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The first week, the Barclays at old Westchester, Tiger's absence was actually a good thing. He gave everybody else a chance. In Tiger's place, the most moving comeback story of the year unfolded, the triumphant return of Steve Stricker. David Feherty, on the scene for CBS, was practically crying, and the man has a b.s. detector for fake emotion that's bigger than K.J. Choi's driver.
The second week's Deutsche Bank featured the thing we've all been waiting for: Phil versus Tiger, and it was played on an improved, sporty and handsome-looking course, TPC Boston. The result--Phil outplaying Tiger--was close to shock city. Then last week the BMW Championship near Chicago brought the seemingly inevitable return to the top by golf's colossus, Woods himself.
For the finale, it's back to the old capital of the New South ( Atlanta) and East Lake, the place where Jones took up the game a century ago. Very cool. The golf season always used to drift away, the final punctuation being Fred Couples playing for funny money among the cacti. Now the Tour Championship means way more than it ever did.
Maybe you're saying, Well, you could have those four events without all the breathless commercials hyping the thing and without the complicated point scheme. But having the four events linked, that's the thing that someday will make it really work. It's already making us pay attention. Bam, bam, bam, bam--four good ones, all in a row, and you think of them as a whole.
The problem is that the points formula is too complicated. Professional golf has always had perfect bookkeeping--money and scores, scores and money--and there's no reason to change now.
Here's a quick fix. The top�144 off the money list qualify to play the first week. After the second round, cut to the top�90--and have ties play off. If you miss the cut, you're done for the next three weeks. Guys will be puking their guts out on Friday afternoon at Westchester, and it'll be one of the best days of the year. In the second week, cut from 90 to 72 on Friday. More fun and games. For the last two events, stay at 72. There will be only one exception: The top 20 from the year, before Westchester, can take one week off during the playoffs.
At the Tour Championship offer two $5�million cash prizes. The low man for 72 holes gets $5�million. He's your Tour Championship winner. And the low man for his best 12 of the 16 playoff rounds gets $5�million too--and he's your FedEx Cup winner. Some years the winner of one will be the winner of the other. Good. Other years you'll have two winners. Also good.
If Tiger or Phil wants to skip a week, no problem. But Steve Stricker and K.J. Choi and Vijay Singh are going to play all 16 rounds. Choi's 12 best of 16 have a good chance of being lower than Tiger's dozen. Part of the problem with golf right now is that Tiger's too good. This way more guys would have a chance. If Tiger didn't want to give them that edge, he could simply play all 16 rounds. His thing has always been to outwork everybody anyhow, right?
Either way, the Tour Championship becomes way more interesting. It already is. You can build on that.