playoffs." They are none of the sort. The FedExCup in its current incarnation is a series of tournaments like the West Coast Swing or the Fall Finish, but with better fields. The PGA Tour seems to so enamored of other sports that it's trying to be what it's not, instead of celebrating what it is. Emulating NASCAR just doesn't seem like the way to go.
Number Four: The Field
Good: A $35 million purse is hard to sneeze at, and it did get almost all of the top players to play all of the events. Better yet… with no cuts, the third and fourth tournaments of the playoffs were guaranteed paydays for the players. That means the players all showed up… Right?
Bad: Phil Mickelson, hot off the win in Boston, opted to skip Cog Hill (where he's seldom played well). Apparently, the plan was to just win at East Lake to take the Cup. Some plans work out, and some don't.
Ugly: 144 players made the Wachovia Championship. That's 115% of the number of players that will retain their cards at the end of the year. It seems a little generous. Why not just limit it to the top 100 and start cutting from there?
Number Three: The Points
Good: The strange, perhaps overly complicated points system did not give us an out-of-the-blue winner. The regular season points leader (by a lot) won (by a lot) that helped the architects of the FedExCup get through the inaugural event without too much egg on their faces. Good thing Tiger was Tiger through the playoffs.
Bad: One of the hottest players during the FedExCup tournaments was Rich Beem, but he could not overcome his poor regular season, and his subsequent seeding, to get past the midway point of the playoffs. That's a bad thing as far as competition goes, but it's probably actually a good thing in that it means the regular season DID mean something (even if 144 players got into the playoffs). At least Beem got to bean Ian Baker-Finch before he was eliminated.
Bad #2: The "projected points" tracking was pretty cool… at first. But the announcers kept harping on it until I wanted to use a nine iron on my TV the way Tiger threatens to do to a car window in his OnStar commercial.
Ugly: Only six players had a chance of winning going into the Tour Championship, and Aaron Baddeley's chances were a little like Appalachian State's chances of beating Michigan. Errrr… Actually, he only needed to win the Tour Championship and have Woods withdraw. Appalachian State was an easy pick by comparison.
Number Two: The Results
Good: As I've said, from the PGA Tour's standpoint, the "right" guy won. Tiger led the money list and the FEC points list for most of 2007. Before the "seed," he had some 11,000 points more than second-place Vijay Singh. That was cut to 1,000 points going into the first tournament. Going into the Tour Championship, Tiger's lead was more than 3,000 points. In the end, he dominated the playoffs like he dominated the regular season.
Bad: Steve Stricker came in second. I've got nothing against Stricker (he had a great year and great playoffs … it's nice to see him playing well, again), but, my point is, what happened to Singh, Furyk, Els, and even Mickelson after the Deutsche Bank (18 shots back at the Tour Championship!)? What happened to the cream rising to the top? OK, to be fair, Vijay was just a "respectable" 13 shots back at the Tour Championship. And maybe the cream did rise to the top… Maybe Tiger really is that much better than everyone else.
Ugly: The lower level seeds were pretty much irrelevant. Rich Beem provided some minor drama… Could he make it to the next week? But the regular season performance of these players left them with too few points to really do anything in the playoffs. Sure, a win might have kept Beemer around another week, but did his season deserve a place in something called the playoffs? Probably not.
Number One: Overall
Good: The FedExCup was a success, not a huge one, but it was a success. Just look at all the stories out there about it. Most importantly, perhaps, having Tiger as its first champion adds instant legitimacy.
Bad: Even though Tim Finchem cued Tiger during the trophy presentation that the FedExCup had never been kissed, Tiger ignored the suggestion and just held it over his head. Could it have been a calculated move on Tiger's part? Or is Tiger becoming a germaphobe? Hmmm… inquiring minds want to know.
Ugly: Both Tiger and Phil skipped events during the playoffs (and K.J. Choi withdrew from one), the points system was confusing, the "Reset" made even less sense, and several players grumbled publicly about the deferred prize money.
Still, the worst thing to me was that despite the year-long promotion of these events, the courses were in sub-standard shape. The greens at East Lake and Cog Hill were sub-par by Tour standards. At one point, the players were even warned that they would not be able to practice on (or even walk on) the East Lake greens prior to the start of the Tour Championship (though that order was later changed). It was a tough summer for growing grass in much of the country, but if the Tour wants to keep the players happy and playing in the FEC, the venues need to be up to regular Tour standards, if not better.
Next year will be a huge test for the FEC, when the top players will face playing seven out of eight weeks (PGA Championship, Bridgestone, [Wyndham], four FEC events, and a little thing called the Ryder Cup). I suspect few of the Ryder Cuppers will end up playing all four events. Who knows, Azinger may even ask them not to. Then again, if they give them the money up front, who knows what kind of stamina these guys will suddenly muster.