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.
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
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.