Now that the
Ryder Cup--that pomped-up exhibition against a bunch of boozy Euros who beat us
because they know the difference between foursomes and four-ball--is over, it's
time to focus on the real jewel of the golf season. I'm talking about golf's
grand finale, el huevo humongo. The Fall Finish.
started on Sept. 4, when Tiger Woods and 10 others racked up the first FFPs
(Fall Finish Points) of 2006. From now through the end of the Tour Championship
in November, every top 10 finish will mean FFPs for defending Fall guy Carl
Pettersson, three-time champ Vijay (Autumn-matic) Singh and other pros, many of
whom are at least dimly aware of the program, which pays a $500,000 bonus to
the winner, $300,000 for second place and $200,000 for third and is
ofcoursesponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Fall Finish lore
dates to 2000, when Woods won the first one. Tiger was fired up, all right, but
not for the reason you'd think. According to SI.com, "Tiger reached his
boiling point last week when he won the Fall Finish program." He was ticked
that PricewaterhouseCoopers, a rival of his sponsor American Express, wanted to
congratulate him publicly. Since then Tiger has skipped a slew of Fall Finish
events, pretending not to care who wins. Thus his Fall Finish lead on Jack
Nicklaus is only 1-0.
Who can forget
Bob Estes's dominance in 2001, when he clinched the title with a week to spare?
On the eve of that year's Tour Championship, sensing his place in history,
Estes said, "I get a big check no matter what I shoot."
The Finish has
long inspired such memorable utterances. "Our sponsorship of the Fall
Finish," PricewaterhouseCoopers spokesman Dean Kern announced in 2003,
"is an exceptional opportunity for us to strengthen business relationships,
reach our target audience and provide exciting entertainment for all of those
who love golf." Two years later, equally jazzed by the '05 event, Kern
showed Singh-like consistency. "Our sponsorship," he said, "is an
exceptional opportunity for us to strengthen business relationships, reach our
target audience and provide exciting entertainment for all of those who love
As Kern might be
the first and second to say, you don't fix something that ain't broke. But
that's what the Tour plans to do next year. It will replace the Fall Finish
with a NASCAR-style bonus-points playoff called the FedEx Cup Championship
Series and a late-season, also-ran circuit that will be known as the Quest for
FedEx. Thanks to you, PricewaterhouseCoopers is looking at a season of lousy
business relationships, missing its target audience and providing aid and
comfort to those who hate golf.
In hopes of
eclipsing the FF, the FedEx Cup will provide a winner's share of $10 million.
Nice idea, but by this time next year, with the new two-tier Tour awash in
FedEx Cup bonus points and playoff permutations, we may be pining for the
turn-of-the-century charm of the Fall Finish.
At least the
Players Championship is safe. Not even the radicals of Ponte Vedra Beach would
move the fifth major from its hallowed spot in March.