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TIGER WOODS, meet
H.L. Mencken. "A man always remembers his first love with special
tenderness," the legendary essayist wrote, "but after that he begins to
I have to win 15 a
year to catch him." Rose nodded and pretended that the notion wasn't
ridiculous. "That's pretty good." • Woods making history falls under
the category of Dog Bites Man, but there was a bit more significance to number
60 than you'd think. This win wasn't simply another chapter in the Tiger
Legacy, a book that's already a riveting read. This victory, at Cog Hill Golf
& Country Club in suburban Chicago, will be remembered as the Win That
Saved the FedEx Cup.
Two weeks of Tiger in contention is a winning formula, so we can dispense with the formalities and go ahead and present the 2007 comeback of the year award. It goes to the FedEx Cup, which has suffered more critics than Britney Spears and, with its intricate points system, had been, until now, ignored by players, fans and media.
The playoffs got off to a rousing start at Westchester, where Strieker came from behind to beat K.J. Choi. Then the series came to life in Boston with Phil versus Tiger. Last week the FedEx Cup did a full-blown turnaround (MY SHOT,page G10). Say what you will, but the playoffs have been more than a little compelling and, admit it, miles better than the snoozefest that used to end the Tour season.
Interesting what a Woods win can do. At the beginning of the week, the FedEx Cup sounded more like the FedUp Cup, what with all the whining. In the wake of his coy criticism of Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, Mickelson ditched the BMW but made a statement by stopping off for a corporate gig in Chicago two days before the first round. Woods, siding with Mickelson, aired his dissatisfaction with the playoffs' payoff—$10 million in deferred money that a player can't access until age 45 or until he retires—and the crowded year-end schedule. "We all didn't think it was in the best interest to play that much," Woods said. As for the money, Woods added, "I think it is an issue. A lot of the players weren't aware of what we were playing for. I think one of the major issues for all of us is that it's not a true payout."
Ernie Els was upset with what he perceived to be a lack of control by the players (page G6). "We've kind of grown apart," he said, "especially the players and the commissioner's office... because of these big decisions that were made without the knowledge of the players. The $10 million was a big deal. I don't think Tiger knew about it. Phil didn't know about it. I didn't know about it. A lot of people didn't know. The players don't have any ballot. It's all done behind closed doors."
Ultimately, all the negativity from the headliners resulted in a number of players carping about all the harping. How, they asked, could anyone be upset about a four-week, $63 million bonanza? "We had one player meeting last year at Doral to discuss the nature of the FedEx Cup payouts, and it was attended by, like, nine or 11 players," said Stewart Cink, a member of the Tour's Player Advisory Council. "I guess we're just like workplaces all over the country. People don't read a lot of stuff that comes across the desk, but when it finally affects their day-to-day lives, they pay attention and get vocal." A more succinct retort came from Rocco Mediate: "How can you complain when we're playing for a zillion frickin' dollars? It makes me nauseous. Just shut up and play."
THE FEDUP CUP and the complaints were but a memory as Woods walked triumphantly to the 18th green on Sunday. Also forgotten was the fact that Woods—who was right back where he was when the playoffs started, No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings—had skipped the first leg. Turned out that may have been a blessing for the series. A bye for Tiger might have kept him from clinching the title by the third event.
The BMW had other FedEx Cup moments to treasure. Like the wedge shot by Strieker (who came in third to move to second in the overall standings) that backed into the cup for an eagle during a third-round 64. Or his run of five birdies in six holes midway through the final round that temporarily put him ahead of Woods.
Tiger, of course, had his own highlight reel. His shot of the week was a risky, slicing three-wood on Saturday that sailed over the towering trees on the par-511th hole, carried some 250 yards to the green and set up a two-putt birdie. Few mortals would try to clear those trees with a fairway metal. The next best Tiger moment came on Sunday at the par-312th, where, after a mediocre tee shot, he forcefully drained a 48-foot putt for birdie. Woods then birdied three of the next four holes to pull away from Baddeley and Strieker. "When he made that putt across the green," said Rose, "you could see that he was into another gear."