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TWO MOMENTS defined the 2008 FedEx Cup. The first came on Sunday afternoon on the 9th green at stately Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis. ¶ The 9th green? Yes, that's where Vijay Singh, a back-of-the-pack scorer (44th in a field of 69), finished his final round of the rain-delayed BMW Championship. The real contenders enjoyed the traditional honor of completing the tournament on the 18th hole.
Still, it all came down to this extraordinary scene: Singh had a birdie putt to possibly win the FedEx Cup's $10 million first prize. He missed. Then he had a par putt to possibly win the FedEx Cup's $10 million first prize. He missed again. Finally, Singh rapped in his third putt for a bogey. And, oh yeah, for the 10 mil. His title wasn't official quite yet, but it was overwhelmingly likely.
The outcome would depend on who won the BMW, and when Camilo Villegas withstood a posse of pursuers more than an hour later to earn his first PGA Tour victory, it was a done deal: The FedEx Cup belonged to Fiji's most famous son. No matter what happens in two weeks at the FedEx Cup playoffs finale, the Tour Championship in Atlanta, Singh will reign supreme. Apparently, $10 million doesn't buy much in the way of suspense anymore.
Tiger Woods claimed the inaugural FedEx Cup a year ago, a victory that, though lopsided, at least involved the Tour Championship and thus successfully launched the series. And now Singh has joined him in an elite winner's circle that must be something like the Tour's own Elysian Fields.
You can only imagine Singh's reaction to this historic feat. Really. You can only imagine. Because in FedEx Cup Defining Moment Number 1, Singh declined to be interviewed about his then-still-probable title. A Tour media official and a determined international wire-service writer chased him down later in the locker room, where Singh obliged with a few comments that included criticism of Bellerive's greens but nothing about his likely FedEx Cup windfall.
The playoffs had already suffered great indignities. The Ryder Cup captains' wild-card choices sparked minicontroversies (Nick Faldo snubs lovable Darren Clarke; Paul Azinger takes Chad Campbell), which swept the FedEx Cup into a small, dark corner. In addition the remnants of Hurricane Gustav had wiped out the first day of play at Bellerive with nearly three inches of rain and forced a 36-hole session last Saturday, pushing the third round of the BMW from NBC, which was committed to airing Notre Dame football, to the viewer-challenged Golf Channel.
Finally, the convoluted math and permutations of the FedEx Cup, as simple to solve as Rubik's Cube, twisted and turned on the BMW's final nine. If contenders Anthony Kim or Jim Furyk won and Singh didn't finish with a flurry of birdies, Singh would be mathematically catchable at the 30-player Tour Championship. A Villegas victory, however, ended the Tour Championship's relevance, although it was close. The difference between first place and last at East Lake is 10,500 points. Singh's lead over Villegas, who with the win rose from 25th to second in the FedEx Cup's scoring system, is 10,601 points. So by virtue of a mere 101 points, all FedEx Cup pursuers are hereby declared null and void.
Which brings us to FedEx Cup Defining Moment Number 2, which came during the winner's press conference. Villegas, 26, gladly talked about the hard work he's put in during his three years on Tour, his college career at Florida (he broke Chris DiMarco's record for wins, with eight) and growing up in Colombia. He discussed the four-putt green he endured on Saturday and how it wasn't the turning point of his week: The birdies he bounced back with on the next two holes were. He also admitted taking a cue from Singh about putting. Vijay attributed his recent revival on the greens to telling himself he's a great putter. Villegas tried to do likewise. Not coincidentally, he ranked first in putting for the week at Bellerive and on Sunday had a stretch of seven consecutive one-putt greens.
Then Villegas was asked if it was disappointing that he tied for third at the Deutsche Bank Championship (at which Singh won after a closing 63) and won at Bellerive but can't take the FedEx Cup as long as Vijay simply finishes four rounds in Atlanta. Villegas put on a solemn face. "We don't want to talk about the FedEx Cup, do we?" he asked plaintively.
Let's see, the FedEx Cup winner doesn't want to talk about the FedEx Cup. Neither does the BMW Championship winner. The intensity of FedEx Cup buzzkill is apparently at Category 4 strength.