first round of the new golf season, at last week's Mercedes-Benz Championship
at Kapalua's Plantation Course in Maui, Hawaii, Vijay Singh sauntered into the
press room expecting to discuss the 69 that had put him among the early
leaders. Instead he was asked about the FedEx Cup, the overarching name for the
PGA Tour's radically reorganized schedule.
"There's so much going on about the FedEx Cup, I'm tired of listening to
it, you know," said Singh. "It's nothing else but the FedEx
Well, that didn't take long, did it? But if Singh (who would go on to shoot 14
under and win by two shots) has exhausted his patience after one day, how are
the rest of us supposed to survive the next 36 weeks, during which the FedEx
Cup will be relentlessly hyped as golf's greatest invention since the beer-cart
girl? For those who have somehow missed the endless analysis on the Golf
Channel or the blizzard of press releases from Tour headquarters or the barrage
of ads during the NFL playoffs, the FedEx Cup is a seasonlong points race
culminating in a four-tournament shootout to crown an overall champion, who
will be rewarded with $10 million. The concept was obviously cribbed from
NASCAR's Nextel Cup, though football was the primary motivator; the old Tour
schedule dragged on to the point of apathy, ending on a Sunday in early
November when sports fans were in the mood for Ickey Woods, not Tiger
In announcing the
creation of the Cup, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said, "We're the
only major sport that doesn't have a playoff ... the only sport that doesn't
have a stronger finish than our regular season." Finchem has staked much of
his legacy on changing that, but one week in, the FedEx Cup has raised more
questions than it has answered. At the risk of further antagonizing Singh, here
are the key issues in golf's new world order.
1 Will Tiger and
Phil play more?
Sure doesn't look
like it. In formulating the Cup, Finchem went out of his way to solicit the
input and support of Woods and Mickelson, but both exercised their rights as
independent contractors to blow off the Mercedes-Benz Championship, a
monumental embarrassment to the Tour.
All will be
forgiven if golf's biggest draws soldier through the Cup's glitzy
four-tournament finish, but that's hardly a given. Mickelson has traditionally
gone into hibernation following August's PGA Championship, and the Cup begins
its so-called playoffs two weeks after the PGA. A week after the playoffs end
is the Presidents Cup. Throw in the Bridgestone Invitational (Woods is two-time
defending champ) the week before the PGA Championship, and that's seven
big-time events in nine weeks.
Woods has always
played some of his best golf late in the year, but this time around he will be
eager to bond with his first child, reportedly due in early July, and possibly
burned out from chasing a Tiger Slam or Grand Slam, or both.
2 Is the money
Not yet. Like
Hollywood producers and mortgage brokers, Tour officials are all about points,
but the rest of the golf firmament will still use the money list as a key
measuring stick. All of the majors will continue to award automatic exemptions
based on the money list, and cash remains the only qualifying criterion for the
U.S. Ryder Cup team. Even the PGA Tour hasn't completely divorced itself from
dollars. Only the top 125 earners will get full Tour exemptions for the
following season, and the Arnold Palmer Award will still be given to the Tour's
leading money winner.
evening, after Singh had tidied up his 30th career victory, he was asked what
he was more excited about: earning 4,500 FedEx Cup points or the $1.1 million
winner's check? He offered only a wicked cackle in response. Point taken.
3 We're afraid to
ask, but how does the FedEx Cup work?