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Jeffrey WhiteThis Week at August 21, 2007

Tiger Woods has guaranteed an uphill climb for the PGA Tour's vaunted FedExCup Playoffs

In the weeks ahead a lot of golf writers are going to sound off about the FedExCup Playoffs that kick off for the first time Thursday at The Barclays in Westchester, N.Y.

Some writers already want to stick a fork in the PGA Tour's effort to launch a "postseason" to rival other professional sports, and say it's done. They'll be looking for declining audiences and bad television ratings and harp on how they said the FedExCup was doomed from the start. They'll be basing their stories on the question: Does anyone really care about this?

Still, others will simply wait and see. Sure they're skeptical about whether this new playoff format will really catch on, but they'll leave the door open to the possibility that it might do just that.

That the PGA Tour has a lot riding on this is to point out the obvious.

But what you probably won't hear from these naysayers is an alternative.

The fact of the matter is that the PGA Tour needs to grow its audience to keep up with, at the very least, the rate at which tournament purses are increasing (and yes, these purses result from a formula that depends heavily on an audience).

The PGA Tour has long suffered from a season that has never quite capitalized on the full calendar. It would be one thing if the season ended with the PGA Championship each August. But instead, the best players in the world essentially pack it in - a few late season tournaments notwithstanding - after the PGA Championship, with the Tour left to drum up interest in such who cares? events like the Fry's Electronics Open in October and the LG Skins Game (featuring Fred Couples!) in November.

I'm not the only person who thinks one solution would be to simply space the majors out a bit more - after all, three of them do come in about an 10 week stretch, more or less. But something needed to be done to make the Tour relevant and interesting beyond August.

Are manufactured playoffs the solution? The biggest thing going against them is that golf (like tennis, another sport hinging on "major" tournaments) doesn't naturally lend itself to the format, unlike, say, basketball. We know what the major golf tournaments are, and we're used to using them to measure the greatness of a particular golfer's season.

But one thing that the FedExCup has going for it is the participation of pretty much every top golfer in the world. People will tune in for that.

Which is why Tiger Woods' decision to skip this week's Barclays matters. Woods is the PGA Tours greatest ambassador, and he knows better than anyone how much is riding on the success of these playoffs, rightly or wrongly.

Woods rarely makes a misstep, but in dropping the Barclays he made a bafflingly bad one. He has guaranteed an uphill climb for the FedExCup.

As always, welcomes your comments.

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